Bike Test: Litespeed T1sl Disc

Tennessee's titanium deliverance

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In today’s current bike market, carbon frames consume just about every category. Striving to stay relevant, titanium is usually reserved for the less race-inspired models, but, thankfully, Litespeed doesn’t agree. The T1sl offers a titanium frame with race-inspired geometry at a competitive weight. The bike’s handmade construction and attention to detail elevate the package even further. To keep up with the evolving industry, Litespeed now offers the T1sl with a disc brake option, and it’s more than just welding a flat-mount caliper mount onto the chainstay.

THE FRAME

Of the three most frequently used grades of titanium (commercially pure, 3/2.5 and the high-end 6/4), the T1sl frame uses two different levels of titanium to balance performance and price. The beautifully sculpted and multi-edged top tube is made from a single sheet of 6/4 titanium that is folded, tapered and welded to increase stiffness while minimizing weight. This is welded to the oversized 44mm head tube. On our medium/large-sized test bike, it has a 15cm-long head tube.

To match the performance-oriented geometry, a Litespeed carbon disc fork helps maintain front-end stiffness. The ovalized 3/2.5 cold-worked material is used for the downtube and is comprised of a large-diameter tube that is vertical at the head tube and transitions to horizontal as it mates with the Press-Fit BB30 bottom bracket.

The bottom bracket is also milled down along the outer edges to minimize material and shed excess weight. The wheelbase measures 99.7cm, and the rear of the bike is short with 41.5cm chainstays on all sizes. The disc-specific frame has been upgraded to 12mm thru-axles with flat-mount calipers. Altogether this frame combines modern race geometry and tube shaping with first-rate craftsmanship and materials.

THE PARTS

Our test bike is a modified version of their Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 offering. Dura-Ace 9100 Series components complete all of the drivetrain and braking duties with hydraulic disc brakes. The chainrings are a 52/36 mated to the 11-28 cassette for a wide and suitable racing gear range.

Our build used a Cane Creek headset, while most Dura-Ace-spec versions use a Chris King. We also opted for the upgraded 31.6mm Litespeed Ti seatpost over the 3T offering with a Prologo saddle. 3T Team parts were used for the stem and handlebars.

The addition of flat mount brakes and thru-axles means higher performance and safety.

The wheels were the biggest change on our build, as it was delivered with a pair of Lightweight Meilenstein wheels over the catalog-correct Reynolds Aero 46 Disc hoops. While the Reynolds are a great option and better suit our style of riding, the opportunity to ride a set of Lightweight wheels was too hard to pass up. This does bump the price up even more over the already-premium level ($19,995). Last but not least is a Praxis PF30 bottom bracket that eliminated the need of adapters to step down to the 24mm Shimano spindle.

THE RIDE

The ride of the T1sl disc is impressive to say the least. Remembering that the rim brake version was one of our favorite bikes to ride, now with disc brakes, the ride is even better. The combination of 6/4- and 3/2.5-shaped tubes offers stiffness through the entire frame while maintaining the renowned ride quality and smoothness of titanium. The bottom bracket is impressively stiff and transfers power efficiently to the wheels.

 

Then there are the wheels. Yes, as you might have read here previously (RBA, May 2017), the German-made Lightweight wheels are on a level of their own. To be honest, after a few test rides, we swapped them out to get a more relatable comparison, but it was incredible to see the full potential. As for what we would recommend for wheels, anything you would normally consider for racing the T1sl Disc is a perfect match. The bike does offer a smooth and compliant ride, so you could even consider options that might be too stiff on a full carbon race bike.

The cornering is responsive and consistent with a geometry that is easy to translate when choosing size and fit. Litespeed offers a few options if you prefer a less aggressive (taller) head tube, thanks to their titanium head tube extenders. This can offer a rider a wider range of fit options with the race-inspired geometry of the T1sl Disc.

THE VERDICT

From everything we’ve seen and gleaned about titanium frames, the American-made T1sl Disc could last you the life of your racing ambitions and well beyond. Litespeed uses a 31.6mm seatpost, though, in our opinion, a 27.2mm could elevate the compliance even more. The frame has a claimed weight of 1150 grams, offering competitive stats to heftier carbon frames. The frame alone sells for $4799, with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 build coming in at $8399. The stock Dura-Ace build will set you back $14,899 with the Reynolds wheels. While these are definitely premium-level prices, it could be the last bike you need to buy.

PUNCH LINES

  • Made in the USA
  • Titanium that competes with carbon
  • Lasting quality, craftsmanship and material

STATS

Price: $19,500

Weight: 16.18 pounds

Sizes: XS, S, M, ML (tested), L, XL

www.litespeed.com

THE GEAR

  • Helmet: Bolle The One Premium  
  • Jersey: DNA Racing Team
  • Bib: DNA Racing Team
  • Shoes: LG Course Air Lite
  • Socks: Defeet Recon
  • Glasses: Oakley Canteen

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