Friday, July 06, 2012

2012 Litespeed Cohutta Review

From the first day I laid eyes on Litespeed's new 29er mountain bike at the Interbike show in 2011, I couldn't wait to get on it and see what a titanium bike is all about. Below is a quick recap of how I've set up my 2012 race machine and my impressions of how it performs.

Thanks to a great relationship with Shimano and PRO, I was able to set it up with some of the best components on the market. After spending quite a bit of time on my dirt bike, I've grown accustom to running a wide handlebar on my bicycles. On this bike I've chosen to run a 700mm flat bar with 10 degrees of backsweep. There are definitely times that I wish I had hand guards to protect my hands and fingers from getting smashed in the tight trees but the added leverage and control far outweigh the reduced clearance. Shimano's new ISpec kit make for a clean and lightweight handlebar setup by integrating the shifter and amazing brakes onto one clamp. With a 90mm/-10 degree stem and a set of ESI Chunky Grips, I couldn't be happier with how comfortable the cockpit is.

The Cohutta is designed for a 31.6 diameter seatpost but I wanted to run a 27.2 post for the added shock and vibration damping. In order to do this, I had to insert a small aluminum sleeve in the seat tube. The 27.2 post helps soften the impact of the hardtail frame and is just the right amount of flex for a rider of my size.

I've been experimenting with many saddles this season and ended up right where I began. I have always run the Specialized Phenom on all of mountain bikes because of its light weight, stiff feel and narrow shape which makes getting behind the saddle during the descents much easier. Since I have always ridden mountain bikes with rear suspension the hard seat never bothered me. However, losing the squish in the rear makes a huge difference when trying to sit and pedal through rough terrain. I gave the Fizik Vesta a try as it was much wider and softer but it ended up being way too wide for technical descents that I need to scoot back for. I'm still looking for that perfect narrow but soft seat with female geometry. Until then, I'm back on the Phenom and toughing it out :)

In my opinion, wheel and tire selection is the most important part of a bike set up. Now that I am on the 29 inch bike, having a lightweight wheel setup can be a very large advantage. This year, I've decided to run the Stans ZTR Race Gold wheels with Maxxis 29er Ikon tires - this may be lightest and fastest rolling setup on the market. Many heavier riders will not enjoy the 1350g wheels because they can be a bit flexy, but luckily my smaller stature allows me to get away with them.

For the second year in a row, I am running the Fox 32 100mm fork. It is a great feeling fork for racing that is stiff and sturdy and also incorporates the innovative tapered steerer design. I am definitely looking forward to dropping a 1/2lb and getting a remote lockout for the updated model in 2013!

Unlike most of my previous race bikes, I'm running a 2x10 drivetrain. I have always run a triple because of how steep the trails are here in Colorado but I'm actually loving the taller gearing on the Litespeed. I was apprehensive about using it this year because of my bad experience when I wasn't as fit but now that I'm stronger, I really love it. I would love a 24 tooth inner chainring but I'll live with the 26 and 12x36 cassette. 

My friends at The Service Course - a Boulder bicycle service shop - helped me finish up the build on the Cohutta and set it up with some professional touches. The used fully sealed Nokon shift cables for added wear protection, crisp shifting and reduction in weight.

After being stuck on the trail with a broken chain earlier in the year, they also added a quick link chain link on my brake cable for speedy race ready fixes.

I put the 'excuse me' bell on :)

I'm extremely happy with how the bike came together and especially with how it performs.  The titanium frame has an unbelievably wonderful feel and Litespeed's innovative design and geometry brought in all the hot new features. From adding a PressFit 30 bottom bracket to designing the headtube opening for a tapered steerer tube fork, it's perfect marriage of modern technology and classic craftmanship.  In an era of primarily carbon bikes, it's fun and refreshing to ride a top performing, American made, beautiful titanium bike!

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