As kids, we tended to take any bike anywhere regardless of where some product manager pigeonholed the bike, but as adults, some of us may have tended to shy away from riding mountain bikes on the road for hours, or road bikes down singletrack but the lines have become a bit blurred in the last couple of years.
As a fan of all things cycling, and after a number of years of basing myself in Belgium chasing World Cups around the globe, I fell in love with the brutal beauty and grittiness of cyclocross. Initially, it was roadies riding slightly modified road bikes on grass and dirt in the winter for training – but the modern era has produced some of the finest allrounders the cycling world has seen – Mathieu Van der Poel, Marianne Vos anyone?
Now while we don’t have CX in these southern climes, we do have tons of dirt roads and green belts and the like – used as shortcuts and sneaks between trails & trail centres. But with our predilection for longer and longer more rugged races we need to train further & longer and on harder trails than these short little off road bursts allow .. so we spend hours on the road, or ride mountain bikes on every trail in our local trail centres hammering away on two very specific bikes. But what if there was another option where we could switch it up a little and bring these worlds together and get back to the origins of our riding way back when. This is where a gravel bike like the Titan Racing Switch range comes in. It handles the sneaks, it handles the rough gravel and it eats up the miles on the road.
The Switch Pro is a carbon-framed, Shimano Ultegra equipped, gravel bike for the mountain biker who wants to add some miles to their program without committing to the full road route and dodging the dirt entirely. The carbon frame has plenty of great details like internal cable routing – much needed to keep off-road excursions quiet, three bottle mounts – two in the mainframe triangle and one set under the downtube; though you’ll want to keep empty bottles or a tool bottle down there in the winter months.
|FRAME||| Titan Switch PRO carbon in size medium|
|FORK||| Titan Switch PRO Carbon 12mm thru axle|
|BRAKES||| Shimano Ultegra Disc 160mm|
|FRONT DERAILLEUR||| Shimano Ultegra|
|REAR DERAILLEUR||| Shimano Ultegra|
|CRANKSET||| Shimano Ultegra 46-36t|
|BARS||| Gravel Drop FOV|
|HUBS||| DT SWISS 350S|
|RIM||| Titan Carbon Gravel|
|SADDLE||| Selle Royal|
|TYRES||| Vittoria Terreno Dry 700 x 38c|
|RETAIL||| +/- R48 000|
The frame has ample clearance for larger 700c tyres – its specced with the Vittoria Terreno in 38c which measure out more like a 40c. There is still plenty of breathing room on the fork and frame to go wider. The bike has 12mm thru-axles front and rear with fender mounts to boot. The groupset on the Pro is full Shimano R8000 Ultegra, that’s from cranks to hydraulic disk brakes to shifters – the works. While I’m used to riding 1x on my CX bike, the switch to 2x 46-36 chainrings was welcome when my post Lockdown fitness came into play on my test rides – especially when matched to the 11-32 cassette.
A big surprise in this Pro spec was full carbon tubeless rims – a very nice spec detail which really helps smooth out the ride with carbon damping the effect of the rougher trails and tarmac sections. And the aforementioned tyres handled wet wintery Cape Town dirt and smooth wet tar without hesitation despite the Dry markings on the sidewall.
Lockdown Level 5 put paid to me riding this at all outdoors for weeks but when the level decreased this was the bike I took to the mountain for my first taste of post hard lockdown freedom. And the combination of escape, exhilaration, lack of fitness, greasy wet winter trails and a new bike to wrangle with had me on an endorphin high. I tend not to read geometry charts or others’ reviews of products before I head out to test a bike and rather let the ride dictate my impressions, so I had no idea what to expect from the Switch Pro. And straight off the tar and onto the dirt it truly surpassed my expectations. It handled the wet rocky access road up to the King’s Blockhouse on Table Mountain with aplomb and better yet the route back down was amazing.
Usually, gravel bikes tend to lean either towards rigid and beat you up full racer CX or more comfortable touring ready gravel grinder type. The Switch nestles closer to the race model but with enough stability and sure-footedness to give you that extra control when things get squirrely on wet rocks on the way down the trails. Looking at the geo later it all made sense: 69mm BB drop; longish reach but not too stretched out for off-road duties; a stable 71.5° head angle on the medium I rode and a stack height which promoted riding in the drops on the way down which is the way to do it in my book.
Depending on how far off-road you are going to take the Switch I’d check a couple of things spec-wise: for my own off-road riding I’d run a slightly shorter stem as (105mm is specced on the medium) – it actually had a 110mm but that’s probably due to the fact the demo I was riding gets shared around a lot. – I usually run short cranks and did notice the odd pedal strike – but that’s more the specced 175mm cranks than the BB drop.
I truly enjoyed riding the Switch Pro, the post-Lockdown, new-found freedom didn’t hurt – but the bike handled everything I threw at it from Table Mountain to the Green Belt without ever putting a tyre out of place. It’s as comfortable on the road as it is the dirt. And all from a price point that is astonishing for what you get.