Litespeed Archon (Frame) review£3,799.00

Top of the line titanium masterpiece

BikeRadar score4/5Find prices on Bicycle Blue Book

Yes, you read the price right. Can any ride really be worth nearly £4,000 just for the frame?

Litespeed have never been shy of pushing the titanium envelope. The Archon uses a wholly new series of tubes and innovative forming techniques to create a new T1 ultimate performance category above the silly light, but too whippy for some, Ghisallo frame.

Ride & handling: unashamedly aggressive

There’s no escaping the fact that any bike based on this frame will cost an obscene amount of money, but you can’t fault the Archon for trying to justify it. Straight out of the gate the whole bike feels outstandingly crisp and accurate. Every point you touch is alive with feedback and instant responsiveness.

Brace shoulder against pedal push and it’ll genuinely leap forward up the road forcing you to pinball the Double Tap shifters to keep up with its appetite for acceleration. At a time when more and more bikes are designed with an eye on bad backs and middle-aged spreads the long, stretched position of the Archon is unashamedly aggressive. 

The handling adopts an equally ‘take no prisoners’ attitude- twitching lines and dropping big cornering commitment the moment your synapses fire in your fingers.

The result is one of the biggest doses of ‘come and have a go’ cockiness and unapologetic swagger that we’ve ever ridden, and it’s utterly addictive.

To be honest, we were right on deadline with this test, and knew we’d be sat here writing well into the night and the following morning. Despite that, we never thought twice about taking the longest, hilliest test loops we could possibly justify without giving the editor an ulcer.

Unsurprisingly the stiffness of the bike does impact comfort, quite literally if you clobber an unseen pothole. However, the super thin tubewalls and tweaked stay profile mean the unmistakable titanium low and float is still there. You just need to push speeds a little higher and concentrate harder on the smoothest lines for it to start spreading its silky seduction  on the ride. In other words,  it’s another perfect excuse to ratchet your shoes one click tighter and drop your elbows just a little lower every time you spark up the Archon.

It costs enough, but if you’re after an addictively aggressive, precise and agile bike that’s still underlined with the unmistakable silk sheen of titanium, the Archon is utterly sublime.

Frame and forks: incredibly light

Litespeed already make the lightest titanium frame with the Ghisallo, which clocks in at an unbelievable 770g for the medium-sized chassis. The Archon is designed with more than scales in mind though and just looking at the frame it’s obvious power transfer is at a premium. The polygonal top tube with its flared frontend and tapered tail is the obvious standout frame piece. Both down and top tubes are extended to wrap round the double-butted headtube.  And the downtube and seat tube flare out to add another dimension of bottom bracket stiffness.

Curved and tapered chainstays give plenty of crank and ankle clearance, while lat oval seat stays are designed to suck some sting out of the back end.Tiny  little dropouts minimise weight but still include a replaceable tab to guard against transit damage.

As you’d hope for a £4,000 bike, Litespeed go the extra mile with it and finishing detail, with six different sizes and three different finishes including white or black gloss paint/tinted lacquer over raw versions. That said, we were a bit surprised to see some of the lacquer coming off the rear  stay ahead of the dropout, but we don’t know how hard a life this sample bike had had before we got it. 

Equipment: top end spec

Litespeed offer several complete bike builds on the Archon, of which this is almost the SRAM red spec. We say almost, because Litespeed distributors Paligap have swapped the Fulcrum Racing 1 wheels for their super-light carbon-rimmed tubular shod Fast Forward wheels. It’s our first time on the wheels but they’re usefully tight, minimise rolling weight and maximise acceleration. The chassis itself is completed with a custom colour-matched Easton EA90SL full-carbon fork, turning in a super-smooth Chris King headset.

As you’d expect, stop and go is then in the hands of SRAM’s top-light Red groupset, creating an ethereally light, complete bike. Albeit one  that’ll also leave your wallet feeling pretty weightless too.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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