A Response To Designed Obsolescence: Sage Titanium Bicycles Barlow Adventure Bike

In this commodified world, a bike that stands with personality and a strong design intention is the Sage Titanium Barlow – a sturdy, reliable titanium bicycle thats essence is American, an intentional direction led by founder David Rosen to escape the overused carbon fiber that hit its peak in the 2010’s.

Sage Titanium is pushing the envelope with their Barlow adventure bike. At first look, the titanium frame comes across as a competent road bike. Closer inspection reveals there is a whole lot more going on.

There is a discernible push-back against the disposable nature of consumption. It may stem from a societal fatigue caused by ‘fast fashion’ or obsolete iPhones and Fitbits collecting in desk drawers – an expensive display of the FOMO we face in our consumption-driven culture. Minimalism, essential consumption and an appreciation for long-term ownership of a product are the undercurrents directing this sentiment. Look no further than the white-hot market for vintage wrist-watches to see the passion that people have for owning something that has stood the test of time. Similar interest can be found in hand-made kitchen knives and crafted office furniture. The romance of a sharp blade, a trusty instrument of time and a humbly crafted oak desk are in danger of becoming a trope, if only for the conspicuous displays on social media, but the intention behind the consumption resonates. And it isn’t necessarily a comment on spending habits. People are willing to spend the money – but there is more of an expectation for durability and a long useful-life of the product.

The purchasing patterns in the bicycle industry parallel these trends. One bike that has the versatility for a range of experiences is valued over a fleet of lesser machines, all requiring maintenance, storage space and their own sets of accessories, spare parts and specific tools. For the person purchasing their first ‘real’ bike, there is a true value in finding something that accommodates and addresses a wide range of possible ride experiences. For the individual ready to move past the n+1 perspective of bike ownership, there is a place for one bike to rule them all – a dedicated machine capable for fast road rides, touring (with fenders), CX racing, gravel grinding and commuting.

But beyond finding a bike that is versatile, there is the importance of design. The design informs the story the machine will help you write while you ride, but there is also the story behind the design itself. In this commodified world, a bike that stands with personality and a strong design intention is the Sage Titanium Bicycle’s Barlow – a sturdy, reliable titanium bicycle thats essence is American, an intentional direction led by founder David Rosen to escape the overused carbon fiber that hit its peak in the 2010’s. No doubt carbon fiber is fast and light, but it didn’t speak to Rosen’s perception of the experience of adventure on two wheels. By 2011, Rosen was tired of seeing the flurry of carbon fiber that he knew was being sourced from Taiwan and China, he was ready to bring the bicycle into the future with American titanium materials that will lead the way to personal adventures and accomplishments.

Design Intent

Some of David Rosen’s design influences include jet fighter planes and Formula 1 race cars; the Barlow bike encapsulates a similar focus of design, that of built for speed and handling. The brushed 3/2.5 titanium frame has a commanding look that is timeless and easily maintainable. ‘Brewed in Oregon’ emblazoned on the inner chain-stay speaks to the pride in design that Rosen has for the Barlow, and for Oregon, for that matter.

We had a chance to speak with Rosen at SeaOtter. He has a mind for design and becomes animated when describing the innovations he has made for Sage Titanium. From nose to tail, Rosen has gone over the design to give the owner a tailored, future-proof ride at home on both road and trail. From the rear of the bike, the machined titanium drop-outs push the envelope by incorporating a 142 x 12mm thru-axle flat-mount disc setup. On what is ostensibly a road bike, this is truly unique. This wider rear, historically found on mountain bikes, allows a wider spoke triangulation in the wheel and seat/chain stays and tightens up the rear end considerably.

Moving into the center of the bike, the right chain-stay has a machined yoke that is welded into place providing clearance for 40mm tires, while still maintaining a standard road Q-factor (quack-factor – the width from pedal to pedal). The standard practice for ‘adventure bikes’ has been to reduce the maximum allowable front-chain ring size, or to increase the Q-factor of the bottom bracket. In the case of the Barlow, the design of the chain-stay removes this compromise. 40mm tires and standard road Q-factor cranks, here you come.

Looking at the bottom bracket area, Rosen chose to go with a standard English threaded bottom bracket. It’s a testament to the restraint Rosen has exercised in his design philosophy. The historical and racing provenance of the English bottom bracket make it an excellent choice and adds to the versatility and ‘future-proof’ setup exemplified by the Barlow. Looking at the geometry, the bottom bracket is lowered, adding to the stability and control of the bike over rough terrain and on descents.

Extending from the bottom bracket, the Barlow runs a bi-ovalized down tube. Where it meets the bottom bracket, it’s a horizontal oval, and where it meets the head-tube it’s a vertical oval. This feat of manufacturing increases the weld contact-patch where the tubes intersect and ensure strong, bomb-proof welds. In addition, the shape increases the lateral strength of the bike and mutes any side-to-side flex when standing out of the pedals or climbing. On the down-tube, the Barlow features what Rosen is calling the ‘Cable Clip System’, a patented design that features a removable cable stop, perfect for clean, internal run Di2 or external mechanical shifting. Either can be set up without compromising the overall design – no unused cable stops cluttering the downtube, or unsightly wires extending from battery boxes when running Di2 shifting.

Focusing on the front end, the Barlow borrows the 44mm head tube width, a standard of mountain bike frame design. The added width increases the steering precision and front end-stiffness considerably. The oversized tube accommodates a wide range of headset sizes and standards, further evidence for the future-forward nature of the Barlow.

Ride Impressions

The Barlow we tested came with a mechanical Ultegra groupset and hydro disc, Reynolds ATR wheels and 3T cockpit and seat-post. All performed reliably and were a suitable selection for a wide variety of mixed-use roads and trails. Gearing was set at 11-32 with a road compact and the generous range was an invitation for steep climbs. The ride was smooth, with the properties of titanium muting road noise to a comfortable degree. The handling does not suffer to lack of road feel, though. Steering is crisp and effortless.

Taking the Barlow off-trail is an eye-opening excursion into what is possible on a road bike. The wide rear-end and thru-axle design inspires confidence. Flat-mount discs scrub speed on the most wicked descents, while the lowered bottom bracket provides stability and control.

Specific to the Barlow, Rosen went deep and re-considered the definitions and typical specifications of the modern road bicycle. The effort was worth it with a bike that covers a wide range of builds and setups. No matter the race or tour you’ll be riding, the Barlow will be ready and willing, without compromise.

That determination to design without compromise comes at a price. The Sage Barlow is at the high-end for titanium framesets. But if you look close, and see the refinements found on SAGE bikes, the equation becomes a solid value proposition. There isn’t a comparable offering that encapsulates all that the Barlow provides. And for a bicycle build in the USA with a lifetime warranty, you can add ‘Sage Titanium – Barlow’ to the top of your list, and then tear off and toss out the rest.


Frame:Titanium 3/2.5
Fork:Enve GRD
Bottom Bracket:Shimano Ultegra
Handlebar Tape:Lizard Skins DSP 2.5MM
Tires:Clement X’Plor MSO 32mm x 700cc
Brakes:Shimano RS685 Disc Hydro
Rear Hub:142x12mm, Reynolds
Front Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra 6800 (M)
Rear Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra 6800 (M)
Shift Levers:Shimano Ultegra ST-6800
Cassette:Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-32T
Saddle:Selle Italia SLR Flow-Back
Seat Post:3T Zero25
Handlebars/Stem:3T Team Stealth
Headset:Chris King i8
Wheels:Reynolds ATR Tubeless
Weight:17.2 pounds
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like
jones bikes h bar
Read More

Jones Bikes PLUS SWB Complete Is A Do-Everything Wonder, Built To Thrash

No matter the adventure you have planned, the Jones Bikes Plus SWB Complete should be seriously considered. Don’t let the wide tires deceive you, this bike is just as comfortable and practical on the streets as it is on the trail. Reliability, repair-ability, and designed durability are turned to 11 and ready for wherever the road takes you.
Read More
Read More

Linus Bike Roadster Classic: Simplicity, Form and Function Unite

Don’t judge the Linus Roadster Classic by its simplicity. In fact, this bike offers all the appurtenances of a quality bike, and provides an excellent ride experience with minimal maintenance. Linus models their designs on bicycles appearing in 1950’s and 60’s French cinema. At their office in Los Angeles, they merge classic design with modern.
Read More
Read More

Brooklyn Roebling: The Steel Commuter Ready For Touring And Adventure

The utility and functionality of Brooklyn Bicycle Company’s Roebling hybrid is impressive. With a design inspired by the father-son Roebling engineers of the Brooklyn Bridge, this bike offers a solid frameset and platform for heavy commuting or light touring. The 4130 steel frame is light but strong, providing a comfortable riding position for hauling gear.
Read More
Read More

Stromer e-Commuter ST1 X: Half the Price and Just As Good

The ST1 X has the same frame as the ST2 S and both models move stealthily. We tested the ST1 X on both short rides and long touring expeditions. The three levels of PAS, low, medium and “Captain Kirk, can we slow down a little” were very effective in moderating speed, and we were able to exceed 30 mph on this bike almost as easily as on the ST2 S.
Read More
Read More

Back on the Road Again – This Time with the First Avenue Trike Recumbent

The First Avenue Trike, a relatively new model from Avenue Trikes, was the next model up for review as I continued my apprenticeship with this very unique cycling discipline. After several hundred miles of riding, the first and most important aspect of the First Avenue was that it didn’t take several hundred miles of riding to feel comfortable on the machine.
Read More
Read More

DIY E-Commuters: Get Started on Building Up Your Own ‘Franken’ ebike

Many excellent bike shops in Southern California already sell e-commuters, with more retailers adding them their inventory every month. So then why would anyone want to assemble a do-it-yourself (DIY) e-bike when there are scores of superb OEM models available? The reasons, many and varied, include the cost savings, the assurance that the conversion of a bike that already fits you perfectly will continue to do so as an e-bike, a new hobby, the feeling of accomplishment and an intimate knowledge of the functional parameters of your bike.
Read More
cyclist rides electric bike on beach in malibu
Read More

150 Miles Down The Coast On An eBike: Pedego Stretch Cargo Bike

The Pedego Stretch is an aluminum cargo bike, built like a tank and capable of hauling up to 400 pounds. Weighing in at 85 pounds, the Stretch still manages hills with its 7-speed drivetrain, but by itself is not ideal for long distance. With the addition of the 500-watt electronic assist motor, the cruiser-feeling bike turns into a touring machine.
Read More
Read More

The 24-Hour Bike Overnight: The Bike Considerations and Provisions To Make The Most Of Your Time On and Off the Saddle

An experiential guide using the Poseidon ‘X’ adventure bike as the muse for a 24-hour overnight trip over suburban landscapes, steep grades, fire roads and wilderness trails. Wherever your journey will take you, please consider these suggestions for making the most of your time in the saddle.
Read More
cyclist rides bike on road in laguna beach
Read More

Felt Bicycles: FR2 Road Bike

Recently, I got my hands on one of Felt Bicycles’s newest releases, the FR2. Built from the history of their flagship F-Series bikes, the new FR model boasts lightweight performance and precision handling that exceeds expectations on all fronts. The FR2 is responsive and stable while riding at high speeds; it’s certainly a bike that I could ride for either a short local criterium or a long training ride. I took the bike out for a mixed terrain ride with fast flats, steep ascents, and screaming descents with no objections and eager anticipation imbued by the FR2.
Read More
Read More

The Trail Blazing Pedego Ridge Rider

The Ridge Rider is a mountain bike powered by an impressive 500 watt Dapu brushless geared rear hub motor. The bike has five levels of pedal assist (PAS) with a throttle override for full power on demand at each level plus a throttle-only mode. The motor was more than equal to any ascent that we attempted and the drivetrain and brakes performed with the excellence we expected of them.
Read More
Read More

State Bicycle Co. Deluxe Pulsar 29er

It was obvious from the handling characteristics that State had studied frame geometry thoroughly. The biggest surprises were the Vigilante tires which had minimal rolling resistance on the road but hooked up well in the dirt and the front fork which afforded a scrumptious magic carpet conveyance over impediments in the trail.
Read More
Read More

Dahon Speed D7: Dr. David Hon and His Dahon Folding Bike

During the “Space Race” of the 1970’s when the SoCal aerospace industry was in full swing, Dr. David Hon was a leader in the field of laser technology. After receiving his Ph.D. in physics from USC he was recruited by Hughes Aircraft, where he worked on many of the breakthroughs in the laser systems used in missile guidance and anti-aircraft guns.
Read More
empty road arizona
Read More

Roam Free: An Experiential Guide To Ultralight Bicycle Travel

A trip I’ve documented to Arizona was a good example of how you can tour light on your next vacation (whether flying into a destination or taking off from your front doorstep). You’ll enjoy the freedom of cycling on your own schedule and not a tour company’s agenda – saving enough in the process to easily cover the cost of the equipment discussed here.
Read More
Read More

(Richard Cunningham) Review: Niner RIP 9 RDO | One Model, Two Dedicated Frame Designs Supporting 29 and 27.5 Wheel Sizes

Niner is releasing one RIP 9 RDO model dedicated to 29-inch wheels, and a separate design for 27.5-inch wheels, but also under the same model moniker. This is a divergence from previous strategies seen in the industry, but may set the standard going forward. [email protected]
Read More