1995 Bontrager Ti Lite Prototype


Dirt Disciple
Ok, I admit that this is sort of a cheat of a build thread. This month's BOtM contest (August, 2016) is probably the first theme for which I've had a worthy contender, so I'm putting this together hastily in order to enter.

Key Specifications:

- 21" Bontrager Ti lite. (XL)
- Although I'm not 100% certain, I've come to believe that this is a prototype because I've seen Keith make reference to their existence on several occasions, and because it differs a bit from any other frame I've seen. At any rate, the serial number indicates that it was the third frame made, and it doesn't have the relieved head tube (like you'd find on a steel Race Lite) that the production frames did.
- Similarly, because the catalog first featured the Ti Lite in '95, I usually say it is of that vintage even though more knowledgeable people have told me that production versions weren't actually available until the following year.
- Likewise, another unique, interesting detail of note is that, compared to my '94 race and '96 race lite (which are also both suspension corrected), this frame appears to be designed for a fork with a taller axle-to-crown measurement - like 80mm instead of 64mm. (Will try to show a picture of them side-by-side, to illustrate.) Keith has suggested that the prototype geometry was indeed different.
- Here's a link to the '95 catalog that first featured the Ti Lite (Thank you, Jeff!): http://mombat.org/MOMBAT/BikeHistoryPag ... rager.html
- As with many manufacturers of the era, I believe Bontrager outsourced Ti frame production to Sandvik, now known as TST. They utilized a lot of Bontrager-specific details, nonetheless.
- Compared to either of the steel versions, the frame is very stiff - for better or worse.

White Brothers SC90, 1997
- This and the wheelset, below, came from my 1997 Elsworth Truth, that one of my my best friends bought new and then sold to me shortly thereafter. In 2012, I decided to put a taller fork on that bike and it was easier to convert to disc brakes at the same time, so that freed the parts up for this build. Even after all those years, White Brothers was good enough to completely service the fork AND replace the 1 1/8" steerer with a 1" steerer to work with the Bonty. - These forks were state-of-the-art back in 1997: Super light with Ti stanchions. Limited tunability, but smooth, trouble-free, dampened coil spring suspension. Still rides nice today, if not a little under-sprung for my 2016 body weight. ;-)

Bontrager / Chris King Race Lite, 1997
- As with the Ti Lite frames, these herald from the era when Keith was still trying to make everything as light as possible, but still uber-strong.. cost be damned. (His 'ol "choose two" mantra at its most pure.) The hubs were commissioned from Chris King, but were quite different from their regular hubs: The flanges were thickened so that they would withstand radial lacing from, 28-spoke rims, without cracking at the spoke holes. (Radial spokes are ever-so-slightly shorter, and must therefore lighter than ones long enough for 3-cross lacing, and 28 spokes are lighter than 32...) I think the pawls, axle and driver are titanium, too.
- The bontrager ti lite rims (actually just the front, because I destroyed the original rear at one point) have a ceramic coated braking surface. Combined with the Shimano parallel-push XTR brakes, this bike stops as well or better than any disc brake I've tried. It's an on/off sensation though, so it always takes me a bit to remind myself when I get back on it.

Other notes:

I'm not the original owner of the frame, sad to say, but I've had at least one Bontrager in my stable since '95, when I got my '94 Race. For about 10 years (until I got the Truth mentioned above), the Bonty was actually the ONLY functioning bike I owned, so I was/am quite bonded with it. I originally set out to restore that Race, but ended up going through a process of rationalization familiar to anyone on the forum, in which you say to yourself "If I'm going to go to all this trouble, then why not......[fill in the blank]." Long story short, this frame came up on ebay and that was all she wrote.

I blinged out a few other components because it seemed appropriate (White industries Ti bottom bracket; Ti quill stem from Nitto; dkg brake boosters because I had them), but mostly tried for a clean, straight-forward build.

The 27.0 seatpost was tricky to find but I got lucky on ebay again, with this Ti one from Titec. I'm not sure its actually from the period in which they were associated with Bontrager, but it seems appropriate anyway.

The original decals would have been blue (and always falling off). I never really liked the look, so I took a few liberties here, and had Gil M. make some replacements in a custom design. Not for the purist, but hey - they're just stickers!


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Dirt Disciple

More pics.

(See... THIS is why I don't contribute more often. If anyone can tell me how to get images bigger AND fit under the 512kb max file size, I'd be much appreciative.)


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Dirt Disciple

Here are some shots illustrating how much higher the headtube sits, relative to a normal suspension-corrected bontrager. As mentioned above, this is about the exact height difference between a typical 64mm fork and a typical 80mm fork, each with 15% sag.

Just for the heck of it in case anybody is interested, here is a side-by-side with the 1997 Truth from which the OEM Bontrager wheels and White Brothers fork were taken, after I modernized it with a newer fork and disc brakes. I still have this bike but, unlike with the Bontrager, I've moved on and don't really ride it very often anymore. It was a great bike for its time, but an over-the-handlebars NORBA riding position combined with 4" of suspension just isn't my thing.


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Dirt Disciple
Re: Re:

M-Power":37yuy6ma said:
Nice bike, love the Ti gussets especially and sleeved chainstays ?

Thanks! Yea, the gussets are neat but I can't help think they were semi-cosmetic, to give buyers the feeling that they were still getting a bit of true bontrager mistique, for all that money they were spending. The steel frames would have had gussets at the chainstay/bottom bracket connection too, but perhaps the manufacturing methods didn't allow for it, or those sleeves worked better? They DID manage to delete the chainstay bridge however, just like with other bontragers.


Senior Retro Guru
Compression, the way to make the files smaller.
This is a 50% compressed version of one of your pics.

I might as well do a 30% compression pic as well.


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Dirt Disciple
Re: Re:

iamkeith":m9pp0p3r said:
If anyone can tell me how to get images bigger AND fit under the 512kb max file size, I'd be much appreciative.)

You don't have to stay under 512kb if you host the images on photobucket (or other image hosting site), copy the "direct link" or URL of the image, and then type a Bbcode [ımg] code, comme ça:


Also it is possible to crunch images down to very small file sizes indeed by setting the jpeg quality extremely low (1/12) on export, but the results aren't very pretty. The files do go remarkably tiny, though.

https://blog.codinghorror.com/a-compari ... mpression/

If you don't have image editing software, you could use something like this for crunching files: http://compressjpeg.com/


Lovely machine. That's a whole load of Ti right there.

Mike Muz

Retrobike Rider
BoTM Winner
Gold Trader
Bontrager Fan

Lovely frameset! Would it have a 131mm headtube? I ask, as my 19" Privateer had to go owing to the short 107mm h/t.



Dirt Disciple
Re: Re:

Mike Muz 67":270it3uz said:
Lovely frameset! Would it have a 131mm headtube? I ask, as my 19" Privateer had to go owing to the short 107mm h/t.

You know, that's a good question, but I'm away from the bike for a few days and can't measure. I keep calling it an xl, but all my bontys are 21" (this one is even stamped as such in the serial number) which would make them XXLs, i guess. XXLs should have 131 headtubes, but the catalog doesn't show XXL as an option for the Ti Lite. I'll investigate when i can.


Dirt Disciple

Ok, after taking some time to investigate this, it appears that the headtube is a bit of an anomaly on this frame in more ways than I realized, which I guess further points to it being a prototype or a one-off.

According to the '96 geometry chart (above), the Ti Lite was offered in only three sizes: M, L, & XL. The geometry for those corresponded to the steel versions exactly, and all had 107mm headtubes. Here's a thread which shows the production headtube with the relieved front, similar to the Race Lites, but which this frame doesn't have:


I mentioned above that this frame is a 21" , which would have made it an XXL but I guess that's not exactly correct. (I'd forgotten, but Bontrager specified the seat tube dimension as measured to the center of the intersection with the top tube rather than to the top of the seattube.) The "21" stamped on the serial number must be because that's the way Sandvik (or Titek?), the fabricator, measured and named things. In all ways except the headtube length, it (and my other frames) are actually all XL size, or 19" by bontrager methods. But here's the odd part:

Instead of being 107mm as specified, or 131mm which would jive with an XXL, it falls in between at 118mm. However, it's in the POSITION of a 131mm headtube - at least at the top. In other words, is set to give the same stack height as a 131mm headtube bike. The bottom of the headtube is still set higher than usual too, which is what I showed in the photos above.

So basically... it appears to be designed to work with the taller a-c height of an 80mm suspension fork, without varying from the geometry and frame angles intended for the XL size, AND while placing the handlebars higher, like you'd find on an XXL.

That's confusing to explain, so I hope it made sense. It does explain why this bike feels so much more comfortable to me. I'd been off my Race for a few years before I built this up and, even after getting used to more modern geometries, was surprised by how natural it felt. I chalked it up to the "old worn out shoe" familiarity and fondness, but I guess there was more to it.


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