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Litespeed built it’s reputation on the basis of Titanium being the ultimate material to makes bikes from. For several years titanium was the high end material to use, and then came carbon fiber. Super light, incredibly strong, and able to be shaped into radical forms, carbon fiber quickly rose to the top and still reigns. So Litespeed had a tough decision. Continue with titanium and become a boutique brand, or move into full carbon bikes. After two years of development they’ve entered into the carbon realm with the release of the Archon C1, C2 and C3.
The C1 is the top of the line bike and is available as a frameset only and uses their highest quality NanoTube construction. The C2 comes with mostly Dura Ace components and C3 comes equipped with mostly Ultegra components.
Just looking at the bike you notice the enormous tubing. Litespeed definitely paid attention to aerodynamics when engineering this bike. It almost looks like a time trial bike rather than a road machine. The bottom bracket is wrapped in enough carbon to make a small car and the head tube looks more like a gusset than a joining of tubes. The seat tube has a slight cut out and continues above the top tube in a seat mast design. This gives the bike an aggressive look
I was fortunate enough to ride a demo C2 that had been put together with some extra parts around the shop. So while my ride wasn’t the exact Litespeed spec, which I actually liked since I could focus on the responsiveness and feeling of the frame itself.
At 5’9” I’ve been riding 54cm forever. I was surprised that this M/L, a 56cm equivalent, fit like a dream. A short, 90cm stem kept the reach down and I even tried a 100cm, but preferred the 90cm. Dialing in the seat height was a bit more difficult.
I like the feel of an integrated seat mast on the road, but cutting the mast can be “exciting”. This mast had already been cut, but Litespeed’s smart design allows for up 7 mm upward of adjustment via simple spacers. Other companies use a seat mast design, but there are no adjustment options. This means that you can lower the saddle by cutting it again, but you can’t raise it. By using simple spacers Litespeed solves that problem. I was lucky and when I took out the 5 and 2 mm spacers the fit was great. After dialing the fit in it was time to give it a test on the road.
While I loved the look of the C2, we all know that looks aren’t everything. If it doesn’t come together on the road, what’s the point? I was immediately enamored with the feel and performance of the C2. The super massive bottom bracket put the power down with little flex. On my sprint days I do a series of all out sprints and the C2’s massive bottom bracket was solid. I noticed an immediate improvement in my power going into the pedals getting to the rear wheel, which is helped by the super short chain stays. Some people have complained that it’s too stiff, but I ride an aluminum frame as my daily ride and like a stiff bike.
With a scalloped seat tube shielding the rear wheel, the chain stays are shorter than normal. This helps with power transfer and compliments the stiff bottom bracket. The short chain stay means a shorter wheel base and the C2 handles sharp, fast corners quickly and predictably. The cornering is also helped by the large front end, which provides stability during corners and accelerations. It also helps going into high speed corners to keep the bike stable and on line. The large tubing did catch more crosswinds than a traditionally shaped bike, but I never felt the bike get too blown around.
After riding it on all sorts of roads, even a bit of dirt, I didn’t want to give this bike back. Litespeed knows how to build a bike, no matter what material they use. For my style and what I prefer in a bike, the C2 was the perfect mix of stability, comfort, stiffness and style.
For more info on the Litespeed Archon C2, visit www.theproscloset.com.