Lynskey Houseblend

Although frames bearing the family name have only been on the market for the last year, the Lynskeys are best known for the bike company they started two decades ago in the corner of their family-owned aerospace fabrication business. They named it Litespeed, and if any family could be considered the first family of American-made titanium bikes, it would be matriarch Ruby and her four sons: Mark, David, Chris and Tim.

From its inception in 1986 to when it was sold in 1999, Litespeed was one of the preeminent go-to builders for lightweight bikes. Everyone from mountain bike hero Johnny Tomac to Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx came calling at one time or another. Not only famous for building bikes for famous customers, Litespeed devoted much effort towards advancing titanium tube technology, as the ‘new’ Litespeed continues to do to this day. 

Many years, a few non-compete clauses and a carbon frame revolution later, the Lynskey family has once again gathered around the TIG welder in pursuit of building titanium bikes. What has changed drastically this time around is the landscape of the sport itself. New frame technology (carbon) and consumer demand (carbon) have forever altered the market for expensive metal frames.

Our Lynskey may have been ‘performance oriented’ but RBA’s racers reported that the ride was much more suited for fast club riding and century events.
THE FRAME
The Lynskeys are just as aware of the competition of carbon fiber as anyone. What their game plan involves this time around is a frame-building program that focuses on avid cyclists looking for a custom-built bike in terms of geometry and aesthetics. While their frame categorization system is a tad complex, there are basically two types of Lynskey frames available: Houseblend and Custom-and each at four different levels: Stage One frames are comprised of standard, straight-gauge 3/2-5 alloy titanium tubes; Stage Two frames get double and triple-butted 3/2-5 tubes; Stage Three gets butted and shaped 3/2-5 tubes, plus a compact (sloping top tube) design; and Stage Four includes everything found in Stage Three, with the introduction of higher-strength, 6/4 alloy titanium tubing. Custom options are available with all four stages.

Our test bike is a HB310R (Houseblend Stage 3, performance Series-10, road frame). Besides the swoopy seatstays, ventilated 6/4 dropouts and 1-3/4-inch diameter downtube, the frame is pretty straightforward. Fancy paint jobs clearly seem to be a Lynskey specialty. The candy red paint on our bike was spread on thick and glossy. The only detail we would have liked to have seen was a thin pinstripe to delineate the transition from paint to polished metal.

THE NUMBERS
Our large test bike equates to a level top tube 57-centimeter size frame with a 57-centimeter top tube, 100.3-centimeter wheelbase, a 27-centimeter bottom bracket height and 41-centimeter chainstays.

THE PARTS
Although most people wouldn’t expect to find common ground between the cultural influences in Italy and Tennessee, the Campagnolo Shamal wheels on our test bike reflect a melding of style that could only be described as Renaissance elegance meets monster truck decadence. Mated with a Campy Record drivetrain with their sweet carbon cranks and hollow spindle, the Lynskey was a definite hot rod of a bike. The Lynskey’s office was appointed with an Easton EC70 anatomic-profile handlebar, and an EC90 seatpost. The carbon fork and headset were color matched with the metallic red frame.

THE RIDE
While Lynskey says the bike is competition oriented, none of our fast-guy test riders felt the same, mostly due to the long head tube. Almost right away they said the high hand positioning left them out in the wind, which was an uncharacteristic sensation for them given the dropped-down-low position of their race bikes. When we asked about the tall head tube, brother Mark affirmed what has become a known trend-more cyclists prefer the increased comfort of higher hand positioning, and the sloping top tube and taller head tube of the Lynskey’s compact frame design accomplishes this, while using a more aesthetically pleasing, conventional stem and handlebar combination.

Whether you find the gold finish glitzy, glamorous or gauche, the Campagnolo Shamal wheels stand out for their design and ride quality. 
On the open road, we found that the slightly long wheelbase prevented the Lynskey from making ‘twitch-fast’ turns and lane changes necessary for crit racing. It rode best in a straight line, which also made for steady, efficient climbing. To this end, the big-diameter downtube kept things stiff at the bottom bracket-but not at the expense of comfort. While everyone agreed that its rear end was laterally rigid, its curvy seatstays imparted a margin of vertical compliance to the ride. The Lynskey accelerates with a satisfying feel and, once up to speed, it requires little attention from its rider to steer or hold a line. When descending at speed, the big red hot rod lacks the pizzazz that edgier-handling race-oriented bikes exhibit, but it sticks to the pavement, holds a sharp line and corners with confidence.

THE VERDICT
As tested, RBA’s Lynskey would be a perfect match for a club-racer or century specialist who wants to be competitive without turning every ride into a high-stakes boxing match on 20 millimeter tires. Our Lynskey was obviously designed for the gentleman’s version of sport racing, and it fills this niche elegantly. If you want an edgier-feel, just ask-Lynskey is a custom house, and they can do that too (try that with a carbon bike company). Those who have tired of the popped-out-of-a-mold, papier mache’ look of carbon-everything construction and want to flash a little polished metal in the pack should give the Lynskey family a call. They’ll make you a custom frame in any flavor-as long as it’s Ti.

Price: $3495 (frame only)
Weight: 16 pounds
Contact: www.lynskeyperformance.com