Test: The Titus FTM Carbon

The new-in-2009 aluminum Titus FTM (Full Tilt Moto) tested in our July 2009 issue unseated a perennial favorite, the Titus Motolite, on our short list of recommended trailbikes. The FTM offers a half-inch more rear wheel travel than the Motolite and a completely different frame. The FTM frame is available in aluminum, titanium and, for 2010, carbon. The FTM Carbon is tested here.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Titus FTM Carbon is a trailbike. It is intended for the rider who wants only one bike to handle all the mountain biking chores. That means it has to pedal efficiently, climb well, descend with confidence and still offer a lively feel.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The FTM Carbon frame uses an oversized, tapered head tube that flares from 1-1/8 inches to 1.5 inches. Titus uses a stainless steel plate in the downtube to protect the carbon fiber from debris shot up from the front tire. The chainstays and seat stays are full carbon. Even the rear dropout is all carbon. The seat stays have a noticeable S-bend (for better heel clearance), and another stainless steel insert is employed on the chainstay to protect against chain suck damage.

While the FTM Carbon has identical dimensions to the FTM aluminum model we tested, it looks much cleaner and sleeker. Why? Credit Titus’s internal cable routing with reducing clutter. Since we are comparing, the Carbon was over a pound lighter than the very similarly equipped aluminum model.



WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The FTM Carbon is sold as a frame and shock. Titus offers four build kits that can have your FTM rolling for between $4165 (Mountain Kit 1) and $6960 (Mountain XTR Kit). The beauty of the FTM design is that it doesn’t use any proprietary component designs. Sure, the shock is valved for this bike, but unlike a design that requires a unique shock or fork or drivetrain, the FTM was engineered to accept conventional components. While we don’t have a crystal ball, changes to future components like forks, shocks and drivetrains should be readily accepted by the FTM.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
If reading the following review gives you a sense of deja vu, that is because the wrecking crew found the FTM Carbon to react to the trail much like a carbon copy (get it?) of the aluminum version. The largest difference is a pound less below your saddle.

Moving out: Titus took great care making sure the FTM was ergonomically correct. Cables disappear into the frame. The frame and stays all tuck in, so unwanted contact with the rider is never made, and the rider position feels perfectly centered. While 19.25 inches (measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube) is large for a medium frame, it doesn’t feel that large in the saddle. Don’t let that number scare you. This is a medium-sized trailbike.

Hammering: Our FTM Carbon moves out well, whether the rider chooses a small gear to spin or a big gear to torque, as long as the shock’s ProPedal feature is engaged. Leaving the shock open results in way too much unwanted movement when pedaling up to speed. The bike feels even lighter than its actual weight of 26.7 pounds. Remember, our build didn’t even use the super-expensive light stuff. There is weight to shed if you feel the need.

Cornering: The front of the FTM Carbon has that same hunkered-down feel of the aluminum model, even with the fork set to full travel. The way the front tire sticks instills confidence, allowing the pilot to ride looser. The FTM loves tight, twisty, fast singletrack and doesn’t lose its zest for corners when the speed increases.

Climbing: We had our best results with the shock’s ProPedal turned on to the most-firm setting, the same setting as when hammering. The lower-feeling front end allows the FTM rider to leave the fork in its full travel and just spin up the climbs. You don’t need a lot of position change to maintain traction except on the steepest of sections.

Descending: Open up the shock’s ProPedal lever and let her rip. The Titus works well, holding the line you are trying to nail. The ample and quality rear suspension travel, the Fox fork with the 15-millimeter thru-axle and the solid chassis all work together to bring an exhilarating feeling on the descents. And when you get a little too crazy, you’ve always got those amazing Magura Marta brakes to bring you back down to a safe speed.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
You may be tempted to set the shock’s ProPedal on the softest setting and simply leave it on all the time. That works, but not as well as switching between full-strength ProPedal and wide open. Luckily, the shock’s position in the frame makes the reach to the ProPedal lever intuitive.

We used the fork’s travel adjustment so rarely that an argument could be made for building your FTM Carbon with a Fox 32 Float 150 fork (and be sure to go for the 15QR front axle).