Read this first about our reviews
The heavy Litespeed Blade is best
suited for powerful
riders in the larger frame sizes. We don't recommend
the bike below a size 59cm.
This review will get me in trouble.
Why? Because it's an honest opinion. I've
been a writer for over 15 years. I've written for Outside,
Bicycle Guide, Velo News, Triathlete, Triathlon Today,
Inside Triathlon and others. An editor told me I've written
over 200 reviews. The problem is, I couldn't be honest
in them. Magazines are ruled by ad dollars. If you write
a bad review its scares away advertisers. As a result,
no editor who wants to keep his job will publish a negative
review of any bicycle from a company that advertises (or
may advertise) in that magazine.
I own this website and we don't sell advertising.
What we do sell are bicycles. We have an obligation to
put customers on the right bicycle. Customers may or may
not listen to us, but we always try to put them on the
correct bike for their measurements and their goals. That's
why I have an obligation to write this.
The 2002 Litespeed Blade is poorly suited
for small and medium size riders (under 6'0" tall)
but may be a good choice for some tall, powerful riders.
For all riders the bike features poorly executed cable
routing and a questionable design. It is an expensive
bike that does not return a high degree of performance
for most riders. We have sold a number of Blades (all
but two were sold against our recommendations) and we
feel the Blade is excessively heavy and mechanically problematic.
Our experience is that it returns a poor ownership experience
for must customers. I also felt the workmanship is not
up to the standard of other Litespeed bikes.
Litespeed is an excellent bicycle company,
one of the top five in the world. Based on the other brands
of titanium bicycles I've seen, sold and ridden, Litespeed
is the best builder of titanium bicycles in the industry.
I've ridden and sold a large number of Litespeed Tuscany's,
Sabers, Vortices, and other Litespeed models. They are
a joy to sell, own and work with- except the Blade.
Litespeed bikes have been used by top professional
cycling teams in the Tour de France and other major races
for years. The bikes always had the logo and paint scheme
of another manufacturer on them. Lance Armstrong briefly
used a custom Litespeed Blade (not like the current version)
painted as a Trek in time trials several years ago. Richard
Virenque used a custom Litespeed Vortex painted as a Peugeot
in selected mountain stages of the Tour de France when
he won the Polka Dot Jersey for best climber. 2002 is
the first year Litespeed bikes will be ridden by a major
professional cycling team with the Litespeed logo on them
when the Belgian Lotto team uses them. Custom Litespeed
bikes also took first and second at the 2001 Ironman World
Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The majority of the U.S.
Men's Olympic Triathlon Team used Litespeeds.
Litespeed is part of the American Bicycle
Group. ABG owns Merlin, Litespeed, Quintana Roo and Tomac
bicycles. The company has been on the acquisition trail
for a few years and now has a stable of upper end brands
that represent the finest road, triathlon and mountain
bikes in the world. ABG is not specific about who builds
what, but insists the Merlin and Litespeed brands are
made in different manufacturing facilities housed in the
The Litespeed Blade is made of 6/4 titanium
and 3/2.5 titanium. These two alloys are combined in an
attempt to make the bike have specific ride characteristics.
6/4 titanium has different material characteristics than
3/2.5 titanium. The numbers describe the amount of aluminum
and vanadium in the alloy. In general (forgive the rudimentary
description, I'm not a metallurgist) 6/4 is considered
lighter and stiffer than 3/2.5. Our experience is 6/4
is more expensive and more brittle. The only titanium
bikes we have seen break from any manufacturer, including
crashes, are 6/4 bikes. My experience with 6/4 is that
3/2.5 rides better and is more durable: Less expensive
too. The main triangle of the Blade is 6/4 (seat tube,
down tube and top tube) and the head tube and rear triangle
are 3/2.5 titanium.
Click to Enlarge
Rough weld quality in difficult
to weld areas detracts
from the Blade's appearance and function.
The upper left arrow indicates a seam where
there is no weld at all, but an open gap between tubes.
This combination of tubing
types is an attempt to achieve certain ride characteristics.
If the intention was to make the bike feel heavy, sluggish
and shift poorly while damaging it's internally routed
cable housing then Litespeed has succeeded. If they were
going for a harsh ride with poor responsiveness and the
climbing characteristics of a sewer lid they have achieved
it with the Blade.
I have ridden several Blades. I take the
53cm. Blade and it is a good fit for me with the correct
stem. I am approximately 5'9" and weigh between 155
and 165 lbs. Compared to other triathlon bikes I've ridden
that fit me correctly the Blade is the worst choice. It
felt unresponsive under acceleration and sluggish on climbs.
I would have thought the bike would be nimble and accelerate
well due to the increased stiffness of the 6/4 downtube.
It doesn't, it's a real pig. It may feel sluggish on climbs
due to its weight problem; the bike is heavy. According
to the Litespeed catalog the 53cm. Blade weighs 3.65 lbs.
By contrast, the Litespeed Saber weighs 3.18 lbs. A half-pound
isn't too much of a weight difference, the problem is,
it feels like ten pounds to me.
My question is why is the tube bladed
vertically when the wind moves across it longitudinally?
This undoubtedly adds some unnecessary weight and, I believe,
contributes to the overall poor ride quality. In previous
model years the Blade featured a less pronounced blade section
in both the down tube and the top tube. Those model years'
Blades rode much better. Furthermore, close examination
of the Blade ridden by Ironman winner Tim DeBoom reveals
that his custom Blade has "toned down" aero tubing,
nothing like the Blade in the Litespeed catalog. Litespeed
told me the custom Blade is available to consumers under
their custom program. The obvious question seems to be why
do they make the one with the bladed top tube at all?
the problem may be the top tube. The Blade features
an "aero" bladed top tube. These deeply
bladed "tubes" on the Blade are actually
not tubes. These frame sections start life as a
flat plate and are formed into the blade airfoil
shape then welded at one edge. The top tube is made
Click to Enlarge
Although it certainly looks impressive, we're
not sure why the Blade has a large bladed top
We have recommended the Blade to only two
customers. Both were tall riders in the Clydesdale class.
Both were very powerful cyclists. Both can benefit from
the extra material in the downtube of the Blade (but are
still handicapped to some degree by that bladed top tube).
The weight is of little consequence to riders over 200
pounds as it accounts for only .2 (two tenths) of a percent
of the total rider/bicycle weight. Both of these Blades
were either the 59 or 61 cm. sizes. In these sizes there
is some utility to the bike's construction (except for
that top tube). Below that, I don't like the bike.
For customers who wanted the bike in the
smaller sizes we recommended (instead) the excellent Litespeed
Saber. The 2000 model year Saber was very, very good-
but the 2001 Saber is absolutely incredible. The Saber
for 2002 incorporates an outstanding carbon fiber/titanium
wrapped wishbone seatstay. The bike is a truly incredible
evolution, but that's another review.
Why anyone would buy a Blade over
a Saber in the smaller to medium sizes is a complete mystery
to me. I believe most people who bought them did so for
the single worst reason you can buy a bike: Looks. Some
people think the Blade looks cool so they buy it. Trying
to get them to admit this is tough. Hey, if you buy a
bike only on looks that's fine- but don't expect it to
perform as well as if you had purchased a more appropriate
bike based on fit and construction appropriate to your
needs. We see that most customers like this cannot grasp
the intricacies of fit and performance and also can't
trust a dealer to choose their bike for them. They tend
to hit the mental "reset" button and buy a bike
based on looks since it's the only thing they really understand.
They almost always wind up on the wrong bike and waste
money. If they are big enough to admit they blew it the
first time around they may trust a good dealer's recommendations
the second, but buying two bikes is an expensive way to
learn a lesson. If we tell you a bike isn't appropriate
for you, trust us. We're doing it for a reason. In the
case of the Saber versus the Blade, the Saber is substantially
less expensive. You would think we would be excited about
selling more Blades than Sabers since we make more money
selling a Blade. However, since the Blade is poorly suited
for most riders, we don't recommend it. We have an obligation
to recommend the appropriate bike, the consumer can decide
to take or ignore our recommendation.
Arrow indicates shavings of cable housing
worn off the front derailleur cable housing
after less than 1000 miles. Note how
much space there is around the
cable housing as it enters the frame.
|Another deficiency with the Blade is
it's poor cable routing. The drivetrain and rear brake
cables are routed internally through the downtube
and top tube. I'm generally not a fan of internal
cable routing to begin with. I prefer external cable
routing such as found on the Saber.
are well-executed internal cables on some bikes. All
Cervelo aluminum bikes feature internally routed cables
and are the best in the industry. If you must have
internal cable routing look to Cervelo for the state
of the art.
Arrows show the "tubing protectors" we
made from tubing bought at a hardware store to protect
the cable housings from the sharp edges of the cable
The internal cable routing on the
blade is utterly cobbled. They basically put two
oval holes in the frame with no cable guides of
any kind. Someone could argue this "saves weight".
Well, it does, trouble is, it also doesn't work
very well, and it looks like someone forgot something.
I think they did.
|Specifically, the cable
housing gets torn up very easily when you turn the
handlebars, and it binds as it scraps against the
rough edge of the holes. It also rattles louder than
any other internal cable routing I've tried.
This series of bends (and the one inside the frame)
cause the Blade's front shifting to be slightly
The bend for the front derailleur
cable degrades front derailleur shifting to a small
degree on a well-built bike, and entirely on a crappy
assembly job. This represents everything that is
wrong with internal cable routing. It is the worst
execution of internal cable routing I have seen.
We've sold, ridden and serviced the Litespeed
Blade throughout its evolution. We believe the current version
is the worst so far. Previous versions ranged from fairly good
to quite good. A version more like the one Tim DeBoom used,
possibly even incorporating the new titanium wrapped wishbone
seatstay, would be a much better effort by Litespeed. About
now Litespeed is trying to reach us on the phone, threatening
to pull our dealership for this review. In fairness, Litespeed
is an excellent company with outstanding bikes. Many of the
bikes in their line represent the best in their category from
any manufacturer. No one is perfect all the time though, and
the Blade is their Achilles heel. Except in specific instances,
we do not recommend this bike, but rather, prefer the excellent
Litespeed Saber in identical geometry.