Litespeed is one of the better known companies producing titanium bicycles in the United States. They were among the earliest companies to mass produce titanium bicycles but not the first, that honor arguably belongs to Teledyne Titanium during the 1970’s. At that time, commercial grades of titanium were the norm in titanium frame production, but that variant of the exotic metal was ill-suited to the job.
Better known for utilizing more suitable 3AL/2.5V titanium (3% aluminium, 2.5% vanadium and 94.5% pure titanium), Litespeed, then known as Southeast Machine, a custom machine shop that specialized in exotic metals, produced their first titanium frame in 1986. After a period of trial and error to build a show worthy bike, Litespeed took their first show bike to the Long Beach bike show in 1987; the floodgates opened and the rest is history.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those formative years, but Litespeed, part of the American Bicycle Group, is very much alive and well in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
2019 sees a vastly different world from 1987. Disc brakes and thru-axles on road bikes, “all-road” and gravel bikes, 12-speed electronic drivetrains, 13-speed 1x hydraulically actuated drivetrains and a ton more tech. Barring some short-lived experiments with aluminium and carbon, Litespeed has stayed true to titanium. Nowadays, they’re bending and sculpting titanium to the point that a single sheet of 6AL/4V titanium, can be manipulated to become a multi-faceted and tapered top tube. Check out this video tour of Litespeed’s production process.
The Litespeed Ultimate was first introduced as Litespeed’s premier 3AL/2.5V race bike in 1987. It was raced to a USPRO National Championship, and for those who have been around cycling a while, will remember the L.A. Sheriff’s cycling team, winning races on their polished Ultimates, all across the United States.
The Litespeed Ultimate Gravel is a homage to that original bike, but optimized for bigger tyre clearance, comfort and according to Litespeed, some potential aero gains courtesy of the bike’s truncated airfoil downtube.
So, how does the new Litespeed Ultimate Gravel ride? I’ve had the bike in my possession for many months, where it has served as my gravel race bike at events such as unPAved Pennsylvania, 3G Georgia Gravel Grinduro, and the entire length of the C&O Trail out of Washington, D.C. Additionally, I spent many hours and training miles riding the bike on my local, and not so local gravel roads.
In the video review below, I cover everything mentioned above, riding it with 650b and 700c wheels, and a lot more.
Prices start at $US 4,425 for a Shimano 105 build, up to $US 10,500 for a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 build. Frames are also available, starting at $US 3,499.
Article and video by Gravel Cyclist. Jayson O’Mahoney is the Gravel Cyclist: A website about the Gravel Cycling Experience.