"The Archon C1R is confirmation that Litespeed has arrived as a carbon fiber bike company."
The new Litespeed Archon C1R is not another 'carbon copy' carbon fiber
road bike. It is something unique that begs to be heard above the din of
high-end carbon fiber road frames. Our designers did strong
benchmarking when they designed the new Litespeed Archon C1R. They were
thinking about the other bikes in the crowded $5000+ super-bike
category. They were thinking about how to differentiate this bike from
others in that category and provide something tangibly unique from those
offerings, and at a better value. We succeeded in producing something
tangibly different that exceeded even our expectations.
The Technical Details: What Makes the Archon C1R Different The Litespeed Archon C1R is a bike of details.
Beginning at the head tube, the bike uses a 1 1/2" oversized diameter
lower bearing race for the headset and a 1 1/8" upper race. The
oversized lower race distributes bearing load and improves front end
stiffness by making the bottom of the head tube/fork crown interface
wider and improves ride quality by disbursing road shock over a
wider area at the lower headset/fork race.
The massive head tube
provides great shock absorption due to the surface area and provides incredible front end stiffness that makes steering very precise.
Perhaps even more
significant is an innovative design hidden in the front end that
improves ride, steering and fit. The head tube height of each of the
sizes is relatively conventional. The height of the fork crown (the
upper portion of the fork where the fork blades come out) is much
greater than traditional designs, raising the front end of the bike and
reducing the need for round head tube spacers. This is a solid design as
it achieves the multiple agendas of a higher, more comfortable head
tube, better front end stiffness, better overall aerodynamics and a cleaner, racier look than a stack of
cheap headset spacers. The front end on the Archon C1R is among the
best- if not the best- of the front ends in the industry. The head tube
is notably hour glass shaped to enhance front end aerodynamics.
fork is also unique with a bowed design that allows air to move more
easily between the front wheel and the internal surface of the fork
blades, thereby improving aerodynamics. The outward bow of the fork
blades also enhances ride quality by absorbing shock.
Moving back on
the frame, the shape of the down tube is extremely complex, actually
changing slightly every millimeter of its length. The frame uses the
aerodynamically shrouded bottle mounts that improve frame aerodynamics
with a water bottle in the cage on the down tube for real-world
The airfoil-shaped down tube segue ways into a massive
bottom bracket for increased stiffness and comfort. The bottom bracket
is a new ultra-large diameter BB30 format for complete bearing
integration into the frame, thus, improving bottom bracket stiffness.
routing is external, a practical consideration for real-world race
bikes where routing the cables on the outside makes maintenance faster
and easier. Changing a rear derailleur cable is simple and fast with
this design: no access panels or fishing cables through the down tube
and bottom bracket. Another added benefit is that external cable routing is lighter than internal routing.
The Archon C1R retains a molded-in seat mast
while the C3 and C1 use conventional adjustable aero seatposts. The
integrated seatmast remains on the C1R to reduce overall frame weight
and to improve lateral stiffness and vertical compliance. As an
integrated seat mast it is susceptible to all the advantages and
shortcomings of the seatmast design: Lighter, somewhat more comfortable,
less versatile and in need of cutting to achieve the appropriate saddle
height range. For the discerning buyer, to whom minor details drive
buying decisions, the design has merit. Ultimately, we feel that
retaining the integrated seatmast on the high-end C1R while choosing the
adjustable aero seatpost allows best buying flexibility for every
The seat mast is one feature that sets the
Archon C1R apart from the other Archon C-series bikes. The seat mast
clamp assembly is lightweight and elegant. It is provided by FSA to
Litespeed for use on the Archon C1R.
The seat tube of the frame
uses a cut-out to improve wheel aerodynamics and is airfoil shaped as it
transitions to the seat mast above the top tube.
The chain stays are asymmetrical to enhance drivetrain stiffness. The
right, drive side chainstay is extremely deep while the left is a more
traditional depth. Seat stays also change shape almost constantly over
their length to moderate the conflicting agendas of aerodynamics and
ride quality and stiffness.
The unusual shape of the frame provides more than just unique good
looks. The complex tube shapes optimize stiffness, ride quality and
aerodynamics. The bike looks different from other carbon bikes-and rides
They all look the same: Is the Archon C1R Really Different? The Archon C1R is the highest end Litespeed carbon road frame with a U.S. MSRP of $3400 for frameset alone. It comes from the same molds as the less expensive Archon C1 and C3 complete road bikes. It uses a different carbon lay up for lighter weight, better stiffness and a more comfortable ride. Can changing carbon material really make that much difference in the same mold? Considering the same-shape, same-mold Archon C3 has an U.S. MSRP of $3300 as a complete bike and the C1R lives $100 north of that just for the frame one has to ask: 'What really is the difference?'
The Litespeed C1R is made of T60 Nanotech carbon fiber, a material that is only being used in this C-series frame and used only by 5 or 6 other manufacturers. Of those manufacturers, the Archon C1R is the lowest price T60 Nanotech bike. Basically, T60 Nanotech is better, higher end carbon fiber material. It is lighter, stronger, more impact-resistant and reduces road vibration better. It uses carbon nanotubes to strengthen the carbon fiber and improve the lateral rigidity of the layup. This makes the bike less flexible side to side, as under strong accelerations. The way the carbon fiber is applied within the mold also controls the rider's perception of road shock, making the C1R lighter, laterally stiffer and vertically more compliant. The carbon lay-up on the Litespeed C1R is a more precise, labor intensive process than on the other bikes in the Archon C-series.
The $2-3,000 question is...is it $2-3,000 better? The problem for consumers is that carbon bikes from the same mold look alike. It is impossible to 'see' the difference in carbon fiber, and a parking lot test ride won't say much about real bottom bracket stiffness and long range ride quality. Can a customer tell the difference between inexpensive carbon and high end carbon?
'I think the answer is yes. You've created a different strength to weight ratio,' says North American Sales Manager Mac McEneaney.
McEneaney went on to tell say, "The average consumer can feel it. A 60-pound overweight rider probably would not be able to. It is a performance advantage for the person who wants a no-compromise bike. It competes favorably against the other $5000+ complete superbikes not only on carbon content and lay-up, but most importantly, on design- and that is shared in each of the Litespeed carbon road bikes. They are great bikes, they are great values- different from what else is out there."
Question: Can you feel the Difference? Answer: Absolutely. During rides switching back and forth between a complete Litespeed C1R with SRAM Red and Lightweight Wheels and a complete Litespeed C3 road bike with the same pedals, tire pressure and crank lengths the difference is noticeable.
First of all, the C1R is much lighter owing to frame, wheels and component kit. Over three pounds lighter. That itself will make an enormous difference in ride quality. The C1R is significantly stiffer- first pedal stroke stiffer. As for comfort? It is noticeably gentler on rotten pavement, more sprightly underfoot during the first four pedal strokes of acceleration and racier when hanging on for dear life in a corner you just over-cooked. Granted, SRAM Red and Lightweight wheels will have an affect on the ride experience.
For overall ride quality, the Litespeed Archon C1R with a SRAM Red build kit is a pro team level bike. It's a bike you'd see in the Tour de France. That begs the question, why aren't any pro teams using it? Mac McEneaney of Litespeed says, "We haven't spent the money. It's that simple. A big part of what you pay for when you buy one of the pro-team bikes is the cost of the sponsorship of a pro team. That cost is built into the price. Our bike is less expensive because we don't have that cost. It's that simple."
When you evaluate the claims about pricing strategy it is easy to determine approximately what the cost of a pro team per bike may be. Consider the Cervelo S3, a roughly comparable bike to the Litespeed Archon C1R but without the nanotube layup: The Litespeed C1R uses nicer carbon. The Cervelo S3 has a frameset MSRP of $4500 without T60 Nanotube carbon, while the T60 Nanotube enhanced Litespeed Archon C1R is $3400 US MSRP. It appears as though roughly $1000 of the Cervelo price may be devoted to research and marketing costs associated with their pro team. If the value of a pro team sponsorship is important to you as an end user- and it may be- then the roughly $1000 premium may be money well spent.
The super road bike category is a crowded one with many valid entries. The C1R joins that fray but does so above the anonymous din of carbon copies. There are unique and valid aspects to the Litespeed Archon C1R that separate it from the high end carbon clones. No survey of the $5000 + carbon road bikes is complete without a close examination of the Litespeed Archon C1R. It's a sign that we are managing to effectively transition from
titanium roots to the carbon age with differentiation and innovation.
The Archon C1R is confirmation that Litespeed has arrived as a carbon
fiber bike company.