Recently, I thought it would be cool to write about titanium bikes. Not any particular brand as I’ve been doing, but just in general. Simply because titanium is so damn cool.
Then I thought, why not expand on that, and write about all of the different things bikes are made from? I’m sure you know that bikes are made from steel and aluminium, but did you know bikes have been made from magnesium, titanium, stainless steel, AerMet, boron carbide, and beryllium?
I am quite certain I didn’t just make up some of those things.
Today, we’ll talk about magnesium. It is the ninth most abundant element in the universe, it’s symbol is Mg, and it’s atomic number is 12.
I can think of two different bikes made from magnesium, which makes it somewhat successful when it comes to these Freak Metals. The first is Litech, and in just two minutes of research, I’ve increased my knowledge of Litec at least 1000%.
I never knew they were made in Russia for starters. I knew that magnesium was bad for oxidizing, and it was hard to paint, but I didn’t know that it was hard to weld. Friction welding is the only reliable way to join two pieces. I’m told. When it comes to bicycles, rubbing two tubes together is simply not going to work. There’s just too many intricate pieces for that.
Given that bit of knowledge, chances are pretty good that the Litech bikes are alloyed with aluminium. Which is still a little freaky I suppose.
More well known to me, were the Kirk cast magnesium frames. Kirk was a British company started by an aeronautical engineer who was going to revolutionize cycling. They would be cheap to build – 1.5 cubic metres of sea water held enough magnesium to make a bike frame. And somehow, everyone riding the exact same frame was going to work.
This should have set off alarms like crazy, but it was the 80’s I guess.
Boosted by the TVM ProTour team, and allied with Norwegian industrial giant Norsk Hydro, Kirk produced a road, MTB, and touring bike in the late 80’s and captured a ton of attention.
However, by 1992, production halted, and Kirk was dead. The bikes were literally nothing they promised to be; they were flexy, heavy, and unreliable. Cable stops and water bottle mounts had to be bonded to the frames, and the steel inserts for the head tube, seat tube, and bottom bracket failed due to galvanic corrosion.
If you want to know more about the amazing failure that was Kirk Bicycles, check out this tremendous feature on Cozybeehive.
As we’ve seen here today, magnesium is maybe not so good for bike frames, but it is still pretty good for the industry. Millions of Rock Shox came with magnesium lowers, and they generally performed quite well. Maybe we haven’t seen the last of magnesium?
Check out more of the Kirk Revolution at retrobike.co.uk.