Sage Cycles’ PDXCX 2 and Skyline E2
By Darren Dencklau and Jay Stilwell
Sage Cycles’ PDXCX 2 review by Darren Dencklau
Ever since I laid my eyes on a Moots mountain bike back in the ‘90s, I’ve always been slightly obsessed with the looks of titanium. The gunmetal gray of a Ti frame may be simple looking to the casual observer, but those in the know realize the positive characteristics of the material: lightweight, comfortable, strong, and rustproof. Enter the latest steed I procured: the PDXCX 2 from Sage Cycles.
Designed and assembled in Portland, Ore., the PDXCX is a cyclocross bike that could also be used for touring, commuting or as a “gravel bike.” The frame is disc brake-specific with integrated fender mounts and it’s designed to run full-length cable housing for brakes and derailleurs. The 44mm head tube allows the bike to be setup with a straight 1-1/8” or a tapered steerer fork. The oversized head tube combined with the ovalized top tube stiffens the frame — one of the few complaints you’ll hear about titanium besides it’s expensive is that it flexes too much, especially for heavier riders — provides a more efficient transfer of power from rider to bike.
Though Sage Cycles are designed in Portland, the one I tested was made in Taiwan. That said, I’ve been informed from the company’s owner, David Rosen, that all models are going to be made in the U.S.A. beginning in 2014. The price tag will undoubtedly go up for this, but Rosen states that they will still be at a competitive price and lower than many other builders who specialize in titanium.
The 55cm bike I tested was equipped with a Whisky Parts Co. No. 5 carbon fork; FSA Wing Compact handlebars (42cm); FSA Gossamer stem (100mm), crankset (46/36) and seatpost; Shimano 105 shifter/levers, front and rear derailleur; Mavic Crossride wheelset; Hutchinson Toro CX tires (32c); and a Prologo Scratch Pro saddle. Though it had mechanical disc brakes, the PDXCX can also be equipped with hydraulics. Also, it was put together with a top pull front derailleur, but a bottom pull derailleur with an integrated pulley mount is also an option.
I’ve taken the PDXCX out on technical and root-strewn mountain bike trails, long stretches of gravel road, and put it to the test at cyclocross races in both dry and extremely muddy conditions. It handled like a champ and everything you’d expect from the frame material is what I experienced. It absorbs the small bumps and flexes minimally when cranking on the pedals, leaving little energy wasted when hammering up hills or performing intervals on the ride to and from the office. The bottom bracket clearance is ample and instills confidence while pedaling through the corners at angle. I found the disc brakes were very fun for ‘cross racing and often I came into sharp turns with lots of extra speed before braking at the last second, helping me take the inside line and boxing out riders going slower on the outside.
The geometry of the bike fit my physique well, although I did lower and flip the stem immediately following my first ride because it felt like I was doing the “sit up and beg” routine, which is fine for a commuter or touring bike, but not so on a racing rig.
There were a couple negatives worth mentioning. First, the heavy stuff; the Mavic Crossride wheels, an inexpensive set designed for mountain bikes, are quite substantial. Though they pinned the bike to the ground and made wheel rotations slower, they do make up for it by instilling confidence while riding off-road, as they seem to be indestructible. The other slight I will give is the location of the cable housing mounts on the top tube; they are offset toward the drivetrain side to aid in shoulder portaging while racing, but the middle set stuck out just enough to hit my right knee at times — it’s not the actual frame material that was the culprit but rather the plastic clips that keep the cables in place. I placed a short section of Bike Wrapper (April 2012 issue of Bicycle Paper) around the area and that did the trick.
Taking everything into account, the PDXCX is a solid machine that provides a responsive and comfortable ride that will undoubtedly last for many years. Rosen proudly claims that all of Sage Cycles’ offerings can be spec’d to accommodate a rider’s component preferences through the company’s dealers. For anyone looking for an affordable titanium bike that will turn the heads of even the most carbon-equipped racers, I wouldn’t hesitate to steer them toward this up and coming brand from Portland.
MSRP for the PDXCX 2 tested is approximately $3,600. For more info and a complete look at the lineup visit sagetitanium.com.
Skyline E2 56cm Road Bike by Jay Stilwell
As a fan of metal frames, titanium has always been one of my favorites because of its weight savings and its ability to absorb road shock. At one time in the mid to late 90s, titanium frames where highly desired and sought after much like carbon fiber frames are today. There were a lot of options with several manufacturers to choose from. It seems that with the advent of affordable carbon frames, only a handful of frame builders now offer titanium, so it is nice to see newcomer Sages Cycles offering a selection of Ti bikes for road, mountain biking, and cyclocross.
I recently tested the Skyline E2 model, their middle of the line road bike. With the luxury of six weeks to ride it, I was able to do so in a variety of conditions, from a 20-mile daily commute to a longer 55-mile ride around Lake Washington. All said, the Skyline E2 was ridden 400+ miles in preparation for this review.
There are many features that stand out but here are some of my favorites. The Skyline came equipped with Shimano’s Ultegra groupo and Di2 electronic shifting, so the transition between gears is absolutely flawless; with auto-trim, the derailleur senses the position of the chain and automatically adjusts. Combined with the smooth ride of the titanium, I was often wishing that the ride wouldn’t end.
Sage Cycles designed the Skyline’s compact frame with a tapered head tube, which adds stiffness to overcome titanium’s tendency to flex, especially when paired with the Enve 2.0 road fork. This was particularly noticeable when getting out of the saddle to climb or when taking a sharp corner. With an overall weight of 18 pounds, that bike made me want to go tackle some hills. I found that the gear range was good for both climbing and cruising on the flats but it took me a couple days to find the legs for the 53-tooth chainring it came equipped with. Combining a large gear ratio with the Mavic Ksyrium wheelset and its aero spokes and rims make this one fast ride. I definitely noticed that my average speed increased when compared with my regular steel road bike.
Testing the Skyline was an overall great experience and it was very enjoyable to ride, however, there were a couple of things worth mentioning. Though saddles can easily be swapped out, the stock Prologo took a lot of getting used to and my preference would be a seat with a little more padding. Also a matter of preference, a traditional drop handlebar is more comfortable to me than the FSA Wing Pro Compact bar mounted on the Skyline; it is narrower and features a shallower bend, which gave me the feeling that my elbows were up to my shoulders and left me wishing for more width between my hands — again, easy to swap for either a larger width (up to 44cm) or regular-style bars.
Overall, there aren’t many bikes that cause me to pause and think about the possibilities, which is the case with the Skyline E2. Sage Cycles has done a great job building a titanium bike that competes well with other bikes in the $4,000-$5,000 range and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a supple yet agile bike that sets itself apart from most bikes out there.
Frame: Sage Cycles Road Frame
Fork: Enve 2.0 road fork,
Wheels: Mavic Ksyrium Equipe S, black
Handlebar: FSA Wing Pro Compact road bars, 31.8mm
Stem: FSA SLK Stem (black w/white), 31.8mm x +/-6˚
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra BR-6700
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra CS-6700 10-speed HG, 12-28T
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra ST-6770 Di2 dual control levers
Saddle: Prologo Scratch Pro T2.0, black/white
Crankset: Shimano Ultegra Hollow-tech 6700, standard: 39/53T