Principia’s new 22TiTAN is fitted with a HiRide suspension fork giving you both the pleasurable ride quality of titanium bolstered with the bump-taming benefits of 20mm of travel. With a geometry designed to sit somewhere between a gravel racer and a long-distance adventure machine, it’s certainly a Jack of all trades and a master of most. This top-end Di2 build is a lot of money though.
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Principia Gravel 22TiTAN - Technical details
With no paint to hide them, the welds on a titanium frame need to be immaculate, especially at this price point and Principia hasn’t disappointed. It’s a good-looking frame finished to a very high quality indeed with Principia offering a five-year warranty.
The raw finish means that it’ll take years of abuse without getting scuffed or scratched, and as with all titanium frames – it looks classy.
The tube shape profiles are tweaked throughout their length for ride quality and stiffness where required. You also get a tapered head tube up front, too.
The rear end focuses on comfort with slender chainstays as they head towards the rear dropouts, as are the seat stays too, to promote flex.
There are mounts aplenty with three on each side of the fork legs, on the upper part of the top tube for a bento bag, plus water bottle cage mounts in the usual place, but with three holes each which gives adjustment for different sized bottles or when trying to fit them in around frame bags.
You also get extra bottle cage mounts under the down tube.
Compatible with both electronic and mechanical groupsets the 22TiTAN utilises internal cable routing via entry and exit ports throughout the frame for a clean look. Ours is running GRX Di2 so with only a wire to enter the frame and a rear brake hose, any unused ports are closed off using blanking plates.
Principia has plumped for a threaded bottom bracket which will bring a huge sigh of relief to riders in the UK who use their bikes year-round. While I’ve found that creaking issues on press-fit options are becoming less and less common, the precise fit of a threaded bottom bracket does bring peace of mind. Then, when the time comes for a replacement it’s an easy switch for the home mechanic with just a few tools.
Tyre clearance is good too with it easily swallowing 45mm tyres while giving clearance for mud on either side.
Sizing is limited with the 22TiTAN only coming in three sizes, with this being the largest. A 52cm and 54cm frame is offered also. I’m 1.8m tall and I found the 56cm to fit me well, if you are taller, or you like a stretched-out position then you are going to be out of luck.
There are many models in the 22TiTAN line-up although this is one of the most expensive considering the GRX Di2 groupset.
You get an 11-speed drivetrain with a 46/30T chainset paired with an 11-34T cassette. I’m a big fan of a 2x set-up as I like the closer gear ratios and narrow cadence band that they provide.
The shifting at the front and rear is quick and very positive and I love the shape of the levers too. They have a tight curve between the hood where you place your hand and where the hydraulic reservoir sits which gives you a platform to push against when descending to stop your hands from sliding, helped by the textured style of the hoods.
With 160mm rotors front and rear the braking performance is more than enough, and you get great modulation from the GRX levers.
As for the rest of the kit, it is all from Ritchey’s catalogue which is good news. I’ve always found these components to be well-designed and well made, for decent money.
The saddle is a Comp Streem which is a decent entry-level saddle with a comfortable shape and padding. The seat post is a standard aluminium alloy offering, as is the stem.
The handlebar is the Comp Venturemax, a bar I have used many times before and one that I like. It has a wide flare for great control on the drops, and as those drops aren’t that deep you can use them in more places than you probably would a standard set of road bars.
Overall, the finishing kit is good, but considering the price of the bike it’s not exactly the stuff to get too excited about.
One thing that Principia hasn’t skimped on though is the OHR G45 wheelset. A very nice set of 45mm deep carbon fibre rims with a 24mm inner width to allow wide tyres to seat nicely.
With 24-spokes front and rear they are more of a lightweight gravel choice, but they were certainly tough enough to resist everything I threw at them. The hubs are sealed which helped them stand up to the wet conditions of early spring, and when it has been dry there have been no issues with dust getting in.
The tyres are Panaracer’s GravelKing SK which are good all-rounders rolling well on the road due to their diminutive tread pattern and supple carcass while offering grip and durability for dry and hardpacked surfaces.
For wet conditions, you’ll be wanting something with more tread so I spent the majority of the review period using a set of Pirelli’s Cinturato Gravel S for extra grip.
Principia Gravel 22TiTAN - Performance
Suspension on gravel bikes - yes, or no?
It’s a question that hasn’t quite reached the heights of the helmet debate yet, but it’s still one that divides opinion, and from my personal experience it seems to depend on which direction you are coming into gravel from.
If you are coming from a mountain biking background then suspension, dropper posts, and huge tyre clearances looks to be the natural progression of the gravel theme – after all, aren’t gravel bikes just old school mountain bikes?
If you come from a road background like myself though, then the rigid approach to keep that road bike feel tends to be preferred.
I will admit that I do like the way that this HiRide fork system works though. It gives a subtle amount of cushioning taking out those smaller higher frequency bumps. All without compromising the front-end feel of a rigid fork.
On the whole, it increases comfort over longer rides while also allowing you to carry extra speed on fast sections of track or trail. You don’t have to be quite so choosy about your line choice to avoid roots or small potholes as you do with a rigid setup.
Also, the majority of us have to ride on the road to get to the gravel sections so the fork lets you ride higher tyre pressures so that they don’t feel stodgy on the tarmac with the fork locked out while taking the sting out when you do hit the by-ways and unlocking the fork again.
The hydraulic lock-out is controlled by a dial on top of the stem, a similar setup to the controls for Specialized’s Diverge range. This makes it easy to use on the fly.
The HiRide adds a bit of weight compared to a rigid carbon offering, around 850g in total, but I didn’t find that it had an impact on the handling. In fact, the handling is very pleasant. Even with the suspension fully open the 22TiTAN still feels precise and direct at the front end, and the steering has a quick feel to it which creates a feeling of fun, especially when riding fast on the flat or downhills.
The front end is a little taller than you’d find on most gravel bikes, thanks to the fork, and considering this model is a 56cm frame, it also has a shortish top tube length which gives quite a compact feel to it.
It does mean that you get quite a relaxed position, so even when using the shallow drops of the handlebar comfort is the defining factor with no undue pressure on your lower back. I rode a few routes of 3-4 hours with no undue stress on my body anywhere.
Overall, the Principia feels lively, and It tracks nicely too while being responsive to shifts in your body position and weight. The position as a whole isn’t as racy as some gravel bikes, but it’s not far off so if you want to get out for a blast the 22TiTAN won’t disappoint. The frame and fork offer great stiffness levels so you can stamp on the pedals for a bit of a sprint or power your way to the top of a climb.
Principia Gravel 22TiTAN - Verdict
The UK price for this 22TiTAN model is a cool £7,499, which is well, WOW!
For comparison, a Mason Bokeh Ti (which has one of the best-welded finishes I have ever seen on a bike and is made in small batches to order) is priced at £6,400 for a GRX Di2 build. Obviously, the Mason doesn’t have front suspension, but I suppose if you want you have to judge whether having 20mm of travel is worth the extra grand or so.
In fact, there aren’t really any other titanium gravel bikes on the market using front suspension straight out of the box – although I’m sure someone will correct me on that.
There are a huge amount of titanium rigid gravel bikes on offer though highlighted in this collection of the some of the best we have tested.
If you really are looking for suspension though, then the Diverge range starts at £3,300 with the Future Shock 1.5, while the carbon fibre S-Works Diverge STR Expert costs £7,000 which includes a SRAM eTap groupset and Future Shock suspension front and rear. We have one of those on test say so tuned for the review on that one.
Overall, the ride quality and geometry make the 22Titan a great bike to ride on smooth flat gravel tracks or more technical trails. The suspension fork does bring some noticeable benefits without alienating the rider in terms of feedback which is a bonus, and its weight doesn’t affect things either.
It is a big-budget build though, and the finishing kit in terms of stem, handlebar etc. is nothing flash for the money. Other cheaper options are available though with the option of a rigid fork too.
I have to say, this sounds like an awful lot of dough to hand over considering the spec. All those Ti frames look like if they were made with the same cookie cutter (I'm riding one myself).
On their site there's a size 58 available for taller riders. However, I can't find any geometry data listed anywhere. If the figures for their other gravel bikes on geometrygeeks are anything to go by, it should be on the slack/stable side though, contrary to what the test report says. But without figures, impossible to tell.
I normally cringe when I see posters moaning about the price of new kit, but this has breached my WTF threshold. There's no going back, that's the real shame.
Is this the same Principia that was making classy alloy road frames 20 years ago?
Liking the new test report.
Cannondale just phoned in and want their 90's HeadShok back....