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Litespeed L1R Review – December 15, 2012

Litespeed L1R

Litespeed L1R

Litespeed states that they spent four years designing their latest road frame, and it shows in their results.  The Litespeed L1R is extremely stiff while maintaining a comfortable all day ride that will please any competitive rider.  Equally important for racers, the Litespeed L1R provides an oversized bottom bracket and the revolutionary new BB386 design that results in immediate power transfer.  For riders looking for an all around light, stiff, fast, and comfortable race bike, you’ll find a winner in the Litespeed L1R.

Ride & Handling: Power, power, and more power….and precise handling too.

 

The Litespeed L1R’s defining characteristic is its ability to go fast when you put down the power. The drivetrain efficiency is incredibly high and provides immediate benefits when sprinting and climbing.  However, I felt the biggest difference when performing my weekly 2 x 20 min power intervals on a pancake flat Silver Comet Trail outside Atlanta, GA.  Since this is a paved road that I ride several times a week and use for interval training during half my rides using a Powertap, it was easy to quantify the immediate benefit of the Litespeed L1R’s increased stiffness.  Let it be known that I think professional bike reviewers and magazines compare so many different level bikes that they may be easily impressed when presented with a higher quality ride every now and again.  However, I’ve been racing the last 2 years on one of the top bikes in the industry in the Specialized Tarmac Sworks SL3.  The Tarmac Sworks is widely considered by all reviewers as one of this decade’s best race bikes for stiffness and speed coupled with light weight performance.  So, it should be noted when I write about increased stiffness and power transfer that I am comparing my observations to a top of the line race bike with top of the line race components.

Stiff and Confortable

Stiff and Confortable

The Litespeed L1R’s frame rigidity should be most noticeable when you’re sprinting, but I found the biggest power (i.e. improvements in watts) from more common riding such as closing gaps, bridging up, and solo breakaways. The Specialized Tarmac SL3 was responsive and stiff, but compared to the Litespeed L1R, it had the slightest delay in power transfer.  Since I am using the same Boyd 58mm Carbon Clincher wheel, it is even possible to view the power transfer improvements in my Garmin 500 head unit.  The Powertap seems to show slightly higher power numbers in the initial pedal stroke than the Tarmac Sworks with identical components.  While Litespeed deserves all the credit for these frame improvements, they are likely standing on the shoulders of giants by using the new BB386 bottom bracket.  I have no doubt that what I am feeling is a combination of the Litespeed L1R’s 60 ton carbon vs. Specialized Tarmac Sworks 46 ton carbon and the L1R’s BB386 bottom bracket compared to the Tarmac Sworks BB30 bottom bracket.  Several other noticeable differences are the rear seat stays that look more substantial than the toothpick thick seat stays on the Tarmac SL3.  Since I’m comparing my experience to the SL3, some might wonder how it would compare to the newer SL4.  Luckily, I have also ridden the SL4 on several test rides, and I can honestly say that I didn’t notice any difference between the SL3 and SL4.  The frame geometry is the same and frame tubing is very similar, so I am confident that my perceptions of the Litespeed L1R would be very similar regardless of SL3 or SL4.  To be fair, I have not ridden the Venge, but I have a former teammate who owns a Venge and L1R.  He confirmed that the L1R is a superior bike to the Venge which can’t be ridden for long periods of time and doesn’t provide any improvements in bottom bracket stiffness or power transfer given the smaller BB30.

BB386 Bottom Bracket

BB386 Bottom Bracket

Handling is not an area where I notice any differences between the L1R and Tarmac Sworks.  The L1R is an excellent handling bike, but the Specialized Tarmac Sworks bikes also do well in this area.  I definitely feel this bike handles as well, and my personal bike handles slightly better due to a more exact bike fit that is only possible because Litespeed built additional sizing options.  I was riding a 56.5 cm top tube on the Tarmac Sworks, but I am actually best fitted to a 56 cm (ML) Litespeed L1R.  Litespeed offers both an ML (56 cm) size and an L (57 cm) size. This is the most common area where riders find in between sizing, and Litespeed allowed many riders like myself to dial in their exact fit.  Downsizing just that small .5 cm has resulted in a much better handling bike for descending and cornering at high speed on my 56 cm L1R.

Litespeed L1R Frame

Litespeed L1R Frame

I do not have a scale at home, but the bike feels about the same weight as my previous 14 ½ pound Tarmac Sworks without pedals and spec’d with DA7900.   Since Litespeed isn’t spending millions on marketing like Specialized, I’m sure they opted for a slightly stiff bike in certain areas that I would assume adds a few grams, but it is nothing I can feel as a 162lbs rider when climbing hills.  Litespeed lists the frame weight at about 1,000 grams, and the current SL4 at 56 cm is within 50 grams of this weight.  I’ll happily trade 50 grams for the increased stiffness and power transfer from the Litespeed L1R.

Litespeed L1R Seat Stay

Litespeed L1R Seat Stay

 The Litespeed L1R is the best road bike that I have ever ridden.  The combination of comfortable all day ride coupled with the immediate power transfer from the BB386 bottom bracket make this bike a bargain and the best overall value in the professional level race bike category.  While it is important to remind readers that I race for the Litespeed-BMW Cycling elite race team based in the Southeast, I am not someone who writes a lot of reviews or advocates products based on team sponsorship.  My review of the Litespeed L1R is based on firsthand experience and analytical power analysis that tells me this is the fastest bike that I have ever ridden.  For that reason, I thank Litespeed for their efforts and look forward to using this new bike to achieve strong results in Pro/1/2 races in the Southeast in 2013.

L1R Down Tube

L1R Down Tube

The BB386 bottom bracket adds significant stiffness that is very noticeable when climbing and pushing out watts on flat sections.  My first ride yielded a 2% increase in 20 min peak power with same Dura-Ace components, Boyd 58mm Carbon Clinchers, and Powertap perfectly zero’d and calibrated.

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