Although a few individuals have been playing with 650b wheels on 26in bikes, Litespeed is marketing a line of bikes with what they're calling a built-in geometry conversion solution. Dubbed MWC (Multi Wheel Compatible), the system consists of a creatively used, concentric bottom bracket in a press-fit 30 frame.
Elsewhere for 2013, the Tennessee brand that made its name with titanium will offer cyclocross bikes with disc brakes and a new line of road bikes.
Also, while Litespeed is continuing its push into high-end carbon framesets, it’s pulling back on high-end group spec – for 2013 there are no SRAM Red or Shimano Dura-Ace carbon bikes in the L series line-up.
26in and 650b, courtesy of the BB
Litespeed has three frames it sells with the MWC system: the Sewanee full-suspension bike, the 6.4 Citico Ti hardtail and the 3.25 Pisgah Ti hardtail. All three use Fox forks and are built with enough clearance in the rear for the 27.5in wheel many companies are calling 650b.
The bikes will be sold as framesets or complete machines with 650b wheels. Switching over to 26in wheels only requires a twist of the eccentric bottom bracket, to effectively raise the BB height. Obviously this solution does not change the geometry of the frame itself - such as the head tube or seat tube angles - only the BB spindle in relation to the rest of the bike.
The eccentric BB at the heart of the MWC system
These MWC frames are made in the US. All the mountain bikes now have post mounts, as do the company’s new cyclocross frames with disc brakes. At the risk of stating the obvious, the MWC frames are not 29in compatible.
T series bikes
Brad DeVaney, head designer at Litespeed, admits there are similarities to past Litespeed road models in the 2013 line-up, but says the T series is brand new.
The new T1 uses a 6.4 ti top tube that starts as a flat sheet before Litespeed shapes and seam-molds it. “That top tube costs more than the entire rest of the frame [which is 3.25 ti] put together,” DeVaney said.
The new T1, which Litespeed say is entirely different to the Archon
“Yes, the T1 looks a bit like the Archon, but the whole bike is new,” he continued. “We use new wall thicknesses, new profiles, new butting, everything. We have a 44mm head tube that’s much stiffer, a big press-fit bottom bracket and a new, wider down tube connecting the two.”
The T1 frameset will retail at US$4,000. Litespeed will also offer T3 and T5 frames, made of 3.25 ti, for US$3,000 and US$2,000 respectively.
L1 carbon bikes
The L series of bikes was shown at Interbike last year, but the company has just begun shipping them.
Although DeVaney can point to some differentiating features on the framesets, what’s striking is the company’s choice of groupsets. There are no groups above the SRAM Force or Shimano Ultegra level.
“Our dealers are looking to put value on their floors,” DeVaney said. “We are not doing canned frames; we are doing top-level frames and forks, but with Ultegra and even 105 parts.”
The personal Li2 bike of Litespeed rider Ryan Barrett
The L frames have a massive bottom bracket area that uses the full width of the BB386 shell. Where the frame curves out to contact the back of the drivetrain-side crank, DeVaney shaped a smooth transition out of aluminum to protect against dropped chains getting wedged into the frame.
DeVaney said he greatly prefers the BB386 design, with a centered BB and an asymmetric frame, to the BBRight design, which has the opposite. Whatever the preference, the new frame’s bottom bracket stiffness is a claimed 250N/m.
Up front, a 62mm head tube allows for a 1.5in lower headset bearing, and not just a press-fit style. “I can use Chris King or another style with the extra diameter,” DeVaney said.