We test three new additions to the carbon-fibre, aero road bike market from Boardman, Scott and Litespeed
As part of the American Bicycle Group, Litespeed can benefit from the aerodynamic knowledge gained by stablemates, triathlon brand Quintana Roo (QR). One of the more obvious crossovers is in the fork. In wind tunnel testing QR found that when riding at 24mph, the air coming off the front wheel was being forced back through the fork crown (against the direction of travel) at 6mph. By opening up the crown and creating a funnel shape, this airflow is more readily countered.
Wider, bowed fork legs also gave the displaced air somewhere to go rather than directly into very turbulent air off the spinning front wheel.
One other seemingly innocuous feature is the widening of the down tube around the bottle cage. By increasing the width, it is claimed that wind tunnel testing showed airflow around a standard bottle and cage on the down tube was improved massively.
We have been shown data that makes low double-digit watt improvements in this area alone. We have no way of verifying this but the fact that Cervélo has done something remarkably similar on its S5 bike (launched too late for this test) makes us think they are onto something.
More standard is a cutout for the rear wheel in the rear of the deep-section seat tube, elongated aero section at the head tube as the deep top and down tubes meet, and an integrated narrow-profile post. With an FSA clamp system, the post isn't as scary as many ISPs. With up to 20mm of adjustment thanks to a shim system, there is room for different saddles and potential resale.
As the Litespeed is a frame only, we won't dwell too long on the spec. Suffice to say, with a top-drawer Campagnolo Super Record groupset, the weight was pretty ballpark coming in between the superlight Scott and very respectable Boardman. The Reynolds Strike wheels are worth a mention as their 66mm deep profile seemed to suit the frame's aero properties very well - certainly better than any shallower wheels.
While the C1R is claimed to be 13 per cent stiffer in the front triangle compared to its cheaper brethren, the 60T Nanocarbon construction is somewhat let down by one key area in the frame's design. With such a small junction between the top tube and seat tube, combined with a solid BB and head tube - thanks to the ubiquitous tapered steerer - any loads will seek out the weakest point; after all a frame is only as stiff as its most flexible point. When sprinting hard out of the saddle or braking heavily diving into corners, the seat and head tubes fight to remain parallel. The small juncture mentioned allows too much flex at one key area and movement is visible.
On more similarly-overall scaled bikes, the loads are shared and flex is far less apparent. It is a trait we have seen on pretty much every bike we have ridden with similar detailing. Every one displays the same tendency to run wide in corners and requires far too much mid-cornering correction for truly confident cornering. It is far more difficult to sense when a tyre is about to let go.
All in all it prevents limit-testing cornering. Some lighter or less aggressive testers didn't really notice this, but if you like descending and technical roads as much as we do, there are much better bikes. It's a shame as, with the right wheels, the C1R is undoubtedly fast.
At sub-£2K, it's good value and no less comfortable than many other integrated-post race bikes. The overall score is also a tad unfair and is a product of our marking system. It only just falls behind the Scott: it's better value and will suit different riders but we do need to differentiate.
Price: £1999 frame only, £5176.96 as built
Easton EA/ EC90
Ultra Modulus Nanotube construction, aero shrouded bottle mount, morphed seatstay, integrated seatmast
Campagnolo Super Record
Easton EA/ EC90
Schwalbe Ultremo R1