Review: Litespeed Li2 Green Machine

Litespeed Li2 review

It’s been nearly 12 years since Litespeed started working with carbon fiber, and even though the brand is currently selling more carbon frames than titanium domestically, they still seem to be known as the Ti company. Since the beginning, Litespeed has always set out to make the best bike possible no matter the material. With titanium, the challenge was to take aerospace grade ti tubing and to turn it into bike specific tubesets to create high end bikes. Eventually, the cold worked shaped tubes became Litespeed’s calling card and the company still sells more titanium bikes than carbon internationally.

Looking for the next evolution in design, in 2002 Litespeed started experimenting with carbon fiber seatstays for the Sienna and the Ultimate. This would eventually lead to their first full carbon model, the C-Series aero road bike. Successful tweaking over the years led to a highly manipulated aero road bike, so the next logical step was what Litespeed refers to as a good “all-rounder.”

Right around that point Litespeed’s current CEO Peter Hurley stepped into the leadership role, and helped to improve the development process in a way that allowed product designer Brad DeVaney to create the bike he envisioned – the L Series.

We’ve been on the Litespeed Li2 for quite a few miles now, get our take on the bike after the break…

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When asked what about the L Series design sets the bike apart, Brad noted he took a “zone” approach. Working on very specific zones of the bike, it was designed so that the cross sections all worked well alone but at the same time also work extremely well together to make a very aerodynamic , stiff, smooth riding bike. Brad calls himself a very asymmetrical thinker which probably has something to do with the company using asymmetrical seatstays on bikes all the way back in the late 90s.That pattern of asymmetry continues in the L series, hidden about the frame.

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Even with attention paid to the aerodynamic details, the frame retains UCI compliance.

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Designed with a stout tapered head tube and oversized bottom bracket, the L series is built for power transfer as much as it is ride quality. As one of the early adopters of BB386, the L series uses the 86mm wide bottom bracket with a 30mm spindle FSA crank due to the super wide bearing stance. While Brad likes the idea of a wider bottom bracket, he doesn’t like the idea of offset bearings so BB386 seems like way to go.

As a carryover model from the previous year, the biggest change to the current L Series lies in the carbon plies. Litespeed has added a bit more material for added durability and performance even though it added a few grams. Brad points out that the bikes are already too light for UCI competition and they would rather run the best and lightest components while not having to add weight. Having tested frames well under 700g, the production frames are hardly portly at about 920g for the standard L series, and around 800g for the L1R. Comparatively the L series uses mainly 30t carbon (Brad’s favorite) while the L1R adds in 60t in strategic areas for added stiffness and lighter weight. When the frames are put on the test rigs, Litespeed is to the point where the carbon frames are outlasting their titanium siblings in torture testing.

Just where are the L series frames made? Litespeed doesn’t hide the fact that their carbon frames are made overseas in two different carbon factories. The company owns all of their designs and works directly with the factory to ensure the quality of their RPM or Reactive Pressure Molding carbon method.

Litespeed Li2 review

Our Take:

After putting in quite a few miles on the Li2, the All-Rounder tag seems like a good fit as long as you’re referring to all types of racing. Thanks to the aggressive geometry, the bike feels like a total go-kart in the handling department.

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Much of this probably due to the fact that I’m used to riding small frames, and since small frames would usually have toe overlap with aggressive geometry many companies alter the angles to eliminate it thereby muting the geometry. Litespeed keeps the aggressive geometry true to the smaller sizes which means it has some pretty major toe overlap. Because of this, the frame is great for experienced riders and racers but maybe not so much for beginners. Note that this really only applies to the smaller frames since longer toptubes generally eliminate the severity of toe overlap. Also, it’s pretty easy to live with a bike with a lot of overlap, you just need to avoid pedaling while making tight turns – or going all Sagan and turning the bars while pulling a wheelie…

Regarding the sizing, using top tube and stack and reach numbers I was left somewhere in the middle between the small and the medium. If I had to do it again, I would probably go up a size as the S feels smaller than the numbers would imply.

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Component wise, the Li2 is an interesting mix of parts designed to offer the biggest bang for the buck. The Reynolds Assault carbon clincher wheelset is hard to miss as is the [mostly] Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain. Instead of Ultegra brakes you will find TRP R870 stoppers which were more about lighter weight than price for Litespeed. Fitted with Reynold’s Cryo blue pads, the TRP brakes stopped the Reynolds wheels admirably, though not quite as crisp as a pair of Shimano brakes. Speaking just to the carbon braking performance of the rims and pads, the Reynolds kit is some of the best I’ve used – though still a bit scary in the wet.

While the shifting on the FSA SL-K BB386 crank was excellent, I’m not so sure about the use of an FSA chain. Compared to Shimano chains on Shimano cassettes, the FSA chain shifts all right, but it makes quite a bit more noise in certain gears. The Easton EA70 cockpit parts, while fairly basic offer a full build devoid of house brand components and are still cheap enough to easily replace if you need a different size.

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Due to the quick handling and impressive ride quality (even with the big seatpost), the Li2 does indeed seem like a great option for an all-around race bike that would be perfect for the local crit or stage race. Don’t mistake the L series for bike to cruise over to the local coffee shop, but if you’re looking for speed the $6,000 Li2 is basically race-ready, right out of the box.

For more details plus actual weight, check out the initial post on the Li2.

litespeed.com

 

Comments

Ajax - 08/24/14 - 12:45pm

I have sized up many a rider, and it is really difficult for a shorter rider to avoid the dreaded toe overlap on pretty much ANY road bike. The shorter top tubes on smaller frames brings the back of front wheel closer to the foot of the rider. And road crank sizes don’t change very much.

Pablo - 08/24/14 - 1:18pm

^^ That’s not exactly true. I’m a smaller rider (49cm-50cm on most frames) and I’ve had both bikes with and without overlap. Scott tackled this issue in their CR1 with a relaxed the head angle to 71 degree. They have a higher offset fork to compensate (otherwise steering would be very heavy), and it works.

My Litespeed C1R though is probably following the same geometry philosophy as this bike, and has a 72.5 deg HT and a really short front-center and there’s tons of overlap.

Cervelo used to be in the same camp, “deal with it, we’re building race bikes here” and stuck to the 73/73 formula, but have since changed their tune and have slackened their smaller bikes and bumped the fork offset up.

So the amount of overlap runs the gamut, Litespeed is particularly aggressive in this front which I personally don’t mind, my C1R is easily my best handling bike though some may call it “twitchy”.

Ajax - 08/24/14 - 1:30pm

^^ Pablo is correct and I was not. I should reiterate though that it is quite difficult for a shorter rider to get a road bike and not have the dreaded toe overlap issue. There are smaller frames that do offer a much slacker headtube which moves the front wheel forward a bit, but the trade off is handling. In my opinion, a carbon fork with about a 43-45mm fork rake has a sweet spot of usage when paired with a head tube angle around 72-73 degrees. Pairing the same fork with a 71 degree head angle is much less than optimal.

Pablo - 08/24/14 - 1:41pm

Honestly in the end, geometry really doesn’t make that much of a difference. Cavendish had plenty of wins on his 49cm CR1, slack front end geometry be damned. It changes the feel of the bike for sure, but no one is riding their road bikes at the limit of traction anyways where you can clearly point out deficiencies in performance directly related to geometry.

In my opinion of course.

I still prefer the more aggressive options as it makes the experience more enjoyable for me, I am no racer, just a weekend warrior.

Don - 08/24/14 - 4:53pm

I have a 6 year old Ti Archon. Best bike I have ever owned period! Had a carbon Orbea for a few years and hated it. I am sure I am not giving carbon it’s due. But as hard on frames as I am. I have a hard time believing that a carbon frame would last me 6 years.
I race Time Trials in the fixed gear class and use my Litespeed for everything but the race. It’s lasted thru Florida rain, my sweat, miles of use and it sits waiting to go out again.
I would like to try one of Litespeed’s carbon road frames, but at the end of the day I know I will come back to Ti.
I also like the fact that Litespeed is a bit of a forgotten company. Everyone around me is on Cervelo’s, Giant’s, Specialized, Trek, and any other big box brand. So to wheel up on a Ti bike in this day and age of carbon is cool.
I give Litespeed cudo’s for pushing the envelope on the designs no matter the material.
Now…..if they would just come out with some nice looking t-shirts and other street wear.

Andre - 08/24/14 - 6:18pm

I don’t know mans. To me Litespeed is not a Litespeed if its not made out of Titanium! Would catch my eyes if they Star using 3D Printer in Titanium to make frames exploring forms and shapes never possible before with traditional fabrication methods. That would be cool! Give me 3D Ti printer and I’ll show you what I mean!

Devin - 08/24/14 - 9:41pm

This is why ENVE makes forks with 40, 43, 45 and 50mm rakes- smaller sized frames with 700c wheels absolutely need longer rakes with the slack HT angle to feel correct. But bigger companies don’t want to produce three fork rakes, so this is what you get.

Psi Squared - 08/24/14 - 11:29pm

@ Devin: +1.

greg - 08/25/14 - 12:37am

some big companies adjust fork rake accordingly. specialized does, for the most part. ditto cervelo. cannondale does for the caad10 (but not for the evo, oddly).

Velociraptor - 08/25/14 - 3:03am

I don’t see any signs that the L series frame has changed any in the last few years. I feel that Cannondales, Giants, BMC’s are about 2 generations ahead of the L series.

Tomi - 08/25/14 - 7:45am

The FSA chainrings ruin the look. Do they offer any advantage over the standard ultegra ones ?

quickgeezer - 08/25/14 - 9:21am

Don, I know what you mean about being on the only metal bike in sight sometimes. And, being an old guy, it’s especially fun to blow by the karbon kids on my Seven!

This bike reads and looks like fun — IF it doesn’t have that “no road, just floating” feel. The best carbon should rival ti or steel for road feedback (“chatter,” if you don’t like it); maybe this is one that does that.

Dave B - 08/25/14 - 9:27am

“To me Litespeed is not a Litespeed if its not made out of Titanium!”

That’s my feeling also. I own three Ti Litespeeds; a ’96 Catalyst, an ’05 Firenza and an ’06 Tuscanny. I see no reason to ever buy a carbon Litespeed. The Ti bikes were their claim to fame and the carbon bikes are just another “made in Asia” look-alike to dozens of other sellers.

Litespeed does seem to have dropped out of sight as I see few ads and even fewer mentions in the various cycling mags and web sites. The fact that they still sell more Ti frames than carbon surprises me as their Ti bikes get even less mention then the generally ignored carbon models.

Velo - 08/25/14 - 3:23pm

Huge, chunky seat stays… large diameter seat post… This bike was designed several years ago before vertical compliance came into style. On the plus side, the L1′s that I have seen can fit 28c tires no problem, and possibly 30c or 32c’s.

Jordan - 08/29/14 - 7:41pm

I’m guessing the bike felt small because you used the top tube length and seat tube height. Stack and reach. Simple, and is what determines how the bike fits, top tube length is pretty pointless.

Lisa Caterbone - 09/16/14 - 10:06am

I purchased a Litespeed Ci2 last year at Interbike. (It is a 2012 Ci2 they were offering at a blowout price). The bike is sexy and it does ride very smoothly on the roads. However, I will never buy another Litespeed product again after the experience I had with this bike.

3 months after I purchaed it, right before getting started on a road ride, I had it leaning up against my car. It just fell over on its own and the left seat stay took a hit and bam! Huge gash in the carbon fiber that damaged the bike so severely it could not be ridden again without repair. Since I got such a great deal at the show, Litespeed was only willing to offer their crash replacement pricing and dismissed me. I opted to get my bike repaired by Calfee to keep it running… and because it was cheaper to repair than to replace.

Most of you may think it was bad luck and to just suck it up… but flash forward not even 1 year later. A friend of mine who had the same exact bike (we bought them at the same time), had the same exact thing happen to him. The bike fell over on its own and this time, cracked the right seat stay right through. Bike was destroyed and needs to be repaired or replaced. Seems kinda like a design flaw on the bike if it’s so easy to destroy with one tipover. I’ve crashed my older Bianchi and never had my carbon crack or gash. My friend who also had the same incident has an older Felt carbon bike that was wrecked and rolled over about 5 to 10 times and no damage. Just seems like this bike is so fragile, that anyone that pays a few thousand will be replacing the frame a year later if it falls over.

We tried talking with Litespeed together asking if more of these types of incidents happened and they were downright rude to us at Interbike. Not the greatest customer service at all and in my opinion… not a bike I’d be willing to gamble on for the amount they’re selling it for.

I just thought I’d share this story because now 2 people have had the same incident and same damage on the same model. If anyone else out there has this type of issue, I would love to hear from you.

Take or leave this review, but just know if you are racing crits and you take a fall, this bike will most likely not survive it. Just my experience.

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