It’s safe to say this Unicorn Cycles titanium time trial bike prototype is about as rare as its namesake. So wild is it in fact, that I probably wouldn’t have believed it existed, had I not actually seen it. But it is real. And it’s actually the second race-proven ti TT prototype from the wild mind of Unicorn-founder & amateur racer Jason Turner.
He’s also got plenty more conventional and affordable custom titanium Unicorns on offer – including road, gravel, mountain & fat bikes. Plus, he’s just added Classified Powershift drivetrain options as well, likely to be some of the most affordable custom builds with those innovative 2x internally geared hub systems…
Unicorn titanium time trial bike prototype
Unicorn Cycles is a small US company that designs & sells affordable custom titanium bikes of all shapes and sizes, imported from a couple of trusted contract framebuilder workshops in Asia. Much of their regular bikes look to be low-cost reproductions of run-of-the-mill round tube road & mountain bikes. But Turner is also an unabashed time trialist, and happy to experiment.
That white-sided bike is gen 2, but let’s take a quick look back at gen1…
Turner says the idea for the wild ultra-distance TT prototype was inspired by old school beam bikes like the Softride Rocket and TitanFlex, of course with a dose of Trek Y-Foil thrown in too – really bouncing around his head in 2019.
So he designed his own ti-Y beam bike with an adjustable telescoping toptube that gave him huge flexibility in the position of his saddle, plus actual tunable flex/suspension between the rider and the rigid backbone of the bike. And he had his regular Asian (likely Chinese?) frame supplier turn it into reality.
The result was a fairly rough-around-the-edges proof-of-concept frame that Tuner rode on ultra-endurance time trials throughout 2020.
Then it was finished off with a pretty neat set of custom titanium bullhorn basebar with an integrated stem, plus custom ti ski-bend extensions, and of course a ti seatpost.
He said its rear end was quite stiff, coupled with the desired flex at the saddle and a feeling of slicing through the air. But there’s always fine-tuning to be made…
Btw, Unicorn Cycles’ motto is: “Don’t buy an off-the-rack bike! Own a Unicorn, and ride something F*cking magical!” I kinda love that.
Ti TT prototype v2
And then by spring 2021, this v2 prototype was ready.
With what looks like a simplified design and more precise execution, the new v2 it TT prototype got polished tubes and a high-contrast white Cerakote finish for the new side panel design. Really, what isn’t getting Cerakote-d these days?!
The new bike was upgraded with thicker titanium side panels for improved stiffness and better finishing, a move to angular tube shapes vs. those original swooping curves, a revised & simplified telescoping toptube clamp layout, and decreased toptube flex overall for improved efficiency while riding. It also moved the internal cable routing behind the headset to get them out of the wind.
This latest prototype retains the stiff dropped chainstay rear-end design of the original – with 12mm thru-axles & chain stay flat mount disc brake – but gets a more refined custom fabricated seatstay junction. Unicorn also prefers to build bikes with simple 1x drivetrains, but this v2 prototype builds in the option for a front derailleur.
Will there be more titanium ultra-endurance TT bikes from Unicorn Cycles? Only time will tell.
But there’s plenty of more conventional bike options too…
Unicorn affordable custom titanium bike frames
Not every bike that comes through Unicorn Cycles is quite so wacky… although it could be if you want…
They sell a limited number of stock titanium gravel frames with 50mm tire clearance and plenty of accessory mounts in a pretty wide 6 size range (XS-XL) for just $1150, or from just $325 more including a Rodeo Labs fork & Cane Creek 40 headset.
And they custom build lots of more conventional road bikes, hardtail mountain bikes, and even fat bikes from 3/2.5 titanium. Road & gravel frames sell for just $1450 & mountain frames for just $1550, with 15-week turnaround, with complete bike builds often in the $3200-5000 range.
Now lower-cost ti bikes with Classified Powershift, too
And now Unicorn has joined the growing ranks of bike makers building with Classified Powershift modified drivetrains – turning 1x bikes back into stealthy, faster-shifting 2x setups. Sticking with their affordable ethos, Unicorn is prone to start with a mechanical 1x groupset and even mechanical disc brakes like on this all-road demo bike.
It still costs $2400 for a set of Classified carbon wheels with their wireless electronic shifting 2-speed hub and cassette, so it’s not going to come super cheap. But deducting the cost of a standard wheelset & cassette, you might be able to ride away with a titanium Unicorn with Classified shifting for somewhere in the $5000-6800 range.
That’s going to be possibly cheaper than the stock carbon Rose Backroad X Classified, plus an upgrade to a custom titanium forever frame & carbon wheels. Probably worth a closer look, right?
But… you know what you actually want, is one of those TTi-Y bikes…