The Titan Racing Switch Carbon Elite arrived in the Bike Hub office just in time for December base miles in the Eastern Cape.
For those teetering on the brink of purchasing a gravel bike, there are a few occasions when a gravel bike truly shines. One of these is the December holidays (if like me you holiday in areas devoid of trails). Nothing irks me more than heaving a MTB around endless kilometres of gravel roads, aero-tucking into the headwind and wearing out suspension components when no technical riding is required. A gravel bike is easy to transport, and the multiple hand positions, and aero riding position enabled by the drop bars make it ideal for long rides. Additionally, the relatively skinny tyres make otherwise-dull jeep track riding slightly more challenging, as choosing a smooth line becomes a necessity.
The other deciding factor is the number of truly spectacular gravel-bike friendly events on offer. Nothing tastes quite as good as a cold beverage on the finish line of a 100 miler. If you’re looking to add spice to your riding, a gravel bike is an excellent place to start.
The Switch Carbon Elite stays true to Titan Racings’s track record of offering exceptional bang for buck. The carbon frame and fork are finished with Titan Racing’s in-house cockpit components, and carbon wheels and seatpost. A SRAM Rival 22 11 Speed groupset, 38C Vittoria Terreno Dry tyres, Fizik Alliante Gravel saddle round off an impressive build kit for the recommended retail price of R52,999.
The carbon frame features a capacious 50mm tyre clearance, internal cable routing and all the mounting points you’d expect from a contemporary gravel bike. A notable feature is the 5-year multi-user warranty which is transferable between owners for the first 5 years from the original date of purchase. I tested the small frame, and I’ll dig into the sizing later.
The build kit is on point, with no glaring exceptions or deviations. The only point worthy of comment is the gear ratios on the SRAM Rival 22 groupset, which I’ll touch on below.
ON THE GRAVEL
There is no gravel-specific flex or compliance built into the carbon frame, so I was braced for an unforgiving ride, but was pleasantly surprised by the smooth ride feel.
Before setting off for the dirt roads of the Eastern Cape, I put the Switch through an obligatory Cape Town gravel bike test on the Constantia greenbelts. Rooty and muddy, this is not your typical terrain for a gravel bike, but it’s a great benchmark for how a bike absorbs bumps, and handles more tricky terrain. The Switch was composed but playful on the rooty, grassy greenbelt lap. It impressed me with the way it pacified the choppy terrain.
The 38C tyres don’t leave a lot of margin for error when the terrain does get rough, and I was wary of reducing the tyre pressure too much in my quest for compliance. I think a slightly wider tyre, run softer would do a lot to absorb chatter, and reduce what jarring I did feel. That said, the only issue I had during the test period was chafing on the heel of my hands (I changed up gloves every ride to try and get to the bottom of this: to no avail). I suspect a thicker bar tape would, and raising the stem a spacer or two would have helped.
On the rolling gravel roads around Kenton-on-Sea the Switch operated. It tackled corrugations, ruts, rocks, smooth gravel and tar competently. There’s literally nothing to write home about: it gets on with the job at hand with no drama. On tar it doesn’t have the liveliness and power transfer of a road bike, but it ticks the kilometres over admirably. On gravel it’s composed and reliable, and unexpectedly smooth.
As mentioned above I tested the small frame. Based on their size chart, at 169 centimetres tall, I was in danger of being too big for the small. Fortunately I went with my gut when requesting the review bike size as I had to slam the stem, and push the seatpost as far down as it could go to make the saddle height work and get my preferred setup. The moral of the story – size charts are just a guideline, always try and verify your fit.
The gear ratio on the SRAM Rival drivetrain is orientated for cyclocross and short punchy climbs, and not South Africa’s rolling gravel passes. I’d imagine Swartberg Pass would not go down a treat on the 36 – 32 with a hundred plus kilometres under the belt. If I could tweak one thing on the build it would be this. I’m not designed to suffer unnecessarily.
Finally, at a claimed weight of 9.22kg, it’s not the lightest build out there but for the price and build kit there had to be a caveat.
If you’re looking for bang for buck in a no-nonsense gravel bike, the Titan Racing Switch is an excellent place to start.
WORDS: Kylie Hanekom – Bike Hub | IMAGES: Dylan Lamb