Litespeed's Obed used to be their entry-level bike, but now it's a fully fledged tough trailster in its own right. This tight, hard-as-nails frame is no heavyweight, though.
Litespeed can sell the Obed frame for £1,499 because they have the technology to work tubes made from 3Al 2.5V titanium, enabling them to near as dammit match performance levels previously only possible using far more expensive 6AL 4V ti alloy. This is particularly obvious on the square QUAD-Tech stays, which create a stiff rear end even with relatively small, light tubes. The dropouts can be unbolted to swap between geared or singlespeed set-ups. Tube shaping includes pockets for extra tyre clearance, and production frames will have a raised bridge to provide ample room for big tyres. Up front, the subtly shaped piping of the tubeset keeps things tight and light, with neat recessed gussets at the throat of the head tube/down tube junction. Immaculate hand welding holds everything together, and the grey logos almost disappear into the matt finish - spot on for the Obed's 'tough guy' character.
The Obed is available in two full bike set-ups. This one is XT based, or you can opt for an XTR level rig. Production bikes come with Ritchey finishing kit.
Titanium has its own folklore when it comes to feel. If you're expecting the Obed to be some kind of flexy trail harp you're in for a shock, though. Initial impressions are of a very taut frame with instant pedal-to-rear wheel connection and bags of feedback. There's no trace of flex from the rear end and, with a short 100mm travel fork fitted, it feels extremely rapid and racy.
This feel is enhanced by a long stem and in-line seatpost pushing your weight forward. However, the overall geometry is set up to handle a 100-120mm (4-4.7in) fork, so we plugged in a longer one. With a softly sprung (and therefore saggy) 130mm (5.1in) Marzocchi XC600 fork and 70mm stem, the bike really came alive.
The extra travel means you can push the bike hard, and the 73-degree seat angle means there's still plenty of grip for the front wheel. This changed the Obed from a stable cross-country racer to high-class trail hooligan. We hammered it on our favourite singletrack and charged through rock gardens that previously shook it senseless. The frame is easily stiff enough to handle the extra fork leverage without getting vague or losing control.
The flipside to this is that the back end takes no prisoners over rocks or roots, particularly at slow speeds. If you're expecting titanium comfort, this frame feels closer to an alloy hardcore hardtail at first, but things change noticeably when you inject some pace. The natural spring of the titanium gives an inspiringly muscular and floated ride that just begs you to give it the big ring, leave the brakes alone and fly. With loads of budget titanium hardtails offering classic ti rides, Litespeed have moved up a gear to justify their position at the top of the pile.