It's the Cyclocross World Championships this weekend and to get you in the mood here's a sneak peek at the latest prototype cyclocross frame from Litespeed hot in from somewhere near Chattanooga (Ooltewah, Tennessee to be precise) and coming to a bike shop near you… if you live near a branch of Evans later this year.
Litespeed may have ventured in to carbon in recent years but as you can see this baby is Ti (3AL/2.5V) and not only should that give it all the lush ride qualities for which Ti is famous it also confers another specific advantage in this case - choice. With their new frame Litespeed give you the choice of going for either a new school cross build or taking the old school route - up until now it has been one or the other. Litespeed give you the choice by giving this frame a 132.5mm rear spacing which combined with the natural flex of the material means you have the choice of going for either stretching things out a tad with a new school disc set up on a 135mm rear hub or squashing it in with an old school tubs and cantis approach using a 130mm rear hub. Neat.
That beefy biovalised down tube is matched by a similarly burly looking seat tube a combo that should keep things stiff, and strong. We were slightly surprised at the lack of an over-sized head tube but production versions will have one that'll take one of those new-fangled… well medium-term fangled forks with a tapered steerer. That in turn should add even more stiffness to the front end and make for a bike that goes where you point with the front wheel less likely to be knocked off line by every bump and root you encounter when riding out in the rough stuff. Those rear stays are very different to the much straighter affairs on the current Litespeed CX frame and are we guess have gone all curvy as a way of mitigating all that stiffness in the front triangle.
Looking at the rest of the pics road.cc's resident cross rider, Vecchiojo is pleased to see that the front mech cable routing goes via the bottom bracket rather than along the top tube - meaning there's not need for a roller which acts as a mud trap in typical British conditions, and the rear brake cable spigot on the seat-tube is a cute little touch. The lack of mudguard and rack mounts point to the bike being race only and will no doubt annoy the cyclo-commutourists, and while I'm not sure whether I'd want to be riding a titanium Litespeed to work without also carting a big lock I can't help also feeling that such a bike might make a very comfortable fast touring machine and getting the neccessary bits and pieces on to it is surely not beyone the wit of man or p-clip.
No word yet on price or whether there will be any custom options - Jo suggested it would be good to have the choice of either an all disc version - he likes to keep things tidy - or a pure canti version; a Di2 cable routing option might also be a good call… Oh and maybe a bit of filing on those top tube cable guides - they look a tad sharp and a man wouldn't want to snag his best jersey, or ear, with a tired last lap shoulder fumble, Jo tells me.
With the purchase of a Ti cyclo-cross bike likely to be a long-term investement it's good to see that with the Litespeed offers some kind of future-proofing, especially now that CX is finally stepping away from its traditions by embracing things like tapered head-tubes and disc brakes, especially the latter with workable hydraulic versions available and neater integrated units doing the rumour rounds.
As I said at the top the final version of the frame should be available for the back end of this year in five sizes ranging from 52.5cm - 59cm in time for the start of the next 'cross season - we're guessing that it will come with fork too. When we hear any more on price or availablilty we'll let you know.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.