Aluminum, carbon fiber, steel. These three materials make up 99% of all mountain bike frames, with most of these being made of either carbon fiber or aluminum. Have you ever wondered why?
Until recently, titanium had been too expensive and impractical for mountain bikes, and was only found in high end, boutique road frames. Titanium also used very small diameter tubing to try and keep it weight competitive, which made for bikes that rode like a noodle.
With modern butted tubing and hydroforming, finally titanium is light, strong, and affordable. Westward Bike’s titanium frames are competitive with all but the lightest carbon XC frames weight-wise, but with titanium’s added compliance and traction.
Titanium can be thought of as the “goldilocks” metal. Aluminum is light, but its also soft and requires large diameter tubing with thick sidewalls to survive the rigors of hard riding. Aluminum also suffers from fatigue, where over time the frame will fail at a much lower threshold than when new. You can read more about the benefits of compliance here.
Steel is so strong it can use very small tubing to give a comfortable, compliant ride, especially in rough, natural terrain. Smaller tubing will flex more, regardless of the material. The problem is steel is too heavy, and in an effort to salvage some weight savings, welders use too small of tubing, creating frames that are often quite flexy.
Titanium is between these two extremes while being lighter than both. Frames can be constructed with the perfect tubing size, giving a compliant but responsive ride, all while weighing the same as carbon.