Litespeed Sportive review£2,199.00

Lovely titanium ride, but that long head tube is odd

BikeRadar score4/5

Titanium is still a high-tech frame material that gives designers plenty of scope for tweaking ride character. Litespeed’s Sportive is upright and forgiving but what sort of rider does it best suit?

Ride & handling: upright feather bed

The long head tube makes the Sportive’s riding position is too upright for some especially on the climbs, but the sublime ride quality will see even the most tender cycling softy to the end of a ride.

Along with an upright riding position, tyre choice is a crucial factor in the spec and therefore the feel of a sportive bike. Get it wrong and you’ll be scanning your map for smoother shortcuts. While 23mm tyres are still the norm for race bikes, the best for sportives are 25mm or even 28mm wide. Their shock dissipating, larger air pockets will pay comfort dividends on longer rides.  

The Litespeed has a relaxed, dream-like ride thanks to its 28mm Continental 4-Seasons tyres. These tyres feel fast and do a great job of soaking up both large and small bumps on training rides in the UK, but on smoother continental road surfaces they distance the rider from any sense of connection to the asphalt.

The bottom bracket remains stiff and true on the climbs and the tried and trusted steering geometry keeps everything manageable on fast descents.

The taller-than-average head-tube looks odd, and while it improves the interface between the handlebars and steerer tube by doing away with the usual stack of spacers beneath the stem, it created a far too upright and cramped riding position for more experienced, race-hardened testers.

Thankfully Litespeed provide a head tube shortening service and we would have around 6cm removed in order to get a less cramped and more aerodynamic riding position on the Sportive.

Frame: tall but finely honed

The Sportive is more affordable than Litespeed’s other 3Al/2.5V titanium frames but they haven’t skimped on that peerless weld quality. Still, we recommend getting the long head tube trimmed prior to order.

Modern titanium bike frames were practically born in the USA. Litespeed was one of the pioneers. It’s been building them for over 20 years, but the company has, until now, been more normally associated with finely honed race bikes.

In a digression from this fast guy image, Litespeed has created the Sportive; no doubting the market it’s aimed at then. The frame uses the same plain gauge tubing as found on the high end, race oriented Archon and Icon, but for a surprisingly affordable price.

Both the brake bridge and fork crown are higher than on the race models to allow fatter tyres to be used, and there is enough space between the frame and tyres to fit mudguards.

The taller than average head-tube looks odd but can be shortened to order at the factory at no extra charge.

Equipment: effective & excellent value

The Sportive has a solid, reliable choice of finishing kit based on the popular Shimano Ultegra group with its good cost-to-lightness ratio. It’s not the lightest kit ensemble but it does make the Sportive the best value complete Litespeed, ever.

Litespeed has eschewed the trend on sportive bikes to fit a compact double chainset in favour of a triple with its smaller graduation of gear changes. The 12-25 cassette includes the all-important 16-tooth cog that so many seasoned cyclists say provides a smooth transition between the higher and lower gear ratios. This, combined with the triple chainset, will certainly make UK sportives or mountainous continental riding more do-able.

As we’ve learned to expect from the Shimano Ultegra, a simple indexed click of the left-hand STI gear lever gives a smooth and rapid movement to the next smaller or larger chainring. Braking was always particularly smooth and powerful.

The finishing kit includes the beautifully made black anodised Thomson Elite stem and the Ritchey Pro handlebars also impressed with their tight, square, anatomic bend.

While they are almost perfectly packaged for the money, lighter wheels would be appropriate here as the bike works best for slightly built riders.

The Fulcrum R7 wheels feel cheap and slow but are nonetheless tough.  Depending on how you look at it, the 28mm tyres either give a remote feel from the riding experience or help keep things cushioned and comfortable. They’re definitely worth it for longer sportives.

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