Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TriSports University Showcases the L-series

2012 Litespeed L3 Ultegra.

By Tom Demerly for

Litespeed's "L" Series combines ride quality and stiffness in a proven appraoch to carbon fiber road bike construction.
Litespeed’s newest version to their “L” series bikes includes the 2012 Litespeed L3, an all carbon fiber, Shimano Ultegra 10-speed mechanical equipped bike. The L3 is the anticipated trickle-down beneficiary of technology developed on the Litespeed L1R, a higher end carbon fiber road frame. Both the L1R and the L3 share the same frame shape but differ in carbon lay-up. The L1R uses a higher end “60T” carbon fiber while the L3 Ultegra, Li2 with Ultegra Di2 and mechanical Dura-Ace equipped L1 all use a 30T carbon fiber lay-up.

The differences between 60T carbon and 30T carbon aren’t a simple “good, better, best” progression. And while price seems to reinforce that, some customers report better ride characteristics from the less expensive 30T lay-up bikes than the pricier 60T bikes. Variables that will influence this decision are rider weight, road surface, rider preference for ride characteristics, etc.

What Litespeed has done, without a doubt, is successfully developed carbon fiber frame designs with forward thinking frame shapes that work well with different lay-ups. That the L3 rides much better than its $3499.95 price tag is testimony to that.

Litespeed has divided their road bikes into two categories; the all-around "L" Series road bikes such as L3 Ultegra and the aerodynamic "C" Series like the C1R on the right. 

Litespeed’s carbon fiber road designs track with the themes of another leader in road bikes, Cervelo. Litespeed offers road bikes with a deep section, aerodynamically styled tube shape in the same way Cervelo uses aero road bike shapes developed in the wind tunnel. This theme of offering aerodynamic and ride quality focused frames provides the customer with clear cut alternatives easy to choose between based on their individual riding styles and terrain.

The L3: Front to Back.
Litespeed started the component spec on the L3 with Zipp’s workman-like Service Course cockpit. The Service Course bar, named from a spin off of the term “Servizio Corse’” which translates from Italian to English as “Racing Service”. The anatomic bend bar is a 31.8 mm diameter “short-shallow” bend of heat-treated 7050 aluminum tipping the scales at a claimed 295 grams for a 44 cm width. In hand the bar feels fantastic; stiff, reassuring and still OK on bad roads. A wide center section means you can clamp aerobars on these with ease, but the flat finish means they will take a cosmetic beating from the aerobars being clamped on. The bars angle out slightly to the lower section wrist clearance in the drops.

Zipp's alloy Service Course bar and stem are stiff, have a comfortable anatomical bend and use stainless Torx fasteners. They also work with clamp-on aerobars.

These bars steer a matching Zipp Service Corse stem from heat treated 7075 aluminum with a front-plate stem attached with four stainless steel Torx fasteners clamping with 4 Newton meters of torque. Good luck finding a more robust, dependable handlebar stem. The stem is available in 7 sizes in 1 cm increments from 70 mm to 130 mm and two rises, one a +/- 6 degree and the other a pretty typical +/-
 17 degree. This all aluminum bar and stem combination is dependable, comfortable and economical.

The fork on the L3 gives a nod to aero forks seen on sister company Quintana Roo's bikes with the generous space between front wheel and fork blade. The crown is massive and melds into the big 1.5" lower headset race. This fork goes a long way to giving the bike its nice ride.

The L3 uses a unique head tube with moderate height per frame size. This is worth knowing since some manufacturers, Cervelo as an example, have shifted to higher head tubes on road bikes. No road bike head tube height is optimal for all riders so Litespeed’s trend toward moderate to lower head tube heights contrasts with other brands’ trend to higher head tubes. A 54cm Cervelo R3 has a 148 mm high head tube while the Litespeed L3 has a 130 mm head tube in the 54cm frame size. That’s a difference of about 2 headset spacers. If you have a long torso and short legs this lower head tube geometry on the L3 may appeal to you. Litespeed uses a big 1.5″ diameter bearing on the bottom headset race that melds into the fork crown. The top race tapers down to 1.125″ diameter.

A slightly lower head tube per frame size and the big 1.5" lower headset race make for a racy front end on L3.
Litespeed named this head tube configuration “Zero-Stack” which presumably describes the placement of the top headset bearing low on the head tube. While this is not entirely unique to Litespeed other manufacturers do build an extension above the top tube to house the bearing. It’s probably more difficult to make a mold work with Litespeed’s design, so they deserve credit for going to the extra trouble to be certain the stem can be mounted very low if a long torso/short leg customer wants that set up. This is also a good design for the road bike/aerobar user since bolting aerobars onto drop bars on a higher head tube bike frequently leaves you with a very high front end and no options to get lower. In a word, the “L” series front end is more fit-able.

The single big story on L3 and all “L” series bikes is continuously variable tube shape. The shape of the frame sections changes as their requirement for lateral and vertical compliance changes. While this is a common theme in carbon fiber bike design Litespeed’s execution on the “L” series is unique and somewhat radical. You see this frame design most conspicuously in three areas; The change in shape of the down tube over its length, the asymmetrical orientation of the bottom bracket and the asymmetrical chain stays. Each of these designs were dictated by detailed FEA analysis to determine the optimal shape for the individual frame section.

The complex, assymetrical multi-shape structure of the "L" series frames is trickled down onto the L3 from the highest end "L" series frame. The green line on the right photo provides a visual reference for the offset orientation of the bottom bracket shell relative to the head tube. 

The bottom bracket on the L3 is the new-ish BB386 configuration. This bottom bracket uses press-fit cups and a flush, aero looking integration of the bearings into the frame. Since the frame surrounds the entire bottom bracket the entire area is more robust further adding to frame performance. While there is no such thing as a bottom bracket “standard” anymore this one is becoming common enough that crank and compatibility with drivetrains is not a challenge. That said it likely explains the use of the FSA Energy crankset on the L3. In previous model years we had to make excuses for FSA crank specs but the new machined chainrings deliver great shifting especially from small ring to big when used with a beefy BB386 bottom bracket rig.

The BB386 bottom bracket configuration allows a wider, stiffer frame that surrounds the bottom bracket. It also looks clean and integrated, a nice touch. 

Litespeed used very conventional slotted, external cable guides on the L3. It’s a good, basic design that makes fast cable changes easy. There is a small rubber plug on our test bike in the downtube next to the letter “L” in the Litespeed decal. This is the entry port for a Shimano Di2 control wire. It’s a nice idea since it future proofs the bike if you decide to go to Di2. The seatpost matches the cockpit furniture with a Zipp low setback, micro adjust alloy seatpost clamping my favorite Fizik Arione saddle, an excellent flat profile, 30 cm long road saddle. The seatpost clamp on the bike is alloy and uses a single bolt adjustment, very conventional.

There is conventional external cable routing for rear brake and front derailleur. The Zipp seatpost matches the bar and stem and holds a proven Fizik Arione saddle. 

The drivetrain on our bike was a 130 mm bolt pattern, 53/39 chainring FSA Energy alloy crank with machined chainrings and an Ultegra 6700 front and short cage (RD-6700-SS) rear derailleur. It turned a Shimano CS-6700 12-25 10-Speed cogset with an FSA CN 910 S10 10-speed chain with a quick link feature controlled by a pair of Shimano Ultegra ST-6700 10-Speed STi levers.

A conventional, dependable drivetrain with Ultegra and FSA components. It's not cutting edge, but it will be serviceable for years to come. 

The back of the bike features a modular, replaceable derailleur hanger. If you’re not clear on why this is a nice feature imagine a bad crash where the rear derailleur hits the ground hard bending the derailleur hanger. With the commonly used replaceable design you simply unbolt the bent hanger after removing the rear derailleur and then bolt on a new rear derailleur hanger. There is even an online specialty store that sells replacement rear derailleur hangers for nearly every frame available, including the Litespeed.

Since we’ve made it to the back of the bike its worth mentioning the Fulcrum 2:1 rear hub configuration. This design doubles the spoke count on the portion of the hub that receives the most torsional stress making the wheel stiffer under heavy load. An added benefit is claimed to be the dispersal of drive forces more evenly over all spokes. We’ve had good luck with this wheelset and these hubs so the claims appear to have merit.

The two-bolt rear derailleur hanger is durable and modular in case of a catastrophic crash. The Fulcrum hub o the rear wheel uses Fulcrum's special spoking pattern to distribute drive force over the entire hub flange on each side.
Litespeed trickled down the advanced frame design of their high end L1R frameset to a price point complete bike with the L3 and equipped it with a solid component mix. This is more than a component shopper’s bike, although its component spec is top notch. The result is a nice bike with advanced frame design for $3499.95. Also in this category is Cervelo’s Ultegra equipped R3 at $3800, another strong performer but about 10% more expensive and with different frame geometry, notably the higher head tube.

If you’re a road bike customer in the mid-$3000 price range the “L” series bikes are worthy of research. If your fitter tells you that a mid to low head tube frame is best for your torso to leg length ratio (probably the majority of riders) then the L3 becomes an even more attractive candidate.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Have Your Bicycle and Ride it Too

Elite athlete and Litespeed employee, Chris Brown, punches the work clock and the full-time training clock 

The laws of cyclist’s nature dictate we’ve all gotta eat, sleep and ride. That’s just the way it is. But sometimes there’s a little thing called a job that likes to get in the way. Chris Brown, account manager for Litespeed, has found a formula for working it all in—training, racing, more training—all while earning a paycheck, too.

“Peter Hurley, our CEO, really supports everyone being in the sport,” Chris says. “I’ll go out at lunch with Brad DeVaney, the head designer, and draft off his scooter, going 35-plus mph. Extreme race-pace simulation has really helped my training. Then after work, with daylight increasing now, I can get in a couple more hours.”

Chris, a Category 1 racer and a member of the Litespeed-BMW Cycling team, has been racking up wins on the Litespeed C1R this season. “The aerodynamics is probably the biggest thing,” he says, regarding the flagship model of the C-Series.

  “I am a very aggressive rider and like to be off the front. I get hit by the wind and can really feel the difference with the aerodynamics of the C1R, especially when combined with a carbon aero wheelset.”

Recently, Chris soloed away from the pack at the 3rd annual Aaron Schaffer Memorial RR in Sparta, Tennessee. A week later, he took on the Sunny King in the PRO/1 Criterium held in Anniston, Alabama. Ninety racers lined the start, but less than half of the cyclists finished. Riders who toughed out the 42-mile crit, held an average of 28 mph. Chris crossed the line in 13th place. “I was proud of that,” he says, “because I was racing against guys who only race for a living.”

Chris went on to crush the competition at the 21st Annual Highland Rim Omnium in McMinnville, Tennessee, winning both the criterium and the 112-mile road race. With a mad sprint, Chris nailed second place in the Berry Peddler, a 76-miler with some mean climbs and a separate time trial later in the day—both held just north of Chattanooga in Dayton, Tennessee. “I for sure should have won one of them,” he says, “as I just made a tactical mistake, but that is all part of racing.” 

 Litespeed-BMW Cycling Team

The Litespeed-BMW team comprises 17 Category 1 and 2 racers, who live in the Southeastern United States. They train and race on the Litespeed C1R and the L1R. A 9-member developmental squad, made up of primarily Category 3 racers, works hard to ensure the team continues to spin a victorious future. These elite team members all work full-time jobs while maintaining an impressive race schedule. And some of the athletes work for Litespeed. (For a play by play of Chris’s recent races and to find more info about the Litespeed BMW team, visit

Nine to Five

Chris, who has been working for Litespeed for10 years, hooked up with the company while racing and touring the country with Cane Creek cycling components. At the time, Litespeed Bicycles was also sponsoring the Cane Creek team Chris had been racing on. Eventually, with a marriage on the horizon, Chris was beginning to feel the desire to settle down. “I needed a change,” he says, “but I’d never done the full-time job kind of thing. They were growing,” he adds of Litespeed, “and I was ready to get a ‘real’ job.”

In addition to having a career that fosters time in the saddle, Chris also lives in an ideal location to log time on countless routes. “Chattanooga is great for that,” Chris says. “We have a variety of roads and climbs. It’s a hidden gem.”

Riding Resumé

Chris first gained cycling credo in the Asheville, North Carolina, area where he attended UNCA College and hit the trails on a mountain bike.  He nabbed 2nd place in the Collegiate Mountain Bike Championship and held a pro license for several years. Before that, he was into motocross. “I used to enjoy racing motocross, but it was pretty dangerous,” he says. “I got out of that and got into mountain biking and just really enjoyed it.” Yet, while training for trail races, Chris would log plenty of hours cranking through road workouts. “It doesn’t beat the body up as much,” he explains.

Out on the road, Chris found he had an affinity for speed. “I think it’s just the fact that you can really push yourself,” he says. “I like the competitiveness of it, but having fun is the most important part at the end of the day.”

While Chris has an obvious talent for cycling, he says he wouldn’t be able to reach his full potential if it weren’t for the people supporting his training and racing efforts, like his wife Cary, brother-in-law Bill, and his in-laws, the Litespeed-BMW team with manager Chris Chotas and the folks at Litespeed like Peter Hurley and Brad DeVaney, among others. “Most importantly,” he adds, “I thank God for blessing me with these abilities and giving me the joy I have racing.”

Vitals and Victuals

Top post-race meal? CB: Anything my wife will cook me! She takes great care of me on the food front to keep me fueled up.

Most annoying ache? CB: A lot of times in races my left hand will randomly go numb a bit. Otherwise I stretch nightly and don’t really have any nagging pains or aches, fortunately!”

Pre-race ritual? CB: Man, I can’t let out all of my secrets and I am not superstitious, but lately I have found my Litespeed socks to give me superpowers. 

Clif Bar fav? CB: Chocolate Chip, yum!

“It’s light, it’s plenty stiff, and I feel like you really benefit from the radical aerodynamic design. I’m a believer. I feel like I am able to save energy as far as the wind-cheating benefits over the course of a race.”

Goals for the season:
  • Win TN State Crit and Road Race Championship
  • Win the TBRA (Tennessee Bike Race Association) BAR (Best Area Rider) series championship
  • Win a Master’s National Championship jersey in Bend, OR in September
  • Have Fun!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Litespeed Titanium Fan Is Now LOVING His Carbon Litespeed

We will always cultivate and support the passion Litespeed customers have for titanium, but after reading the letter below, we are confident we are satisfying our customer base and exceeding their expectations with our carbon design and build. We LOVE our Litespeed supporters and hope everyone has a safe and fun biking season.
Dear Litespeed,
Damn! That C1 just keeps getting faster and faster! I think I've already talked to you guys about my first 3 rides on the C1. I raved about the incredible performance, but I can't stop raving about it even after my fourth ride.
I'm still on a relatively flat course, but all things considered-wow. At age 62, I thought I had started losing it last year as my solo average speeds were off a bit.  My solo training average speed has been incredibly bad for a number of reasons this spring. One being I lost my Litespeed Siena due to that cracked frame.  Now with everything fixed and the C1 shows up to try out!
Two years ago, if I did anything over 20 mph I considered it an excellent effort that I was thrilled with. I probably did 5 or 6 solo TT rides at 20.3 +o/- .2 mph. I caught one ride that hit 21 mph. I had dreamed of a 21 mph ride, but I didn't think I had much of a chance at it. That was probably a perfect storm ride, everything went right (catching the lights, wind, and having good legs). I never did more than 5 or 6 attempts in a season at training TTs, as they hurt too much mentally and physically.
Well, I'm up to four rides on the C1 now. All have been hard TT efforts, which surprises me that mentally and physically I can handle that much in such a short time span. I never could in the past. I've only had the bike 2 weeks or so and would have expected no more than maybe 1 TT in that time. I can't believe my body is taking this abuse so well. The bike must be the bike making a difference.
My average ride average speeds for my 30 mile course so far on the C1: 19.3/21/20.5/21.3.  The 21 mph had me off the charts with excitement as I never expected to see a 21 mph average again in this life time. Then yesterday... An amazing new personal best at age 62! Now two rides at 21 mph this year in the span of just a few days. What the heck are you doing to these bikes?  I really can't believe the performance on this bike. Can the aero design really make that big of a difference between the Siena and a C1? If I understand correctly it's only 20 watts at 30 mph as measured in the wind tunnel. Yet, look at that performance. The 21.3 mph was 21.5 mph with 2 miles to go then I hit some bad luck at a couple of intersections which cost my the .2 mph.
Now you have me dreaming of another perfect storm of 22 mph average.  I hear Lance has retired, maybe there is an opening on the team for me this year.  ;-)
Great job guys. Past it on to your designers. John

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

LITESPEED-BMW comes close in Murfreesboro

Over Memorial Day weekend LITESPEED-BMW rider Chris Brown decided to go race the TBRA series MOAB criterium outside of Nashville, TN.  We know, big surprise, Chris Brown racing again.  We guess he just can’t get enough!  In his first crit of the day, the Masters crit, he was active as usual and got away in a four rider break that eventually lapped the field.  Riders from Marx & Bendorf, Peachtree Bikes and Swiftwick Racing made the move with Chris.  We were later told that Chris didn’t quite feel like his usual self and thus didn’t attack the break, instead patiently waiting for the sprint (Chris, what is up with that?).  Anyway, he had a good position heading into the last turn when, unexpectedly, Andrew Reardon of Swiftwick decided to go way early and caught everyone off guard.  This lead to Chris not being quite in the position he wanted heading into the sprint, but he was still able to snag 2nd as Bryant Funston of Marx and Bendsdorf won as both riders were able to pass Andrew heading by the finish line.

Chris Brown leading the break!

The second crit of the day was the PRO/1/2 race and in this one, from what we heard, Chris was back to his usual self.  There were the usual early attacks and even a crash that took down several riders but after the dust settled Chris instigated a six rider break with riders from FSG Cycling, Nashville Cyclist, Swiftwick, Marx & Bensdorf, and Austinbikes represented.  The pace was not super high and Chris wanted to whittle down the number of riders in the break so he attacked several times, but with a tough headwind and the course not being very technical he was just not able to break clear.  Eventually the field was lapped and the FSG Cycling team set temp on the front to keep any further attacks from taking place.  Going into the last five laps everyone was looking at each other and the pace really eased up, in fact Tim Hall of Nashville Cyclist snuck away with two laps to go and no one felt like chasing him!  Chris hoped that even with letting Tim go a bit that they would swoop him up in the sprint finish for the line.  It was not to be as Tim held on for the win with Andrew Reardon of Swiftwick nipping Chris at the line for 2nd and Chris ending up 3rd.  Overall it was a pretty good day, but bike racing is frustrating sometimes as you have the win in sight and come up a bit short due to a tactical error, but boy racing is fun!

*Thanks Litespeed BMW for posting!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cohutta and the Big Ring Classic in Wisconsin

Congrats to Tristan Brown from Team TIMEX on snagging first place in your age group!