By Tom Demerly.
About Our Reviews First
Litespeed's best all-around road bike:
sucks. If it weren't for reality I could own every
bike I've ever wanted. About 30 different bikes. As
it is, I am fortunate enough to own a bicycle shop
so I only have to limit my bike ownership to, say,
five pretty nice bikes right now.
are if you don't own a bike shop you probably aren't
willing to shell out the cash for five bikes, let
alone having the opportunity to replace each of them
of our customers want to own one or two bikes. Something
we hear at Bikesport a lot is, "This is the last
bike I want to buy." Often times we are listening
to someone who is in their 30's (or more), is a good
recreational, enthusiast level fitness cyclist who
likes to do road rides by themselves or with a group.
They've owned road bikes before and they are tired
of compromise. This is the last bike they want to
buy and they want to do it right. The bike has to
last. The bike has to be dependable. The bike has
to perform in the real world. It has to be fun to
ride, a real "step-up" bike. It has to be
maintenance free. The buyers are looking for performance
but they are also looking for comfort, comfort and
more comfort. But these customers are also usually
pretty good athletes, whether they admit it or not.
on how their measurements work out, one recommendation
we make frequently is the Litespeed Tuscany. Fit is
everything in bicycle performance, so if it doesn't
fit you've bought the wrong bike. But the Litespeed
Tuscany is the Litespeed bike I'd buy before any other
Litespeed (unless I was using it for triathlons, then
I'd buy a Litespeed Saber).
Litespeed Tuscany is my favorite Litespeed road bike.
If it fits you correctly based on measurements, it
is the most intelligent and best choice for most of
our customers. There are many reasons why.
times I meet somebody on a ride and, in the course
of admiring his or her bike, ask, "Why did you
buy this bike?" The most common response is "My
friends recommended it" or "I read some
good reviews on the Internet and in magazines".
Problem is, that doesn't answer my question. It only
tells me why someone else liked the bike. It doesn't
say why they liked it enough to buy it or how it suits
their needs. It doesn't tell me how the bike fits
them. It doesn't even tell me anything about the bike
or the rider. In fact, most customers don't really
understand why they bought the bike they bought, beyond
the fact that it was a recommendation.
and far between are the customers who are educated
enough to say "I bought this bike because I have
a slightly longer torso than most people my height
so I wanted a little longer top tube and wheel base.
I do a lot of riding on bad pavement and my back bothers
me so comfort is very important and I wanted to buy
one bike I wouldn't have any durability issues with-
so I bought this bike." That's a good answer
to the question, "Why did you buy this bike?"
the bike buyer is often her or his own worst enemy.
In our society there is a predominant "Good,
Better, Best" mentality to shopping: If a $2,999.99
bike is good, then a $4,499.99 bike must be better
and a $6,000 bike is best. The problem is, it isn't
always correct. Making that assumption when buying
a road bike is an almost certain way to get on the
wrong equipment. Litespeed is a perfect case in point.
Integrated 1&1/8" sealed bearing headset
is indestrucible and never needs adjustment.
Water-cut dropouts facilitate perfect, easy
wheel placement every single time.
makes five road frames that share nearly identical
geometry. The Vortex, Ultimate, Classic, Arenberg
and Tuscany. If you fit on one, you can fit any of
these almost interchangeably since their measurements
per size are the same. The current perception is that
the least expensive bike is the "entry level"
or compromise bike and that the most expensive is
the so-called "top-of-the-line". That isn't
the case. Litespeed makes specific bikes for specific
riding types, not a "good, better, best"
progression. This means the absolute best bike for
you may be $6,000, but it may be $2399.99- depending
entirely on how you ride, where you ride and what
you are doing on it.
a bike for blasting through criterium corners at full
speed, sprinting every fifth lap for primes and winning
the local (or national) championship criterium (but
is a little overweight on climbs compared to some
others)? Look no further than the Litespeed Ultimate.
Want a genuine Tour de France stage race bike that
dances up climbs, rides comfortably and has almost
every ounce pared away (but might require just a little
babying and doesn't crash as well as some others)?
Check out our review of the Litespeed Vortex here.
Looking to build the lightest climbing specific bike
money can buy at under 16 pounds (but you don't care
about stiffness and can put durability lower on your
list of priorities)? Check out the radical Litespeed
Ghisallo. Are you a retro grouch who wants totally
traditional construction (and doesn't care about integrated
headsets or curved seatstays)? Buy the Litespeed Classic.
Each one of these bikes are specifically designed
and intended for a specific customer.
if you want one bike that combines some of all these
attributes plus a healthy dose of durability and comfort?
The one bike that does all these well: The Litespeed
a Tuscany is an exercise in knowing you did the right
thing: It constantly reinforces how great a bike it
is. Fast on climbs, comfortable on bad pavement, easy
to maintain. It is hard to describe how solid the
bike feels. There are simply no more excuses left
once you get the bike dialed to fit you. If your measurements
were correct to begin with, fitting these frames is
a snap for the slightly longer torso rider. When you
stand on the pedals to take ten hard pedal strokes
up a big hill the bottom bracket is unyielding. The
bike is sporty.
Tuscany is such an incredible, versatile road bike
for several reasons. For, one, the geometry is nailed.
Litespeed has been working on the geometry numbers
for the Tuscany for years and it is perfectly proportioned
to provide excellent weight distribution (if it fits
you correctly), fantastic ride quality (due to the
tube set, more later
), laser-guided handling
and reliable fitting throughout the size range. Litespeed's
road geometry tends to run slightly "long".
The top tube lengths are a bit long per seat tube
length compared to some other brands. That's good-
the average American male tends to have a slightly
longer torso than works on many other bikes. Colnago
tends to run short. For all their hype about the "LeMond
Geometry" LeMond bikes tend to run short in the
top tubes also. Bianchi is another manufacturer that
runs slightly longer top tube to seat tube. We consistently
find better fits and greater comfort with this longer
Litespeed style geometry. It tends to provide more
frame tubing to disperse road shock and needs less
stem length that just flexes undesirably and creates
an annoyingly long steering lever with the attendant
the course of measuring literally thousands of customers
we often encounter males with longer torsos. Traditionally
it has been tough to find bikes for these riders.
That's another reason why Litespeed is such a breath
of fresh air and such a useful fitting tool.
flip side of this is the customer who is all legs
and no torso. It's tough to get a good fit and precise
weight distribution for those bodies on most Litespeeds.
No bike fits everyone. My bet is Litespeed would do
well to introduce at least one road frame, probably
a version of the Tuscany, with a top tube and wheelbase
around 2 cm. shorter per seat tube length to fit those
riders. But then again, that would change the handling
and personality of the bike altogether, so it is an
ambitious design challenge.
The unique shape of the 3/2.5 titanium down
tube imporves ride quality.
Conventional seat stay attachment adds to comfort
and strength. Click to enlarge this photo to
see the perfect welds.
reason we sell the Litespeed Tuscany to so many customers
is because so many customers want a durable, bombproof
bike. Hey, things happen: If you still insist on carrying
your bike on the outside of your vehicle on a rack
(always a bad idea) you open yourself up to a world
of damage. Paint chips from flying road debris. Hitting
the garage door when you get home after a long ride.
Driving into a hotel parking garage or the Taco Bell
drive-thru and ripping the bike off your roof rack.
Your fork mount bending your fork dropouts and breaking
your carbon fiber fork. The bike being constantly
blasted with filthy water when it rains (would you
power wash your bike with water from the gutter?)
and bug guts at freeway speed. Exposing it to theft
and vandalism. Having it fall off the roof when it
is incorrectly attached to the rack. Hey, you paid
for it, if you want to wreck it that's your choice
(my bikes ride inside my car).
there are crashes. You know the saying: "There
are two kinds of riders, the kind that have crashed
and the kind that will". You're on a group ride
and suddenly the guy in front of you drifts back eight
inches. Suddenly your front wheel overlaps his rear
wheel. Then they touch. The next thing you know you're
looking at sky. Three years ago a friend of mine was
riding back from Northville (the ride destination
of choice around here). He had his head down and was
hammering at full speed. The next day when he woke
up in the hospital someone told him he plowed into
the back of a parked car at full speed. Oops. Then
there is the inevitable "Tip over at the stoplight
because you couldn't clip out" tumble, an almost
annual event for some people. And then there are the
legions of menacing drivers. They insist on dialing
cell phones, typing on PDA's, changing CD's, rifling
through briefcases, putting on make-up and other activities
while trying to maintain some semblance of control
over a two ton projectile hurtling down the road at
over 35 m.p.h. under minimal guidance.
are sometime during your road bike ownership experience
your bike will take a hit. The ability to survive
the hard knocks will largely determine how long you'll
is why durability is so critical.
Litespeed Tuscany is made of 3/2.5 Titanium, the most
durable titanium used in bicycle construction. 3/2.5
titanium is an alloy of 3% aluminum, 2.5% vanadium,
and 94.5% pure titanium. The strongest grade of 3/2.5
titanium, referred to by manufacturers as "AMS
105", has incredible yield strength and tensile
strength, much greater than any other material used
in bicycle construction. Simply put, the 3/2.5 titanium
used to make the Litespeed Tuscany is the strongest
material you can make a bike out of. 3/2.5 titanium
has an annealed elongation of 15-30%, and a cold-worked
minimum elongation (ductility) of 10%. This means
the tubing can be formed through cold shaping processes
into configurations uniquely suited to their needs.
This is the origin of Litespeed's Geometrically Enhanced
Tubing, or "G.E.T." Interestingly enough,
3/2.5 titanium does not respond well to heat-treating
to improve strength, a process not even needed on
this metal. Instead, increases in strength come solely
from cold working, the very process Litespeed uses
to shape the tubing for the Tuscany. This is a "win-win"
situation: As Litespeed improves ride quality and
performance through cold-working the tubes, the strength
The secret to the ride is the unique 3/2.5 G.E.T.
Weld quality on the Tuscany is always excellent.
Click to enlarge to see the impressive strength
of these joints.
important thing to realize, and the paradox of the
Tuscany, is that it is functionally stronger than
the more expensive 6/4 titanium bikes such as the
Vortex and Ghisallo. The 6/4 titanium used on the
Vortex and Ghisallo is lighter and stiffer, but substantially
more brittle. Additionally, most of the sections of
the frame on the 6/4 bikes are not technically tubes,
they are sheets of 6/4 titanium rolled into a tubing
shape and then welded at a seam. The seam is ground
smooth for primarily cosmetic reasons. This process
accounts partially for the additional cost of 6/4
as compared to 3/2.5. Perhaps the important thing
to realize is that 3/2.5 is an actual extruded tube,
not a rolled tube, and, as such does have additional
strength. The seam in 6/4 titanium makes it technically
weaker than 3/2.5 titanium. My experience with 3/2.5
is that most bikes using this tubing ride more comfortably
than 6/4. It is also worth mentioning the only titanium
bikes we have ever seen break have been 6/4 bikes.
To date, we haven't had a 3/2.5 titanium bike break,
including one run over by a pick-up truck.
That is saying a lot about the material the Tuscany
is made out of.
A clamp-on front derailleur enables easy replacement,
adjustment and servicing.
If you strip a binder bolt you simply replace
the entire collar. No frame repair needed.
than perhaps any other bike we sell, the Tuscany is
made for how our customers use their bikes. It doesn't
take much maintenance, you can beat it up, it will
take a hit and it rides great.
found the Tuscany to be at home with rough pavement
while going hard on the flats, and to be agile, light
and lively going up hills. A big part of this goes
back to the 3/2.5 tubing. It has excellent resiliency,
which can be controlled by changes to the tube diameter
and wall thickness. This is the cornerstone of Litespeed's
exclusive Geometrically Enhanced Tubing. When you
understand the Litespeed product and the sophisticated
nature of it, you will have a greater appreciation
of how well it works. This allows the bicycle designer
the ability to accurately tune the ride. This latitude
of adjustability is a direct result of titanium's
superb margin of fatigue strength, and is unique to
3/2.5 titanium used in the Tuscany; neither steel
nor aluminum enjoys the same "tunability"
or control over ride quality as the tubing used in
This is the secret to the Tuscany's great
comfort: The curved Litespeed seatstays.
The curved stays provide passive suspension
by acting like a leaf spring. It really works!
playing into the reasons why the Tuscany is such a
good buy are its advantages over aluminum, cro-moly
and carbon fiber. All materials have their strong
points and weak points, but it is hard to find a drawback
with the 3/2.5 titanium used in the Tuscany. During
normal (and abnormal!) riding the Tuscany's 3/2.5
titanium never reaches or even approaches it's fatigue
limit. The fatigue limit is basically the amount of
energy or force a material can absorb before it begins
the process of failing. Aluminum, the common bike
material with the lowest fatigue limit, frequently
exceeds its limit during the course of normal riding.
It can exceed it's fatigue limit many thousands of
times before it fails, but it will fail eventually.
The tubing used in Tuscany never comes close. Unlike
all other materials, including 6/4 titanium, the tubing
used in the Tuscany can theoretically last forever.
As with most titanium alloys, 3-2.5 is corrosion resistant,
and does not need paint. Litespeed does offer paint,
which is expensive (usually over $300) but flawlessly
executed. The PPG paint used on the Tuscany comes
in a variety of colors, with the black (Nero) my favorite.
It has a delicious, deep metallic quality to it. Another
benefit to the titanium is that when the paint chips
or scratches, the bare titanium shows through- and
it looks cool.
Tuscany is not a "specialist" bike. It's
a bike you can do a lot with. As I said at the beginning
of this review, if you can only own one road bike,
the Tuscany makes more sense than any other Litespeed
road bike. I've never liked a Litespeed road bike
more than I like the Tuscany. If I could have one
Litespeed, it would be the "does everything well,
lasts forever" Tuscany.