Litespeed CX Ti Frame
Review: Litespeed CX Ti FrameBy Scott Hackett | Published Nov 18, 2012
Right Out of the Box
I couldn’t help but feel like a 3 year old on Christmas morning as I pulled the Litespeed CX Ti frame out of the box then peeling away the bubble wrap revealing the undeniable glow of brushed titanium alloy. At first glance the Litespeed CX Ti looks quite ordinary clean classic lines with beefy tubes most notable the 44mm head tube, press fit BB30 subtle swooping seat and chain stays. The frame weighed in and 1677g (3.8 lbs) with bottle cage bolts and derailleur hanger, not a flyweight frame more of a welterweight / middleweight still agile but built to take some punishment. Believe me that is exactly what I intend to give itEase of Assembly
Assembling the Litespeed Cx Ti was frankly a pure joy minimal prep was needed the alignment was bang on, the bottom bracket, head tube and seat tube were prepped to perfection. The only prep Sheldon at Green Mountain Sports in Lakewood Colorado needed to do was to remove the replaceable steel derailleur hanger apply a bit of grease bolt it back on and start the build.
The first round of build the complete bike weighed in at 20.40 lbs with the new Easton EA90 XD Wheelset, Vee Rubber CXC tires and TRP Parabox Disc Brakes. A Change in tires to the Specialized Tracer Pro tires (-130g each) and Hope V-Twin disc brakes (-137g) dropped the total to 19.51lbs.
Follow the Project on our Facebook PageBling Factor
With the Litespeed CX Ti there isn’t any flashy paint and graphics just that something special about that glow only titanium has. With a stance that means business, clean understated decals on the beefy cold worked tubes. At closer inspection you will notice perfect welds, subtle manipulation of the tubes at critical areas. Simply stated “Form is Function with the Litespeed CX Ti”
Road Test Ride
For a mid-weight bike the CX Ti climbs extremely well, on long sustained climbs it is a joy, on the steeper stuff punch it hard and the power goes straight to the rear wheel thanks to the BB30, FSA SLK-Light EVO 386 Crank with massive 30mm spindle, beefy 45mm down tube and perfectly matched stays. I will have to put some road tires on it and see how it compares to my road bike from the feel alone I have to say the CX Ti feels faster and more responsive.Cornering
With the 44m head tube, 45mm down tube and 38mm top tube diameters the front end is stiff, responsive and stable, especially when matted to the ENVE Composites Cross Disc Fork. On my usual training routes through Red Rocks, Lookout Mountain and surrounding open space parks I felt confident in every sweeper to off camber switchback. The disc brakes are a big part picture as I can brake later and harder taking lines not possible before with cantilevers no matter how good you may think you have yours set up, either the TRP Parabox or Hope V-Twin are far superior to cantilever and mechanical (cable pull) disc brakes period.Handling
Since the Litespeed CX Ti has a relatively high bottom bracket (Drop of 60mm) I thought at first the bike might feel twitchy as many CX riders I have talked with about various other CX bikes that have the higher bottom brackets felt to them. For me the handling of the CX Ti is anything but twitchy. Since the handling is razor sharp I did need to make small adjustments in my riding style not to be as aggressive my usual throwing the bike around but letting it flow works best with the CX Ti. The frame was designed to work around a 45mm fork offset the ENVE fork like most CX forks is a 47mm offset, and the use a Hope Pick n Mix Headset combination of external cup for the lower and internal zero stack top to accommodate the ENVE forks 1 1/2 to 1 1/8 steerer this did help with the overall stability at higher speeds as the wheel base is increased by 15mm to 102.8cm for the M 53cm frame.Ride Feel
This is one area that the Litespeed CX Ti really shines, and is the dominate factor many will only ride Titanium frames. Road imperfections as there are many here in Colorado are dealt with ease resulting in a firm satisfyingly energetic feel without any harsh feedback. I am really considering this to be the bike I ride most often on the road after CX season as I prepare for the DH and Enduro season.
Dirt Test Ride
On the dirt the Litespeed CX Ti feels firmly grounded even on the most uneven rocky terrain there is just enough vertical compliance to get the power down so there isn’t wasted effort like I feel so often on a Aluminum or on most Carbon frames.Cornering
On wide sweeping or increasing radius corners the Litespeed CX Ti is one word fantastic, it holds a line as surefooted as gold metal gymnast on a balance beam. On tight corners especially while descending a brave and steady rider will get the most of this bike, less skilled riders will be tested. See my commentary on bottom bracket height for more on this.Handling
The razor sharp handling on the road transfers directly to the dirt flick the CX Ti from one side to the other and you moving fast in another direction. Piloting the CX Ti through chicanes and slower riders is a blast as is charging off small to midsize drops 18 inches and under are all handled without fuss.The large diameter tubes by the way are specific to the CX Ti and none are shared with any other model in the Litespeed line are a very big part of how this frame performs. I ride my CX bikes a lot on MTB trails and in my area they are all very rocky, I find myself lost in the moment and forget I am not on a six-inch trail bike that alone could get you in some trouble on most CX bikes. On the Litespeed CX Ti boosting over rocks, roots and barriers is never a chore, lift the front end a bit and stomp the lead pedal and your over it that is if you are as willing as the CX Ti is.Ride Feel
I have yet to get bounced off line like I have been to many times to count while on a aluminum or carbon frames, the vertical compliance without being mushy or feeling dead is really Litespeed CX Ti’s best attribute. For Cross Ti is the real deal!
Trainer Test Ride
Like I stated before the frame alignment, welds overall attention to detail is first rate at Litespeed the CX Ti is no exception. I would have given the CX Ti five Cowbells but the 1677g 3.8lbs frame should be paired down a bit since there are many sub 1 kilo carbon frames in a comperable price point as the CX Ti. Could Litespeed get it down to 1350g without sacrifice durability and ride quality significantly?
Race Test Ride
I debuted Project Privateer Litespeed CX Ti at Boulder Cup though my physical condition was less than desirable, partially from a mild Lupus flare the week preceding the event. In no way am I going to just poke around the course. I took pass after pass in just about every corner especially downhill corners, this of what makes CX fun for me even though just to get passed back on the next straight at least on this day. Riding the Litespeed CX Ti quick changes in direction, around riders that had crashed or blew a corner was effortless due to the nimble handling and sharp steering response. The climbing sections short and steep or long sustained stomp the pedals as the CX Ti scooted right on up always maintaining great traction where many a rider was spinning out or the rear wheel was not maintaining contact wasting their efforts to move forward.
A few days before the race we got a little bit of snow, I only wish there would have been far more and some winds to ice things up as those conditions really suit me as I really enjoy sliding sideways in a corner. Unfortunately most of the snow melted the day before and the temperature was rising as my race approached resulting in some nice viscous sticky mud here and there along the course along with a gravel pit to stick to the mud, not so good for those riders like myself that only brought the one bike to race. This is were the only real complaint I have racing the CX Ti is the chain-stays do need more clearance even with a 32mm wide tire the CX Ti only had 6mm of clearance each side of the tire, to the cross brace is 12.8mm. By the third lap of four the viscous mud and gravel buildup slowed me down as the tire needed to push through the build up resulting in just pedaling in on the final lap lucky not to be lapped. This is to bad since the seat-stays there is more than adequate clearance 12mm for the side and 21mm of the end and no cantilever brakes to catch mud as well darn close to the 13mm side and 21mm clearance on the ENVE CX disc fork. On course with soupy mud, frozen or other wise dry conditions the Litespeed CX Ti would be a bike I eagerly saddle up time after time.
Number one durability is where the Litespeed CX Ti outshines anything in Carbon or Aluminum; this is a lifetime frame. The rider that buys a Litespeed does so with the intension of riding it hard and expects it to last many, many years. My current road bike I have owned for 8 years guess what it is Titanium. An owner of a Litespeed views their rides not as fashion statements but as a function statement that is quality, attention to detail, durability that is real value. My personal bikes I hold on to until I break them or they just do not work for me anymore. The overall handling, comfort I get the feeling I will hold on to the Litespeed CX Ti for some time to come.
We Didn't Like
Chain-stay tire clearance needs to be increased for these reason this is not the bike to ride in viscous sticky mud conditions. With the BB30 there is more than adequate room to move the stays out and still not interfere with chain ring and cranks quite possible increasing lateral stiffness though the CX Ti really isn’t lacking there. The stays could also be shortened as the lower cross brace may not be needed allowing for even more mud clearance. It is hard to speculate if shortening the stays would negatively affect the bikes overall stability and vertical compliance.
I only have a few suggestions not really complaints that the brake hose bosses be moved from the bottom on the seat stay to the top will eliminate some brake line bending. On the top tube that a third brake boss be added in the center instead of two and the two at the ends have more space or be moved not to interfere with the shifter bosses to be able to use hose clips rather than zip ties. Though I do take in to consideration that the frame I received is a preproduction, so I would suspect these issues to be addressed.
The Final Say
At $2500 the Litespeed CX Ti frame is on the pricy end for a frame only no seat post or fork. What you get with the CX Ti is a lifetime frame that is hand built right here in the USA, to exacting standards for discriminating riders that care more about quality and purpose of function more than flash and fashion. The frame will outlast countless wheel sets, groupos and will handle what ever you as a rider can throw at it. The Litespeed CX Ti is a bike one can ride all day in just about any terrain, commute on during the week, and race on Sunday with its sharp handling, compliant ride, climbs and descends with confidence. The Litespeed CX Ti is for real when it comes to Cross.Commentary on Bottom Bracket Drop / Bottom Bracket Height
Traditionally cross bikes have a higher bottom bracket expressed in what you will hear as bottom bracket drop. The measurement is the distance between a horizontal line through the center of the wheel hubs and another horizontal line through the center of the bottom bracket. Road bike will have a bottom bracket drop of approximately 69 -75mm. whereas a typical drop of 57-72mm for most cross bikes I have ridden. Simply higher BB is less drop, more drop is a lower bottom bracket.
Back in the day when we all had to use clips and toe straps cyclocross bikes needed a higher bottom bracket so that the clips would clear the ground on the down stroke after a remount when the rider hand yet to get in their foot into the cage. I do not know of anyone who is about to change back to toe clips so why do some cyclocross still adhere to the old standard? There are other considerations for a higher bottom bracket like better pedal clearance over roots and rocks. While most CX race courses won’t have technical obstacles like these, there are riders like myself who enjoy riding their CX bikes on the trails. A centimeter more under the pedals decreases pedal strikes, the trade off is the saddle is a centimeter higher as well, this makes remounting a little harder and for some riders to the point of being impossible for them to remount quickly. A higher BB also raises the rider’s center of gravity on the bike, the effect is a more nimble more flick-able bike, to some riders this could feel twitchy. Whereas lowering the BB should have the affect of increasing stability and tracking so one would think, this is a contentious assertion at best as BB height is just one aspect of frame geometry. What about the higher BB making it easier to bunny hop barriers? This has more to do with the riders skill bottom bracket high or low has very little to do with it as the wheels are always the same height and approach angle on either type of bike, so in practice the assertion higher is better for a bunny hope I find incorrect. Finally there is the issue of shoe front tire interference being increased on bikes with higher BB, the closer the BB height is to the same level as the hub being the center of the wheel the more pedal shoe interference will be more so if you like me ride a long crank and have your cleat position more rear. Personally I do not have issue with this as I have trained myself from years of gravity racing to always have my lead pedal forward to the side I am turning this opens the hips and aids faster more precise cornering. Riders with less experience though to have problems with this and has been a consistent comment I have heard when talking about out it with many riders over the years.
So am I in favor of a lower bottom bracket that being more drop or a higher bottom bracket being less drop? That's like asking what I prefer Blonds or Brunets, and my answer would be Redheads. The truth is there are pros and cons for both deciding what is right for you will depend on your riding style, experience and type of courses and other terrain you would ride the bike on.
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- First Impressions
- On the Road
- On the Dirt
- On the Trainer
- Race Performance
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