Litespeed, recognized for creating some of the highest quality titanium frames in the classic days of cycling, has been making way the past few years into the carbon market with builds ranging from endurance to all-out race. They’re still producing some very nice ti bikes, but the flagship of their 2013 lineup is the new Litespeed C1 Race aero road bike.
The test model came spec’d with an Ultegra groupset, Reynolds Assault clinchers, an Easton EA70 cockpit and Fizik Arione saddle. The C1 Race is a variation of the C1, receiving the upgrade from Easton EA50 aluminum clinchers to the Reynolds Assault carbon wheelset. Pricing is $4700 as shown. With a frameset built to handle both mechanical and electronic systems, adding Di2 to the mix brings pricing to $5000 (with Easton EA50 clinchers).
Keeping a relatively low price point for a high end aero bike, Litespeed packed a bunch of tech into the frame. For 2013, they switched the frame’s carbon layup and carried over the Aerologic suite, Litespeed’s proprietary aerodynamic system that shapes everything from the aerodynamic tubing down to the concave bottle mounts.
We took it to the scale, with details, photos and a tech rundown after the break…
Out of the box, the C1 Race weighs in at 16lb 13 oz. That’s a little heavier than we expected, but despite being bonafide weight weenies, we understand that weight is just one of many factors taken into consideration when crafting an aero bike. Well defined lines throughout the build, and together with sharp graphics make for an aggressive appearance.
Examining the spec chart, the geometry for the C1 is interesting. We received a ML size (56cm), which sits smack dab in the middle of their offerings. The head tube and seat tube both sit at 73.0 degrees, at or near what’s considered standard for race bikes. Chainstay length is a very short 39.5cm, wheelbase is 97.4cm, and bottom bracket drop is 6.8cm – all very racy. That’s tighter than a comparably sized Specialized Venge and many other aero bikes.
Litespeed borrowed the geometry spec from a particularly successful custom titanium frame they built for racer Jeff Pierce back in the day. By lengthening the distance between feet and front axle (i.e. longer Front-Center), and shortening the chainstays, the rider sits at a slight pivot point over the back wheel. That’s said to make the bike super agile and quick, with reactive handling for breakaways.
The C1 first showed up as a 2011 model. Since then, Litespeed switched from a 40T to a 30T unidirectional carbon modulus this year. After experimenting with many different carbon layups, they found this to be the best contender in both strength-to-weight ratio and price. The ride quality in terms of lateral stiffness, torsional stiffness, and vertical compliance is said to be improved from models of previous years. A carbon molding technique called Reactive Pressure Molding that lays pre-preg carbon over a preformed structure that’s inflated once the frame’s inside the mold to produce a smooth carbon finish inside and out, which means more predictable quality control.
The seat stays are ribbed into the seat tube to brace the frame, while a very large BB30 bottom bracket shell is reinforced for power transfer. The seat tube is cut out around the wheel for air flow, and the rear wheel is tucked in closer than most bikes we’ve seen.
Originally designed with an integrated seat post, and still offered that way in the 2013 C1R, Litespeed took great measures to ensure that this bike remained stiff at the seatpost-seatstay junction despite the adjustable seatpost. Because the bike is designed as a breakaway bike, the tubing is crafted to open and close the air efficiently, creating a vacuum that closes air on the tail end of the bike. Like many aero bikes, it’s designed to benefit the rider while wearing out the pack.
Ribbed into the seat tube to brace the frame, the seat stays have a visible rotation. Near the top, the rib and body line up and the seat stays are widened for extra stiffness behind the knees while also maintaining a degree of vertical compliance for ride comfort. As they move downward, they twist to maximize aerodynamics.
The bottle mount is designed to shroud the cage and channel air around the bottle. To achieve a concave structure of this sort, a plug is inserted into the mold to shape the carbon. Litespeed claims to be one of the only manufacturers, if not the only manufacturer to use this method. Many aerobikes use water bottle shrouding, but this technique adds a bit of flare on the side.
The 54g bottom bracket shell is machined with metal inserts, a method Litespeed thinks is more precise and efficient than molding the shell directly into the carbon. Shifter cables are routed through the frame while brake cables are left unmasked for easier maintenance.
The fork blades have a slight outward bend to channel air and absorb road shock. A 62mm crown race on the head tube lets you insert a variety of headsets. Litespeed strived for precise, consistent wall thickness throughout the headtube to easily accept a variety of cups. Moving down, the dropouts on the front and rear are both carbon, and a stainless steel exoskeleton on the rear dropout bridges into the frame for extra stiffness.
And as is popular nowadays, the headtube is tapered and the chain stays are assymmetrical with different carbon layups in each to withstand pedal forces appropriately.
Using a two bolt post clamp that braces at 6nm, this should prevent any seatpost slip, a problematic phenomenon we’ve found in other aerodynamic seat posts.
First Ride Impressions
Being the dead of winter, we’ve only gotten a couple good rides in on the bike. So far, it rides great. The quality is impressive with sharp cornering and stability on the flats. On the climbs, the bike is responsive with noticeable stiffness in the bottom bracket and torsional stiffness when torquing the bars. We haven’t had the chance to take the bike in a serious paceline, so there’s no word on the micro side-side handling, but first impressions are encouraging.
With a price point at $4,700 it seems to be a great contender in the aero bike market, with ride quality pinned against bikes that run $8,000+. In size 56, the C1 Race is slightly heavier than the much larger Alchemy we just tested out, but it feels stiff in the right places. The C1 Race is comparable in spec to the the Cervelo we had in last year at this time, and the C1 Race gets (in my opinion) a better, more refreshing design that will turn some heads. Some weight could be dropped by swapping out the Fizik Arione saddle, Easton EA70 bar and stem, but the component choice is respectable for the price. The Ultegra groupset is spec’d 53-39 in the chainring and 12-25 in the cassette, a ratio we’re familiar with that shouldn’t give any surprises. This being the first time we’ve rolled on Reynolds Assault clinchers, they seem so far to have all the qualities of a good wheelset while being built burly enough to maintain form under heavier riders…something we’ll test.
Now that the bike’s out of the box, lubed, pumped and stabled at Bikerumor HQ, we look forward to getting in some serious saddle time on the build. Stay tuned for the long term review!