Perhaps most synonymous with titanium frames thanks to its association with several professional teams and racers throughout the past 20 years, Litespeed continues moving forward with a full line of road, cyclocross and mountain bikes in both titanium and carbon. The C-Series is Litespeed’s take on the aero-road platform, something that the brand’s designers have been tinkering with for quite some time.
‘We released the first C-Series in 2010, but I was working on it back in 2008,’ says Litespeed’s longtime frame designer, Brad DeVaney. ‘We haven’t altered the original mold shape, so the only changes to the most recent iteration have been more a matter of things like the carbon layup, internal molding processes, and other features like a Di2-compatible cable exit. On the C-Series, we use a wide selection of materials, from glass fibers all the way up to 60-ton carbon, which has extremely high tensile strength for durability. Every centimeter of the C1R’s tube shapes change, so there’s a constant morphing of cross sections throughout the bike, all of which are thoughtful and purposeful. For example, there’s a concave shape on the downtube to cradle and shroud the water bottle for better aerodynamics.’
As one would gather from glancing at the extremely flattened downtube and seat tube, all of the subtle curves, angles and shapes of the C1R’s various tubes were chosen in order to create as aerodynamic a road bike as possible. And when it comes to aerodynamics, the C1R boasts plenty of aerodynamic efficiency over bikes with more traditionally shaped tubes. Litespeed took the C1R into a wind tunnel and determined that, all things being equal, it yielded a 23 percent aerodynamic advantage over one of Litespeed’s round-tubed titanium frames. But DeVaney wanted to ensure that the ride quality was never going to be compromised with the C1R, so it sports thin seatstays and chainstays that flatten toward the rear dropouts in order to help dissipate road vibrations.
As the top-of-the-line bike in Litespeed’s lineup, the C1R (‘R’ as in ‘race’) retails for $10,000 and comes equipped with a full Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070 drivetrain. But Litespeed opted for a set of magnesium TRP brakes to handle stopping duties in order to save a few grams from the total package. The C1R rolls on a set of Reynolds Aero 58 carbon clinchers wrapped in Hutchinson Fusion tires, size 23c. Easton supplies a carbon handlebar and stem combination to complement Litespeed’s own aero carbon seatpost, which is topped with a Fizik Arione saddle. The C1R is also available as a frameset for $3000.
If you’re looking for a similar bike for less cash, then there are three other C-Series models to check out. These include the $5000 Ci2, which features a 30-ton carbon construction and a mixed drivetrain of Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifters and derailleurs with an FSA SL-K crank. The C1 sells for $3900 and also features a 30-ton carbon frame, along with mechanical Shimano Ultegra bits and an FSA SL-K crank. The C3 is Litespeed’s entry-level aero-road bike at $2900, and its carbon frame is built up with a Shimano 105 gruppo.
When we tested Litespeed’s other carbon race bike, the L-Series (RBA, July 2013), we were pleased with its hearty amount of stiffness, but found it lacked the aggressive handling characteristics and light steering feel we’ve come to expect from high-end race bikes. The C1R, on the other hand, serves up a delightfully agile front end that our test riders enjoyed and found inspired confidence within tight, technical situations, like criterium racing. Overall, we felt the C1R to be less stiff than the L-Series, but that’s equivalent to saying, ‘I’ll have a double cheeseburger, large order of fries and a diet soda.’ In the end, those extra calories in the regular soda won’t make too much of a difference, much like the extra stiffness in the L-Series won’t make much difference to the average rider’s experience.
The C1R has stiffness in spades, and its ride quality certainly isn’t what we’d call comfortable compared to most of the offerings on the whole of the road bike market. But when compared to aero-road bikes, specifically, the C1R showcases a ride quality that offers enough road feedback for racer types mixed with a subtle amount of vertical compliance that one test rider described as ‘a solid, planted feel to the ground, which was very much appreciated.’
Ten grand is a hefty price to pay for any road bike, so it’s nice to know that the C1R comes with Shimano’s oh-so-sweet Dura-Ace Di2 drivetrain for continuous smooth shifting throughout each and every ride.Reynolds’ Aero 58 carbon clinchers continue the bike’s aero ethos and feel quite comfortable for medium-depth rims. Hutchinson’s Fusion tires are great, but we would have liked to have seen a wider, 25c Fusion come stock on the C1R, which brings a larger contact patch to improve both handling and comfort, as well as a leading edge more in line with the Reynolds’ 26.2mm external width that would conceivably improve aerodynamics.
The C1R is geared toward the racer who covets stiffness and quick handling, as well as those who value advanced aerodynamics and premier components. A $10,000 asking price is quite a lot of money, but Litespeed has made a worthwhile claim with the C1R. There are three lower-priced options to consider too. And while the overall C1R silhouette is striking to behold, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that the proprietary two-bolt seatpost clamp is a bit clunky, both aesthetically and functionally. That may seem a bit nit-picky, but it’s details like those that seem out of place on an otherwise fantastic bike like the C1R.
? Stiff ride but with a planted feel
? Advanced aero with a top-notch component selection
? Three lower-priced models are also available
Price: $10,000 (as tested); $3000 (frameset)
Weight: 15.6 pounds
Sizes: S (tested), M, L
Contact: Litespeed Bicycles