Friday, March 23, 2012

Tom Demerly Reviews the Ci2

March 21st, 2012

By Tom Demerly for

2012 Litespeed Ci2 with Shimano Ultegra Di2.

Litespeed's Ci2 continues to establish the Tennesee based brand's place among well spec-ed, high end carbon fiber bikes.

Litespeed continues their direction with carbon fiber road frames and well conceived component specifications with the new 2012 Litespeed Ci2. The bike showcases Shimano’s newest Ultegra Di2, a battery powered, electro-mechanical component group with updates in some areas compared to original Dura-Ace Di2.

The Litespeed Ci2 stays with Litespeed’s successful, but unsung Aerologic molded carbon fiber frameset. While this frame is unlikely to win any lightweight awards it provides good ride quality, stiffness and durability. The reliability of the frame is becoming apparent since we haven’t seen a single frame failure on this frame design since its introduction three years ago. The basic frame configuration remains largely unchanged except for a few details and on-going improvements in lay-up. Some of the new models use a process called “Reactive Pressure Molding” to control compression of materials from the inside of the mold, improving impregnation of resin into the carbon lay-up and improving strength even with narrow aerodynamic frame shapes.

Nice external rear brake cable routing works well on the Ci2 buts seems slightly out of place on an aero frameset. Excellent bottle integration is a legacy feature on the Ci2 we're seeing emulated by other brands.

Frame shapes on the Ci2 include a rear wheel cut-out in the seat tube and leaf-spring style seat stays. These themes merge ideas from previous designs on other brands into one bike model. It’s a nice feature set if you can’t decide between a “ride quality” bike like Cervelo’s R3 and an aerodynamic road bike like their “S” series bikes.

The big news on this new bike is Shimano Ultegra Di2. Ultegra Di2 includes a number of updates over previous Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 including cable connectors about half the size of previous Dura-Ace Di2 and a two cable wiring harness instead of the previous four cable system. Shimano claims the new two-wire harness on Ultegra Di2 is “waterproof” with no need for weather-proofing sleeves seen on Dura-Ace Di2.

In researching this article journalists from Velo-News, Triathlete and a reader’s poll on Cyclingnews all characterized new Shimano Ultegra Di2 shift performance as “better” than previous Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. Wait- Ultegra better than Dura-Ace? A student of Shimano’s product introductions may recognize a pattern here. Ultegra Di2 is a more recent introduction than current Dura-Ace Di2. Anyone familiar with Shimano’s product evolutions knows that silence is often Shimano’s most conspicuous indicator of impending change. Several media outlets have reported a “leaked” document from Shimano on that describes an “11-speed” version of Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.

The new Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifters are heavier than previous Dura-Ace Di2 but share identical shape and feel.

Starting with the shifters the new Ultegra Di2 controls are configured identically to Dura-Ace Di2. Hood shape and body size are very similar- nearly impossible to tell apart- with the new Ultegra Di2 appearing a trifle wider as viewed from the top when parked alongside Dura-Ace Di2. There is additional trim molding on the top of the Dura-Ace Di2 dual control lever that is missing on new Ultegra Di2. The lever or “button” travel to make the shift is identical and the pressure feels the same.

The new, more compact wiring harness on Ultegra Di2 is combined with very good internal routing of the wiring harness on the frameset.

Battery size defaults to the new 7.4-volt battery size and shape, same for both groups. Battery life is the same, extremely long. Battery mounting is still external though, with the battery mounting under the left chainstay well-protected by the chainrings and left crank arm.

You can see the difference in size between Dura-Ace Di2 (left) and new Ultegra Di2 (right).

The front and rear derailleurs on Ultegra Di2 are larger than Dura-Ace Di2 with the size difference coming from the polymer servo housings that move the derailleurs.

An interesting feature of the component spec on the Litespeed Ci2 is the FSA SLK hollow carbon fiber crank. I attributed a significant amount of front shift quality with Di2 to the excellent hollow-forged Shimano Ultegra and Dura-Ace cranks. This component spec proves me partially wrong since front shifting on the Ci2 is laser-guided accurate. Nearly everyone who has ridden Di2 says the front shifting is better than any previous front shift mechanism. That continues on this bike even without the Shimano cranks. This crankset is more durable than the hollow forged Shimano cranks that can dent when knocked over.

The FSA SLK hollow-carbon fiber crank uses new machined chainrings and turns on a BB30 bottom bracket.

At the back of the bike Litespeed continues their asymmetrical chainstay design with a much larger right, drive side, chain stay. This likely contributes to the solid feel of the bottom bracket.

This asymmetric chainstay design likely contributes to the Ci2's great rear end feel and stiffness. You can also see the Di2 battery mounting in this photo.

Seatpost and seat clamp are secure and fully adjustable. The dual redundant seatpost binder bolts clamp a nice aero-styled seatpost with sizing increments on the back for bike fitting and quick reassembly out of your flight case. The bike is speced with my favorite Fizik Arione K:ium rail saddle, a 30 cm long saddle with a lot of fit latitude.

Furniture on the Litespeed Ci2 features a wide range of adjustment and a proven saddle.

Litespeed made good choices for wheel and tire spec on the Ci2 with Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels that feature their Two-to-One construction. There are 8 spokes on the non-drive side of the rear wheel and 16 spokes on the drive side. Spokes are bladed, aerodynamic stainless steel. Wheels use Fulcrum’s Dynamic Balance feature, similar to balancing a car wheel once a tire is mounted. These wheels turn around a nicely made oversized hub with sealed steel bearings. This is a good basic wheelset ready for thousands of miles of tough use. The Fulcrum Racing 5’s ride on a pair of Vittoria Rubino Slicks in the 23 mm width.

A reliable, everyday wheelset is part of the component spec on the Litespeed Ci2.

The Litespeed Ci2 is $5000, a round number in line with other high end frames using Ultegra Di2 and nice quality wheels. If you’ve been around bikes a long time $5K for an Ultegra road bike my sound a trifle bracing. The thing to keep in mind is the current generation of Ultegra Di2 equipped, advanced carbon fiber frames has almost nothing in common with the original generation of bonded carbon road bikes with first generation mechanical Ultegra. It’s an entirely different bike.

The Litespeed Ci2 is further confirmation of Litespeed’s continued place in high end road bikes. It is an unsung high end performance bike with strong frame features and a great new component outfit. Litespeed did a nice job here with no mistakes in component spec and a frame design in its third year of a proven track record.

The new Ultegra Di2 features upgrades from the original Dura-ACe Di2. Mounted on Litespeed's proven aero-carbon frame this is a nice combination.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Team Litespeed BMW heads to Rouge Roubaix 2012

2012 Rouge Roubaix – You Got To Know When To Hold ‘em

Last weekend, 5 members of LITESPEED-BMW took a long weekend and headed down to Louisiana for what has quickly established itself as one of the epic road races in the Southeast – Rouge Roubaix. Representing the team this weekend was Chris Chotas, Tim Henry, Tres Courdin, Calvin O’Keefe, and Christian Leask.

Rouge Roubaix 2012 started off on a warm and humid day. 6 AM the alarm goes off, 6:30 we actually get up and start the coffee. Everything was going smoothly until about 5 minutes before the race Tim slipped on the tile and had his first (and only) spill of the day. He managed to knock his front wheel out of true so had to deal with that rubbing on his brake all day, plus a nice bruise on his knee. Most importantly, only one person saw him do it!

Rouge Roubaix is a challenging 105 mile course starting in St. Francisville, Louisiana with three gravel road sections of around 5 miles each. The first section is relatively flat; while the second and third each have a nasty short and steep hill that thins out the field and leaves about half the group running to the top. The final 20 miles is on rough paved Louisiana back country road and can be brutal if you are worn out from the first 85 miles. The whole course is rolling up and down with very little flat and often strong cross winds.

The race got off to a quick start even with a smaller field than last year. Although all the guys tried their hardest, an early breakaway could not get established and the field moved quickly to the first gravel section about 30 miles in. The pace was high through the first section, and rain from a few days before left some nice puddles and deep sandy sections to keep the group on it’s toes. Chris helped Tim get in a nice position towards the front and he made it a point to stay up there and it paid off as the group was cut in half on this section. As soon as they hit the pavement and replaced their dropped bottles, they were off racing at full speed again. Over the next 30 miles, Tim and Chris attempted to start a breakaway, but to no avail. The group hit the second gravel section and the first decisive hill all together. At this point they had averaged 28 mph. Last year Tim started this hill about 15 riders from the front and completely missed the winning break so he was determined to start the hill at the front. After some nice work by Chris to keep him at the front, Tim managed to work his way to the lead and made it over the top with the front group of 12. After his stellar job of making sure Tim made the split, Chris was able to sit back in the next group and let the other riders do the work.

Now the race was on! Except the PACC team from Texas had 5 of the 12, so there was not much racing to be done. Everyone sat back and let the PACC team drive the pace in the wind. The group stayed together until the third and final gravel section, where Tim discovered that, unlike the last 10 years, working full time and showing up to a 105 mile race can really have an affect on the legs. He completely fell apart, had to get off his bike on the 200 meter super-steep hill, and was unable to make himself run up the hill. As he watched the leaders slowly ride away, Tim wobbled my shaky legs to the top, re-mounted his bike, and rode solo for the next 10 miles in what felt like to slowest ride of his life.

Tim was finally caught by two other riders and they all worked together to hold their lead on the chasing riders behind. Even with working 40 hour weeks, Tim was able to outsprint the other two riders to finish 11th, one place better than last year. From what we heard afterword, the race was won on the steep gravel climb on the third gravel section, with one PACC rider soloing away from the chase group. The winner’s average speed dropped to around 25 mph by the finish.

Overall it was an exciting race. The course is awesome, the race is well organized, and the atmosphere is intense but relaxed. St Francisville is a great small town and definitely worth a visit for some great Plantation sightseeing or bike riding! LITESPEED-BMW will definitely be back next year.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Litespeed: Bryce Walsh Kicking IT in Africa!

Litespeed Ultra Cyclist Bryce Walsh Poised for Podium Finish in Tour d’Afrique

Riding the new Litespeed CX, ultra cyclist Bryce Walsh places second overall—so far—on the grueling Tour d’Afrique, a race that spans the length of Africa. The race began in mid January in Cairo, and Bryce has been finishing legs in the top tier consistently.

On the first stage (rides 1-15) called “Pharaoh’s Delight,” which took cyclists from Ciaro, Egypt, to Khartoum, Sudan, Bryce finished just minutes behind front-rider Raffael Schrof (Germany). Bryce first saddled up in the legendary shadows of the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx before riding to the Red Sea and then down the coastal highway to Safaga. The race then took him on a climb inland across the rugged Eastern desert in advance of reaching the Nile at Qena. Bryce then followed the Nile through Luxor and on to the Aswan Dam before taking a much-needed break on a boat ride down Lake Nasser and into Sudan.

On the second stage (rides 16 -30), called “The Gorge,” Bryce proved a strong rider, coming in third, behind Raffael Schrof (Germany) and Christian Sailer (Switzerland). Riders began in Khartoum and finished in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, riding off-road first through lion country in the remote Dinder National Park then on to the Ethiopian Highlands. They were tested by a challenging climb at high altitude before a white-knuckled and steep 1600-meter descent on a newly paved road.

The latest leg completed, found Bryce in third place, behind Christian Sailer (Switzerland) and Adam Lister (Canada). On “Meltdown Madness” (rides 31-46), the group traveled from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya. Bryce enjoyed traversing rolling countryside on the first part of this leg, but was then faced with the “meltdown,” a six-day unpaved crossing of the lava expanse of Kenya’s Dida Galgalu desert. The agony continued on the ascent and descent of Mount Kenya before Bryce finally crossed the equator.

Bryce Walsh at the highest point of elevation of Tour d'Afrique ~3200 meters

Stay tuned: We’ll keep you updated on the terrain and how Bryce and the nimble Litespeed CX fare during the rest of the race. Congratulations, Bryce. We’re rooting for you!