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Litespeed Tuscany.
By Tom Demerly.
Read This About Our Reviews First


Litespeed's best all-around road bike: The Tuscany.

Reality 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.

Chances 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 every year.

Most 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.

Depending 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).

The 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.

Often 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.

Few 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?"

Sadly, 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.

Litespeed 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.

Want 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.

What 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 Tuscany.

Owning 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.

The 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 instability.

In 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.

The 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.

Another 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).

Then 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.

Chances 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 own it.

That is why durability is so critical.

The 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 actually increases.


The secret to the ride is the unique 3/2.5 G.E.T. titanium tubing.


Weld quality on the Tuscany is always excellent. Click to enlarge to see the impressive strength of these joints.

The 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.

More 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.

I 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 the Tuscany.


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!


Also 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.

The 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.

 

 
 

 

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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