From Serotta to Seven, Fit Werx has sold a lot of titanium bikes through the years. Today, we are proud to represent and have sold some of the very best titanium bike brands in the business – brands like Moots, K.Bedford Customs, Eriksen and T-Lab. “T-Lab?” you say, “Who is T-Lab Bikes?” Good question. Here is an introduction to this up and coming titanium brand from the “Great White North” of Montreal, Canada.
T-Lab Bikes is Tony Giannascoli’s latest project. Tony has decades of frame building experience and is most known for being one of the founders of Guru Cycles. Guru’s fitting division was bought by Cannondale some years ago. Following that sale, Guru ran into difficulties securing fresh financing for the bike company that was related to the terms of the sale (Cannondale owned the Guru name they and were leasing it back). This led to Guru shuttering and the assets being sold to a company in Arkansas. Tony, along with some other folks who wanted to remain in Canada, started T-Lab Bikes with the intent of building high quality titanium frames that are different from what other high quality builders offer.
What Titanium Does T-Lab Bikes Use?
What is “seamless” tubing? It is tubing without a seam… I know, very funny. However, understanding what “seamed” tubing is helps explain seamless tubing.
Seamed tubing is made by taking sheet material and rolling it around a mandrel in the shape you want and then welding the two sides together to make a tube. The benefit of seamed tubing is primarily a lower cost. The consideration is that many seamed tubes are heavier and not as strong as a seamless tube that does not have a heat-affected zone down its entire length. A seamless tube, on the other hand, can be fabricated a few ways. Often it is extruded (think Play Doh Fun Factory). The benefit of an extruded/seamless tube is that the weak, heat-affected weld line of the seamed tube is eliminated. There is often a little less material in an extruded tube, so it can be lighter too. The disadvantage of seamless tubing is that it is more expensive.
Like other high quality titanium builders, T-Lab offers straight gauge titanium on some of their frames and thinner walled butted titanium on their top of the line frames. What is the difference? Straight gauge means that the wall thickness of the titanium is the same throughout the tube. Butted tubing means that the wall thickness varies depending on the strength, ride quality and weight requirements of the frame. Properly used, thinner and/or butted tubing creates a higher performance frame that is laterally stiffer, lighter and more compliant too. Butting and thinner walled tubing is more expensive than thicker single gauge though. T-Lab’s “1” series frames use straight gauge while the top of the line “3” series frames use heavily flared/shaped ultra-thin walled tubing.
Why does North American “graded” titanium tubing matter?
Like any material, not all titanium is created equal. If you want the scraps that the Russian and Chinese military didn’t feel were up to par, you can buy it pretty cheap. And you will get exactly what you paid for. If you want true aerospace level engineered material that meets strength and quality standards within the U.S., you need graded material. Personally, I would not consider buying a titanium bike from a builder who doesn’t use bicycle specific titanium that is graded on the North American scale; you just don’t know what you are getting otherwise. You are almost always better off getting a really good steel bike (like a Waterford) than a bargain basement titanium bike.
The bottom line is that T-Lab uses the high quality graded tubing that you want in a good titanium bike.
What Makes a T-Lab Titanium Road or Gravel Bike Different?
There are a number of very good bike builders building titanium bikes. They take different approaches though.
Some builders are more engineering based. For example, we work a lot with Moots. They are arguably the most engineering driven titanium bike builder out there. Every feature on a Moots is engineered with purpose, all tubes are round and the weld quality is often held up as an industry litmus test for titanium fabrication.
Some builders are more artistry based, and stress custom options and personalized finish. K.Bedford Customs is a good example of a builder with a heavy artistic flare.
Finally, there are others that focus on creating distinguishing marketing features – offering unique shapes that focus on the look over the function. Some of Linskey and Litespeed’s designs come to mind when thinking of brands in this category.
T-Lab is interesting as they balance elements of multiple approaches in a pretty even manner. While they may not go as far as Moots in terms of engineering, or offer infinite finish options the way that K.Bedford does, they definitely offer engineering driven features as well as finishes, aesthetics and tube shapes that are distinctly their own.
Paint and Finish – T-Lab Bikes are Very Pretty, Eh?
We like the way that T-Lab approaches aesthetics on their bikes. They offer some standard titanium finishes at no additional charge and then they show 2-4 additional finish designs that can be done in a host of well selected color offerings for a set extra cost. Simple, easy to see and understand, and reasonably priced. We wish all builders displayed their options this way.
When it comes to upgraded finishes, T-Lab’s graphics folks have a good eye. Most of their paint schemes are clean and attractive – truly eye-catching. To the trained eye, a T-Lab is clearly a titanium bike, but it has some of that European carbon race bike flair. This means that, it is not uncommon for a painted T-Lab, especially a “3” series, to be mistaken for a carbon bike. This is because the paint is not like what you see on most titanium bikes, nor is the tubing shape.
Speaking of T-Lab Bike Tube Shape…
While a T-Lab R3 or X3 with Ocean Blue Pearl paint catches the eye, it is the tubing shape that makes some people mistake a T-Lab for a composite frame. We are not going to argue the merits of round tubes versus shaped tubes here. T-Lab uses round tubes on their 1 series bikes and shaped tubes on the “3” series. While round tube advocates have valid points about how a round tube maximizes tubing and weld strength, we like that T-Lab manages to create their own distinct shape while supporting it with some clear engineering basis on the X3 and R3. If you use shaped tubes, this should be how you do it.
The T-Lab “3” series top tube, down tube and seat tube are all flared to be wider and flatter. The wider lateral plane is designed to increase stiffness side-to-side. The flatter vertical plane is designed to be more forgiving up and down. Compared to some shaped bikes, this concept makes sense from an engineering standpoint. The T-Lab “1” series bikes use mostly round tubing. This saves the cost of having to shape the tubing and creates a more traditional aesthetic.
Either way, we respect how T-Lab has approached things. They didn’t want to create bikes that looked like most other titanium bikes and yet they also didn’t want to just create tubing shapes for marketing reasons. The result are frames that are unique, yet don’t violate engineering fundamentals in the process.
T-Lab T-One Dropouts
From thru-axles to disc brakes, there has been no lack of different ways to attach a rear wheel and braking system to a road bike in recent years. This has sometimes proven frustrating as some braking systems or wheels will not work on some frames. Instead of depending on wheel and brake manufacturers to provide adapters and components that work with their frames, T-Lab uses a “future proof” rear dropout, called T-One. The T-One dropout can easily be changed to accommodate whatever wheel or brake is being installed. If a new oversized thru-axle system comes out ten years from now, T-Lab just needs to design a new dropout and CNC it for you to use it on your frame.
T-One is a clean way to address the unforeseeable future and provide a breakaway dropout and brake mount that is rigid and protects the frame. We also like that it is simple without using proprietary and under-sized bolts. A couple of proven standard 5mm bolts hold the dropout on the frame.
Stock or Custom Geometry
T-Lab offers a large array of stock geometry options on their frames and $500 more gets you custom geometry. Likewise, internal brake routing, S&S couplers and other optional custom features are also available. Once you are properly fit and know your frame coordinates, T-Lab will either have a stock frame that fits you or they can build one.
T-Lab Bike Models
As of 2018, T-Lab focuses on road bikes. The two R models are dedicated lightweight road bikes offered with disc brakes or caliper brakes. The two X models are gravel/adventure road platforms that can also be built for touring. The “3” series bikes have higher grade tubing than the “1” series bikes, which are priced lower. Complete bike prices start just below $4000 and frames at $3200.
In the pantheon of quality titanium builders, T-Lab has a place. They make bikes that has captured the essence of why people buy a titanium bike in the first place – a lively and smooth ride with the durability to last a lifetime of daily knocks and use. Yet, they have made a bike that is distinct unto itself with an aesthetic that is modern, clean and timeless. If you like the sound of titanium, but haven’t been drawn to the aesthetic, T-Lab may just change your mind.
If you have been fit with us before, we can use your fit data to find the right T-Lab. If not, consider scheduling a Fit Werx Rider First Bike Fitting and then we’ll match a bike to your riding position and use. Contact us today.