Litespeed on Competitive Cyclist
Do you remember Litespeed? The small titanium frame manufacturer in Tennessee that revolutionized frame materials and construction and racked up impressive victories at all levels of bike racing and triathlon? We remember; you should, too. They've re-discovered that innovative vein that took them to the top of the heap in the 1990s and are tapping into it for a new century and a much-changed industry landscape. They've figured out how to translate their years of working with top professionals into a new material, carbon-fiber. They are now a company of today and tomorrow, not just yesterday.
First, a brief history of Litespeed. The company, which started as Southeast Machine, a custom machine shop, brought a titanium frame to the 1986 InterBike trade show. By the early 1990s, titanium was the hot material, in no small part due to Litespeed. Since it was still a pretty small company, they sold their frames to riders who had sponsorship arrangements through their teams, and the bikes got painted and relabeled. Greg LeMond, in his Team Z days, rode one, and it took him to his last major victory of his career, an overall win at the Tour DuPont. Lance Armstrong and his Motorola team had Litespeeds painted and badged to look like their sponsor Eddy Merckx's bikes. Armstrong won two Tour de France stages on Litespeed as well as a world championship victory. By 1996, Motorola was using barely-disguised Litespeed Blade time trial bikes. Richard Virenque rode a Peugeot-stickered Litespeed to a King of the Mountains title at the 1997 Tour de France. Later that year, Laurent Brochard rode his to a World Championship victory. In 1999, Lance Armstrong rode a Trek-painted Blade to three time-trial victories en route to his first Tour de France title. Litespeed also worked with Bianchi, DeRosa, Basso, Univega, Alpinestars, Marin, Rocky Mountain, and many others. Under their own name, they sponsored the United States domestic powerhouse Chevrolet-L.A. Sheriff's pro team, which tore up the circuit and won a number of stars-and-stripes jerseys during the 1990s. In 2002, Lotto-Adecco rode Litespeeds through an entire season, with their biggest score being a win in the points competition at the 2002 Tour de France by Robbie McEwen.
Of course, titanium has fallen out of favor at the highest levels of cycling, and Litespeed's efforts to take their titanium bikes to the next level were thwarted by a public more interested in carbon-fiber. Litespeed decided they weren't just a titanium company, but a frame builder that could work with any material. Yes, they still make titanium frames, and yes, they're still hand-built in Tennessee, as They've always been. Their titanium frames are better than ever. But Litespeed is now working in carbon-fiber as well, and for many cyclists, particularly for pro racers, who drive innovation and sales, carbon is where the action is.
Because of their racing pedigree, Litespeed is building in carbon-fiber with the express purpose of maximizing the material to create the ultimate ride for the most demanding professional racers caught up in the vortex of ProTour racing. Litespeed put the bar pretty high for their carbon-fiber bikes, and they are impressing everyone by building carbon-fiber road frames that are both more aerodynamic than their old titanium time trial bikes and lighter than their titanium climbing machines. Also by being creative and precise both in the wind tunnel and in the factory, They've come up with molded carbon-fiber frames that go places that no one has ever gone before. Litespeed is the velocity at which they think and travel.