My New Titanium “Top Dog”: 1997 Litespeed Catalyst

2017-06-04 11.04.52

Now I have finally got around to riding road bikes of different materials – aluminium, steel, and titanium; no carbon bike yet for me! – I’ve come to realize how spoiled I have been with the Bianchi Ti Megatube. As that was only my second road bike (the first being a very respectable steel Wheeler Desenzano with Shimano 105), and having it for so long, I really didn’t understand nor appreciate what I was experiencing with titanium, and especially as that model was the pinnacle (or very close to it) of Bianchi’s 1996 range. What, not every bike has Campagnolo “Record” components?

And now, after getting back into cycling after several years and quickly going through a Scott Speedster 50 (aluminium), then onto a Bianchi M Alloy Pro (aluminium), then building up an old Bianchi Sprint 76 (steel) for fun and feeling the difference, I have come to appreciate the softer, more compliant materials. While I like the “zip” of aluminium, I like the “smooth” of steel even more. Must be my age…

Titanium: the best of both worlds? In a word, yes. The Bianchi Ti Megatube is just so nice to be on. That provided me with the inspiration for the next project, and so the search for a titanium frame began.

Catalyst FrameAfter several weeks of searching, one popped up on eBay in Monterrey, California. After a long time watching it, with the listing timing out and being relisted a few times, the price slowly coming down, and finally a “make offer” button being added, I negotiated a good price – and a very good price when considering the carbon fork and Campagnolo Chorus headset.

Weeks later, in the January online sales, I found a “winter wheelset” deal on Campagnolo Vento wheels that included Continental Gatorskin tyres and tubes.

Finally, a few more weeks pass, and a slightly-used Campagnolo Veloce 10-speed groupset, including a 12-25t cassette, came up for sale on eBay. I set my limit and stuck to it, and ended up with a fantastic groupset in silver, for a “Shimano-in-black” price.

In the meantime, I had been seeking out the finishing bits, such as the stem, seatpost, bars, cables & housing, pedals etc. (I had a new saddle already, and bar tape.) It all came together quite quickly really – sometimes you can just get lucky with auction sites!

Veloce 50-43t compact chainset.

First impressions: light and smooth. It fits. It reminded me of the 59cm State Bicycle Co. fixie I recently sold, it feels that solid, but of course about a million times lighter. In fact, as light as an aluminium bike, but as smooth as a steel bike. Maybe 57cm is just a little too small for me, and 59cm is perfect.

I think this will be one to keep. It’s not quite as nice as the Bianchi Ti Megatube… but I’d like to ride them back-to-back to be sure how different they are. Unfortunately I don’t think that’ll ever happen, with the Megatube being in France. For now I’m very happy with it, and won’t feel bad about advertising the Bianchi M Alloy Pro for sale.