Litespeed Icon £4299

Titanium ride quality justifies its name

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

The third-from-top of Litespeed’s road range combines super-fast performance with a smooth, comfy feel. Although it’s perfectly able to tear it up when required, it’s also happy to take things steady on an all-day ride without leaving you feeling battered and torn.

Our large-sized Icon hit the scales at 7.2kg (16lb), which is extremely light for a bike of this size – and the production version will be about 130g when Litespeed switches our bike’s Mavic Ksyrium SLs, for Mavic’s new R-Sys wheels.

Climb aboard, spin the cranks and it immediately flies like grit off a shovel. You find yourself flicking effortlessly up through the gears ridiculously fast, and if you’re coming from a bike a few pounds heavier, you’ll be stunned by the Icon’s acceleration.

Handling: Fast, accurate, loves to climb

Once up to cruising speed, you can sit back and enjoy the comfortable ride. The frame geometry is pretty standard road bike fare with 73° angles and an 18cm head-tube, and we liked the ride position it offered straight out of the box. If you want to go lower, 3cm of headset spacers gives you ample scope to tweak it.

The semi-compact design leaves a lot of seatpost showing and this, combined with the frame’s fairly compliant character and the soft-but-not-too-squidgy Arione saddle, helps keep you riding ache-free. And if you spot road irregularities too late to avoid them, you end up bracing yourself for jolts that never actually arrive – it’s very forgiving.

Downhill and through the bends and the Icon’s frame tracking is superb without any hint of fore-to-aft flex, while the full carbon Easton EC90 SL fork keeps your steering bang on.

The best bit, though, is when the road heads up – the Icon is a fabulous climbing companion. You find yourself halfway up steep hills barely realising you’ve started.

Or you stay seated on a climb that usually has you out of the saddle and cursing everything that’s sacred. It’s guaranteed to put a grin on your face.

The Icon is well into ‘you could buy a car for that’ territory; is it worthy of its monster price? A ton of work goes into every Litespeed frame and chances are it’ll last an age but, let’s be honest, if you want a bargain you need to look elsewhere. What the Icon does offer is one helluva sweet ride that provides speed without rattling your fillings.

Despite its £4299 price tag, the Icon is the third most expensive bike in Litespeed’s all-titanium road range. Above it, there’s the long-established Ghisallo (£4499 in similar build), and the new Archon (£4799 in similar build) that shares the Icon’s geometry; they’re each a little lighter than the already super-light Icon.

Frame: Light, rigid and very classy

We like a titanium frame, us, but not because of the material’s strange, almost mystical qualities that we hear bandied about. We like titanium purely and simply because it can be built into light, stiff frames that are tough as a Mensa quiz night. And the Icon is all of these things.

Litespeed has been hellish busy shaping the Icon’s 3Al/2.5V titanium tubes with the aim of adding strength, stiffness and compliance where required. The top-tube alters from diamond section up front to ovalised at the seat-tube; the biaxial and custom-butted down-tube wraps around the bottom bracket slightly to increase the weld area; the driveside chainstay is a totally different shape from the opposite one to take account of the different forces… You get the idea. There’s a lot of engineering going on here.

But the Icon doesn’t look fussy or overdone. It’s a stunner, and titanium’s resistance to corrosion along with the mostly brushed finish means it’ll stay that way.

Components: High end, top performance

You can choose between three Litespeed specs, all based around Shimano groupsets.

Our top-end Dura-Ace set-up performed superbly with powerful, well regulated braking and ultra-slick gear changes; it’s virtually instant. The 53/39-tooth crankset and 12-25-tooth cassette gave us enough low gears for climbing and sufficient high ones for powering down the other side, but if you want to go down the compact route, choose the Ultegra SL build (£3299 with Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels).

The Ritchey WCS bar, stem and seatpost combine their neat looks with a strong and lightweight performance while the long, narrow-nosed Fizik Arione Titanium saddle allows you plenty of scope for shifting position.

The Icon, like the rest of the range, comes with an external headset that allows Litespeed to use a slimmer, lighter head-tube and, it says, improve strength. It looks a little retro when nearly everyone else is hiding all the gubbins inside, but the Icon can carry it off and you can’t fault the performance of the Chris King unit. If past experience is anything to go by, it’ll outlive the lot of us.

Wheels: Stiff, strong and lightweight

Although our Icon was fitted with Mavic Ksyrium SLs, the production version in this build will use Mavic R-Sys wheels. We’ve been running these on another bike, and with stiff carbon fibre spokes that are clamped at both ends, they’re much stiffer than Ksyriums and considerably lighter (1355g the pair), and we’ve not yet managed to knock ours out of true despite months of use and abuse.

The one weakness the R-Sys has compared to Ksyriums and much of the opposition is in its aerodynamics; the chunky carbon spokes don’t slice through the air as efficiently as flat-bladed versions. They are still extremely fast rolling, though, and Mavic certainly hasn’t compromised its renowned durability.

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