Review: Titan Racing Cypher DC | A rad 120mm XC race bike

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey

All-new 120mm XC race bike is both technically advanced and simply enthralling.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
The Cypher DC has two-way geometry adjustability via offset headset cups and a flip chip.

Four and a half years after first releasing the Cypher, Titan Racing has shaved weight, added adjustability and refined the entire bike intending to make it even faster. And fast it is. This same chassis was ridden by the young whips of the Valley Electrical semi-pro team at the Cape Epic last month and they finshed as runner’s up in the African Jersey competition and P12 in the overall GC.


Video Overview


The Frame, Geometry & Build Kit

Three carbon layups are available in the range, which will spread the price points out nicely. For this test, Titan Racing supplied the range-topping Cypher DC Ultimate. This frame is constructed from the brand’s UCL Carbon layup which, together with the redesign, shaves an incredible 500 grams from the first-generation bike.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
Frame weight: 1750 grams.

A key element of the redesign is the one-piece rear triangle that uses flex stays instead of a traditional bearing-type pivot point. Yes, the carbon stays actually are made to flex as the suspension moves through the travel, but don’t be alarmed, it’s a tried and tested design that many brands use.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey

Build Kit Details

FRAME | Cypher DC Carbon UCL, 120mm travel
FORK | Fox Factory 34 Float, 120mm, 2-position remote lockout
SHOCK | Fox Factory, 2-position remote lockout
BRAKES | SRAM Level Ultimate Stealth
REAR DERAILLEUR | SRAM XX SL Eagle Transmission
CRANKSET | SRAM XX SL Eagle Transmission, 175mm, 32T
CASSETTE | SRAM XX SL Eagle Transmission, 10-52T, 12-speed
CHAIN | SRAM XX SL Eagle Transmission
BARS & STEM | Prime Carbon Integrated 760mm / 60mm
WHEELS | Reynolds XC 259 Pro Wheelset
TYRES | Vittoria Barzo 29 x 2.25″
DROPPER | Fox Transfer SL, 31.6mm, 150mm
SADDLE | ProLogo Dimension NDR Carbon
ROTORS | SRAM 180 / 160mm
WEIGHT | 11.5kg actual as tested (Without pedals)
RETAIL | ±R169 999

Adjustability comes in the form of a shock yoke-mounted flip chip and offset headset cups. The flip chip offers 5mm of BB height adjustability that also changes the head angle by 0.5 degrees. The offset cups then add another 1-degree of head angle range to the mix.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
All frame sizes, from S to XL can fit two 750ml water bottles inside the frame.

Across all four frame sizes, the geometry can be adjusted to a bottom bracket low of 332mm with a head angle of 65.5 degrees. On the opposite end of the scale, with the flip chip in high and the headset cups in a steeper setting, those numbers look more like 337mm and 67 degrees, respectively.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
The impressive 1750g frame weight is in the territory of the Orbea Oiz, and lighter than most 120mm race machines.

Other changes to the geometry include more reach and a slightly longer wheelbase than the predecessor, which are both necessary and sensible tweaks. All model Cyphers now have a rubberized downtube protector under the BB and a sheet of 3M that adds protection from rocks and stones down the full length of the downtube.

The cable routing has been cleaned up too. A small accordion grommet straddles the front and rear triangles, hiding cables and keeping grit out of the frame. Upfront, cables can be run through the head tube or the headset. Now, could everyone please take note — in the future could we please have all bikes designed with this option; thank you.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
Headset or head tube cable options.

The build kit on our test bike included the Prime Carbon integrated bar and stem combo which have a 760mm bar width and 60mm stem length. Continuing with the build kit, everything is high-performance orientated.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
The build kit is a mixed bag of premium brands.

Brakes are the SRAM Level Ultimate, Stealth edition, with a 180/160mm rotor combination. It’s a full factory Fox suspension setup with the 34 Stepcast fork and Float shock that run off an underbar, two-position lockout system.

Looking at the rolling parts, the bike has a 1380gram Reynolds XC 259 wheelset that features Industry Nine hubs and a high, 3-degree engagement. Spoke count is 24 hole upfront and 28 hole for the back wheel. The test bike was fitted with 2.25″ Vittoria Barzo tyres which compliment the light wheelset nicely. The stated maximum tyre clearance is 2.35″.

Worth mentioning, is there are no proprietary parts on the bike – which is something a lot of brands are moving away from. The size large test bike had a 150mm Fox dropper post with a ProLogo Dimension NDR saddle which is a man-and-woman-ready design.

The cherry on top of the dreamy build kit is the SRAM XX SL Eagle Transmission drivetrain which racers are loving – particularly since it shifts so well under power. Its a carbon crankset, the cage on the derailleur is also carbon (and replaceable) and there’s a ton of tech inside the groupset that shaves weight – like hollow pins in the chain and bits of aluminum in the cassette itself.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
The minimalist chainstay protector has coverage in all the right areas.

All in, it’s a mix and match build kit of premium brands that gel together nicely. What I find shockingly impressive is the value on offer here. You’d swear a bike like this should be priced around R240k or higher. Again, Titan Racing have pulled off a trick here and managed to get this bike into the market at a retail price of R169k.


Ride Impressions

I was lucky to spend about three weeks riding the Cypher DC, across a variety of terrain, in dry and wet conditions. 100% bad on my part, the first ride wasn’t the greatest. Eager to get onto my local XC loop, I completely forgot to check suspension settings and ended up on a rocky, dry and loose loop with too little sag and a rough ride. What an idiot. With sag correctly adjusted (to the region of about 30%) the real testing began.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
I weigh 72kgs and ran 18psi front and 22psi rear.

Glaringly obvious when riding the Cypher DC and what impressed me is rider comfort. It’s a very smooth ride. Even with the narrowish 2.25″ tyres. In the seated riding position, the suspension tracks well over small edges like roots, stones and rougher gravel roads.

I only locked the suspension out for tar sections that link a lot of the trails up and this is also an opportune time to lay down watts and test the responsiveness of the bike. It accelerates very well – I mean the rotational weight is world-class so it should be quick off the line, right. Plus it’s got carbon hoops, carbon cranks and fast tyres. This thing doesn’t wallow about – it gets up and goes!

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
I left the compression setting on the fork about halfway in – which helps hold the front end up when charging descents.

Let’s move along a little because there’s something else more exciting to tell you about. With a frame this light, a worry can be about excess chassis flex and loss of power through a bad layup or inefficient design. Frankly, forget about that – this is a racer’s bike and it feels as efficient under power as any I’ve ridden lately. In or out of the saddle things feel mighty spritely.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
At speed, the ride feel is stable with particularly good front vs. rear weight distribution.

I’m not a bike engineer but have a misspent youth on two wheels – just call me a bike geek, ok. Having said that I’d hazard a guess the laterally stiff and efficient (aka fast) feel of the bike can also be attributed to the flex stay suspension design. A one-piece rear triangle will always be stiffer than a two-piece version with pivots – that’s not rocket science.

If you are thinking 120mm on the back is too much travel for you then consider this; during seated climbing there isn’t much shock movement (or bob) noticeable and a 120mm travel bike will always offer more climbing grip and comfort on rough trails, than a shorter travel bike. Plus you can always lock it out. If you are young and strong like that Cape Epic pairing of Beukes and Bekker, then you might be fine with the shorter travel (100mm) Cypher RS. I tend to think most riders would be better off on the 120 DC option though.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
The flex stays deliver a very smooth ride that is especially noticeable on the smaller vibrations.

The new geometry of the Cypher means there’s a little more room to shift weight forward and back on the bike to better manage grip and power when climbing out of the saddle. As soon as the single-track points down that geometry again comes into play, to play! I’m just going to say this bike descends as well as (if not better) than some trail bikes I’ve ridden and thats it, thats all.

The importance of climbing performance for endurance racing is not lost on me. I once was an endurance racer. However, what I find is often not highlighted enough is that for under-skilled endurance racers, trail bike like geomtery won’t instantly make them into another Greg Minnaar on the downhills. Instead, it will make them a whole lot safer when descending. And that’s why I always wax lyrical about the increased capability of modern XC bikes. They make a dangerous sport safer for everyone and that opens the welcome mat to getting more people onto the hills. Okay, I’ll shut up on that one now. For now.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey

There are no fingers to point at the performance of the build kit. A couple highlights include the lovely buzz of the freewheel body (you might have heard that in the video) that’ll warn other trail users of your approach. Of course, the SRAM T-Type drivetrain has positive and slick shifting when you need it most -like on steep climbs when a stall is imminent, it’ll give you that easier gear — without soft pedaling — to keep you moving. I’m not a fan of one-piece cockpits on trail bikes, but for XC they really make sense and the sweep of the Prime Carbon option feels really nice.


Takeout

The Cypher DC is a race focussed bike that will also help most riders descend safer and faster. Don’t let the high value pricing fool you into thinking there’s something off with this bike.

5 april 2024, stellenbosch, south africa | review of the titan racing cypher DC cross-country mountain bike as published on bike network by myles kelsey
It’s a blitsvinnig machine that is also a lot of fun to ride.

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