Source: Bike Network, September 20 2019, Myles Kelsey. https://bikenetwork.co.za/xc-test-in-a-global-exclusive-we-test-the-all-new-titan-racing-100mm-cypher-rs-race-machine/
Established in 2005, Titan Racing is a multi-discipline bike brand which operates out of Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Images: Gary Perkin
With a retail footprint firmly covering the Southern Africa region, Titan Racing has recently expanded into markets north of the equator. Currently, the brand is available in no less than eight countries and from what we hear, there is significant demand and appetite for further expansion. The release of the all-new Cyper RS, their flagship XC race bike, adds yet more pizzazz to this proudly South African success story.
Whilst officially released on the 9th of September, this bike has secretly seen many miles on the professional race circuit with considerable success. Titan Racing’s pro squad of Rossouw Bekker, Jamie Penfold, Tiffany Keep and Marc Fourie have taken a fair share of podiums and wins on the bike this year. For this test, I have spent two weeks on the bike getting to know the ride feel, tweaking the setup and going faster than I should have. I can tell you that neither mine nor the Cyper RS’s comfort zones were respected in the search for quirks.
FRAME The Cypher RS Carbon Team edition is a 100mm travel all-carbon frame with a four-bar horst-link suspension layout. Brake, shifting, suspension and dropper post cables all have internal routing layouts. There are four frame sizes on offer and the three bigger options feature two mainframe water bottle mounts. The Cyper RS has geometry adjust in the form of a flip-chip which alters the head angle by 0.5 degrees and the BB height by 6mm.
A 100mm four-bar horst-link suspension system, integrated cable routing throughout and two water bottle mounts inside the main frame on sizes medium through X-large.
INTENDED USE This is the flagship fully-fledged race bike from Titan Racing intended for XC and Marathon racing and there is no compromise on the build kit, at all.
BUILD KIT A RockShox Sid Ultimate fork is coupled with a RockShox Deluxe Ultimate rear shock with the Onelock system for dual remote lockout. SRAM AXS wireless electronic shifting, SRAM XX1 DUB cranks, chain and cassette. SRAM Level TLM brakes with a 180mm front rotor and 160mm rear. A Fizik Taiga saddle, carbon seat post, 760mm carbon flat bars and a 60mm Promax stem. Vittoria Brazo 2.25 tyres front and rear, DT Swiss 350 hubs with 25mm inner diameter, 28 spoke TR carbon rims.
SRAM Level TLM brakes with a 180/160 rotor combination.
SRAM AXS wireless 1 x 12 for crispy shifting.
SRAM AXS shifter.
Vittoria Barzo and RockShox SID Ultimate in short offset with lockout. TR carbon wheels.
Fizik Taiga seat.
Rear damping duty is taken care of by the Rockshox Deluxe Ultimate shock with lockout.
Throughout the size curves the Cyper RS has a marginally bigger reach, lower standover, reduced fork offset and shorter stem which is all very much on trend for 2020 and beyond. The inclusion of a flip–chip enables owners to dial in their ride to suit the terrain and their preferences.
Cape Town based bike designer Cliff Beckett (who is not a slouch on the bike!) paid a lot of attention to the sizing and fit of the bike.
STANDOUT FEATURES The reach dimension has been extended across the size curves so that the bike accommodates marginally shorter stems which improves handling and ‘future-proofs‘ the geometry of the chassis for seasons to come. The Cyper RS has a flip-chip incorporated into the linkage system which allows you to customize your ride – all you need is a 5mm Allen key. Two water bottle mounts inside the main frame for the three bigger frame sizes and a single bottle mount for the small.
Anti-squat figures have been calculated to function optimally around 85-115% on 32T – 34T chainrings.
The Cyper RS has a 5 year multi-user warranty.
A flip chip allows the ability to customize the geometry to your trails and your preference by altering the head angle by half a degree and the BB drop by 5mm.
There is nothing nervy about the ride feel of the Cypher RS. It’s well mannered, confidence–inspiring and very quick.
SETUP The bike is designed to run around 25% to 28% sag. In terms of tyre pressure, I used 20psi front and 23psi rear for the rocky trails I tested the bike on.
RIDE FEEL Titan Racing’s bike engineer Cliff Beckett, who spent time with other great South African success stories like cSixx and PYGA was tasked with building an XC race bike which climbs and descends equally well. To that end, one of the key focus areas was to produce a ride feel which is well balanced between small bump compliance and end of travel support. Beckett optimized the suspension leverage rate to do just that. It is gently progressive allowing full use of travel but with the ability to resist any harsh end of travel experiences. Beckett tells me he also paid a lot of attention to chainstay and front center dimensions to put the rider into the best possible position on the bike to optimize control and handling on all race tracks. “With chainstays, shorter is not always better.” says Beckett.
Race ready 2.25 Barzo’s are specced front and rear.
I didn’t feel the need to slam the bars to their absolute lowest.
The Cypher RS has been proven on the race track already and I can see why the official Titan Race Team has done so well on this bike. It’s a very sprightly ride. The acceleration is instant and significant when jumping on the gas. When holding a tempo on long sustained climbs the bike maintains momentum and rhythm. The OneLock suspension lockout system is something I used all the time on climbs, but never ever rode with it always on. On very rocky terrain like the infamous climb up to Big Tree on the 2020 Cape Epic Prologue route, the Cyper RS is a pure rocket. The flat bar and shortish head tube create that low / slammed front end needed for efficient power transfer. I didn’t feel the need to slam the bars to their absolute lowest – although some racing snakes will.
Speed is one thing, but if the fit of the bike is not right, dealing with that speed can be tricky. I like the feel of the short stem / long reach combination that bike designer Cliff Beckett has incorporated into the Cypher RS. The result is a tamer, more controlled ride with added ability to carry speed through technical sections. It’s a significant advantage in terms of feel and marginal in terms of time saved. Nevertheless, a comfortable racer is a fast racer.
The extended reach of the bike stabilizes it at speed and also provides real estate to move forward on steep climbs to get the power down.
The geometry, short stem and short fork offset mean you can actually weight the front end a little more to improve corner speed and I was very impressed with Vittoria Barzo tyres. Even in the narrower 2.25 widths, they really hook up well on hardpack and loose over hard surfaces.
For an all-out race weapon the Cypher RS does indeed descend well. The bike is, of course, dropper post compatible and whilst I am a huge fan of dropper posts on XC bikes if there is one bike that likely doesn’t need one, it’s the Cyper RS. The head angle, reach, short stem and fork offset really boost the capability of this bike on technical sections, so much so that a skilled rider might very well forego the dropper.
When things get gnarly the Cyper RS is composed and reassuring. Back yourself and let it roll!
AGAINST THE CLOCK Moving away from the feel of the bike and onto some numbers on Strava. In terms of climbing, with a full gas effort I did a personal best up the “MF to Big Tree” segment on the Cape Epic prologue route. This 2,69km long, 187m elevation gain climb up Table Mountain is long, rocky, steep, lose and all-round pure torture. On the Cypher RS on one of the test days, I knocked almost 2 minutes off of my previous time up this climb. That’s about 8% faster. I am not in racing condition, by any means, but going 8% faster on a 16-minute effort is significant. On other routes in and around Cape Town I continued to improve personal best times on climbs and flat trails with the Cypher RS.
HOW DID THE BUILD KIT PERFORM? The complete SRAM build kit of RockShox Sid Ultimate fork, Deluxe Ultimate shock, Level TLM brakes and SRAM AXS leaves nothing wanting. If you are new to AXS, a little bit of patience is needed to get used to the lever feel as it is different from everything else. The shifting is so very crisp, lookout for a more in-depth review on SRAM AXS soon. In terms of tyres the Vittoria Barzo 2.25 on the bike are very robust and will handle most of what the Cape Epic or the Magalies Monster throw at you in terms of rocks, square edges and mixed terrain. For the smooth race tracks, you could drop about 200grams in rotational weight by having a set of lighter rubber, like the Maxxis Ikon’s, Bontrager XR2 or similar. The Fizik Taiga saddle, Promax stem and Titan bars all performed without fault. The TR carbon wheelset feels just the way an XC race wheelset should feel, stiff, fast and plenty strong.
There is no tool free adjust with Level TLM brakes but with a good bleed it’s not needed.
Every single shift is crispy with SRAM AXS.
Internal routing options for all the cables.
A decent size carbon bash plate.
WEIGHT AND VALUE OFFERING It’s not the lightest bike I have ridden, but then again I certainly have ridden heavier 100mm race bikes. In terms of weight, complete with sealant, two bottle cages and a little mud, my test bike weighed in at exactly 11.47kg but had a heavier hub and spoke combination than the models on retail floors. Titan Racing’s professional team the Valley-Electrical squad, who incidentally have been racing this bike since January, have race-ready weight as low as 10.9kg. It’s not going under an actual 10kg, but not many bikes in this genre do. The recommended retail price of R89 990 is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
TIPS My recommendation is to run the flip-chip in the low and slack setting as the progressive suspension holds you up nicely in the travel and you won’t be smacking pedals. I used slightly less sag than is recommended and preferred the ride but this is a personal preference.
Even without a dropper post the Cyper RS is confidence inspiring through technical terrain. The bottom line here is that millimeters matter, when the millimeters of pivot placement, geometry and offsets are on point, the ride feel is golden.
It’s quirk free and what’s more, this is a seriously impressive race machine with a DNA for all-out speed. The geometry is very much on-trend for 2020. The value on offer is simply remarkable!
All images: Gary Perkin. @garyperkin