Dean Bikes is one of the older titanium brands still around, and the Boulder-based company continues to evolve both its product offerings and company structure to meet consumer demands.
With NAHBS coming up this weekend, we can look back on a titanium cyclocross bike we saw in 2017 and custom gravel builds we saw at Sea Otter last year for a look at how the company's offerings have changed.
A few years ago we reviewed the Dean Bikes Antero cyclocross/gravel bike and found it to be a high-value, versatile titanium ride with good tire clearance and a comfortable ride. The model has since been given a new, longer geometry, and its production has moved to Boulder. The Made-in-the-USA approach has raised the bike’s price tag, but the more-affordable Asia-built titanium frame is still available under the Wily Cycles brand.
Dean Bikes’ flagship cyclocross/gravel bike has been the Torrey’s Cross bike, and this week, the company unveils its new top-shelf Team Edition.
Over the last few months, in wet winter riding, I’ve had a chance to put the new top-of-the-line option from welder Ari Leon to the test. Find out how the Team Edition handled late-season muddy cyclocross races and damp, mixed-terrain adventures.
The Dean Bikes Team Edition Frame
For many of us, just throwing a leg over a titanium frame is a moment of privilege. We’ve long lusted after the wonder rust-proof material and lumped all forms of the material into one seamless material associated with dream bikes to last a lifetime.
Whether it’s a frame made pure titanium or an aerospace alloy built in Russia, China, Europe or the U.S., moving to a titanium frame can feel like the difference between dating and marriage—you’re making a commitment to a bike that will last a lifetime.
Builders will be the first to tell you that not all titanium is the same, and Dean Bikes builds its flagship $2,950 Team Edition frame from 3/2.5 seamless cold-worked stress-relieved titanium.
For the Team Edition and Torrey’s Cross frames, the straight gauge tubeset is picked to suit the rider’s weight and style, compared to the "standard," size-specific tubing used on the Antero gravel frame. The Antero frame, with stock geometry, retails for $1,150 less than the Team Edition, or $600 less than the Torrey’s Cross.
For $2,950, with the Team Edition, you not only get everything the $2,400 Torrey’s Cross offers, but also a curved, ovalized top tube and custom graphics package. That’s on top of a custom tubeset, with your choice from a plethora of options to ensure your Team Edition is the bike or your dreams.
You can pick your preferred dropout (Breezer, sliding or standard thru), bottom bracket shell (BSA, PF30 or T47), internal or external cable/hose routing, seat post diameter and even between pick between stock and custom geometry, without any upcharges.
Focus more on cyclocross? Dean offers six sizes with its cyclocross geometry. If gravel is more your thing, there are also six stock gravel configurations offered under the Torey’s Cross model, which are also available with the same Team Edition features.
As you might imagine, the cyclocross options feature less bottom bracket drop (3-4mm less), shorter chainstays (5-8mm shorter) and slightly steeper head angles than the gravel options. Find neither stock option to meet your body or riding needs? You can send Dean your measurements or specify your own geo.
Our stock frame featured a 56.5cm effective top tube, 72-degree head tube, 73-degree seat tube, 42.5cm chainstays and 65mm bottom bracket drop.
The satin finish is standard but a brushed finish and etched graphics are optional for $300. Our Team Edition test frame featured an eye-catching checkerboard etching on the top tube and down tube.
Our test bike’s build kit featured a few selections from Dean founder John Siegrist’s Janus Cycle Group, including made-in-Italy 1,390g Alchemist Z30 carbon hoops and a Selle San Marco Mantra saddle.
A Ritchey WCS cockpit and TRP fork handled steering duties. A SRAM Force 1 drivetrain, with a Force 22 derailleur instead of the clutch-based rear derailleur, helped get the ensemble rolling on Challenge Dune open tubulars.
It’s an eclectic build that partially represents what the Janus Cycle Group has on offer and partially what Dean had available at the time. The company stresses the unusual non-clutch Force derailleur on the 1x drivetrain is not a standard build choice and emphasizes that customers pick their own build kit. While a clutch might help with chain security and noise, it's worth noting that in all my riding, I dropped the chain just once, while racing in heavy mud.
The wheels are definitely a highlight of the parts package. Although a tad narrow at 18.7mm internal, they’re quite light and hold tubeless tires very well.
The narrow V-shape seems a bit old school than the common bullet profile we see on most carbon rims nowadays, but the sharper edge seems to shed mud and organic material quite well.
The Dean Team Edition Ride
Titanium as a frame material inherits plenty of superlatives and many of them are well-deserved. Yet any skilled builder can create a stereotype-busting frame, and the only consistent trait among titanium frames I’ve found is that they’ve been dent resistant, rustproof and relatively lightweight.
As for ride quality, while tires and tire pressure will make a bigger difference in your cyclocross and gravel comfort, on bumpy terrain, the Team Edition really shines.
While I’ve ridden carbon frames that do a better job of absorbing road vibration, the titanium Team Edition is less punishing than most carbon frames with bigger hits. It offers a bit of flex in the rough stuff—think bumpy cyclocross courses or long rides on rutted gravel roads. The flex is not enough to get you off-track in a corner, but enough to help prevent permanent reminders of a bad line. That's a nice trait, whether you are racing for 45 minutes or for 12 hours through Kansas.
While the stock Antero has been stretched out since its Asia-built days, the Team Edition/Torrey’s Cross geo leans a few degrees towards more traditional cyclocross geometry, prioritizing pedal clearance and quick steering over adventure riding.
This stock cyclocross geometry should please most cyclocross racers. It’s not so low that you’re clipping pedals on every root or off-camber section, and it offers great agility to ride tape-to-tape while looking for harder surfaces in the mud and carving through hairpins. There's also ample mud clearance around cyclocross tires, and adequate clearance around high-volume 38mm rubber.
Those looking for more versatility (think riding most of the year on fat tires) might lean towards the gravel geometry. Personally, because I spend much of the year riding 38mm or bigger tires, I’d split the difference, pairing the shorter chainstays of the ’cross geometry with the lower bottom bracket and slacker head angle of the gravel geometry. With this setup, I’d offset the increased toe overlap and higher ride height that comes with higher-volume rubber.
Could I tell the difference in ride quality between the top-shelf Team Edition and the more affordable, made-in-Asia Antero (now Wily Cycle’s Wily Cross) that’s half the price? It’s been almost two years since we’ve tested that model, and while it had similar geometry, it featured quite a different build.
While we didn’t test the two bikes side-by-side, I’d be lying if I said the bikes felt dramatically different. The Team Edition might be a few ounces lighter, boasts an impressive etched finish and of course, has a domestic pedigree. Both feature fine workmanship and harness the best of what titanium have to offer.
If you’re torn between models, for $450 less than the Team Edition, the Dean Bikes Torrey’s Cross option, without the upgraded graphics and ovalized, curved top tube, could help you supplement your component budget and perhaps splurge for the unique, reliable Alchemist wheels.
Dean Bikes and its cousins, Wily Cycles and Merlin Bikes, offer plenty of titanium options for every budget and terrain. Within the Dean line, for the drop-bar, offroad rider, the Team Edition and Torrey’s Cross are the obvious options if choice and domestic construction are what you’re after.
The ability to pick your frame’s features and geometry is what makes it easier to justify the premium of these two models and doing so will increase your chances of being pleased with your investment once the new bike honeymoon is over.
A titanium frame should last a lifetime. Dean Bikes’ Team Edition is ready for the marriage.
Full photo gallery below the specs.
Dean Bike Team Edition Cyclocross Test Bike Spec Highlights:
MSRP: $2,950 Team Edition frame (non-Team $2400)
Frame: Custom 3/2.5 titanium tubeset, rider-specific. BSA bottom bracket, 44mm head tube, 31.6mm seat post, flat mount disc brake.
Fork: TRP cyclocross, thru axle
Headset: Chris King
Wheelset: Alchemist Z30 tubeless disc, thru axle
Tires: Challenge Dune
Drivetrain: SRAM Force 1, with SRAM Force 22 rear derailleur
Brakes: SRAM Force HRD
Cockpit: Ritchey WCS
Saddle: Selle San Marco Mantra
More info: deanbikes.com