1998 Litespeed Classic

 

Our regular cycling partner, and one of Odette’s colleagues from work, had physical problems and was off his bike much of the winter.  I got a text from him one day asking what size frame I rode and I replied, asking if he was building up to borrowing a tandem.  He laughed and said no, that he wanted me to buy his Litespeed.  (Odette later said that he had gone to a sports medicine place and figured out that he needed to work on bike fit as part of the solution to his problem – and as a consequence he decided to sell a couple of his bikes and to buy a Specialized Diverge.)

I wasn’t really in the market for a road bike – I’d begun to think about buying a new mountain bike and working on riding trails.  The Litespeed was different, though – I’d hefted it when we’d loaded it on the roof of our car and I was intrigued by the idea of a titanium frame.  I asked him how old it was and how much he wanted and he was vague but some googling revealed that the classic was made from 1991 until 2004. There seems to be a really thin market with Ebay listings asking maybe $600 for the frame only and something like $1,000 for the complete bike, depending on the age and components.  I borrowed the bike from him and took it on a couple of short rides.  It fit me well, it was as light as I had imagined, it seemed really nimble with only a little bit of toe-overlap, and I really liked the way it shifted.  I told Odette that since I wasn’t working I didn’t feel like I could shell out that kind of money for a bike I didn’t “need” and that I wasn’t comfortable negotiating a “good” deal with a friend.    I also told her that I really liked the bike and that if she wanted to buy it for me I’d love her forever.  She ended up paying less than I would have, so I not only got a bike I was kind of lusting after, I got a good deal, and kept a friend.  (I took the Garmin mount and sensor and his Look pedals off the bike and Odette returned them to him – he asked about a cadence sensor which I had to tell him wasn’t there, but we’ve ridden together since and I think we’re still friends.)

 

Our friend told Odette that he got the bike in 1994 and she understood that this was significant because it was “after the Lynskey family bought the company back.”   The bike has external cables, cable stops positioned close to the head tube, the “sculpted” seat tube top, vertical dropouts, a Look fork and the Lynskey decal on the chain stay.  It is set up with the Ultegra groupset  – brifters, headset, hubs, cranks and derailleurs are all Ultegra (the only part with a visible model number is the headset which is stamped “600”.)  It has compact 34/50 gearing, Ritchey carbon bars, an Easton threadless stem, an Easton seat post, and a Serfas saddle.  Litespeed seems to have made frames in odd-numbered sizes – 51cm, 53cm, 55cm, etc.  If I’m measuring right, this bike is a 53 while my Rodriguez Adventure touring bike and my Fuji Touring are 54s (and Odette’s Rodriguez Stellar is a 44.)  The chain stays and top tube on the Litespeed are about the same length as on my Rodriguez, but the wheelbase is slightly shorter – 98cm vs 102cm  (it’s actually shorter than Odette’s Stellar which has a 99cm wheelbase.)  The stem on the Litespeed has more offset than the one on the Rodriguez and there are more spacers on the headset, but the drops are definitely lower than I’m used to.  (There’s a saying that if your knees hit your gut instead of your ribcage you still have some weight to lose, and the Litespeed reminds me that I have some weight to lose.)

Bikepedia doesn’t have an entry for a 1994 Litespeed Classic and the 1995 Bikepedia entry for the Classic has the Dura Ace configuration.  Here is the “as built” table in the Bikepedia format:

Litespeed Classic
Bicycle Type Road race & triathlon

Colors: polished

Frame & Fork
Frame Construction: Welded titanium
Frame Tubing Material: 3Al/2.5V titanium, tapered, butted
Fork Brand & Model:  Look
Fork Material: Carbon

Components
Component Group: Shimano 600 Ultegra
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra Dual Pivot brakes, Shimano Ultegra levers (flight deck)
Shift Levers: Shimano Ultegra STI Dual Control (flight deck)
Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra, bottom-pull/braze-on
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra
Crankset: Shimano Ultegra, 34/50 teeth
Bottom Bracket: Shimano BB-UN72, 115 mm spindle
BB Shell Width: 68mm English
Rear Cogs: 9-speed, 12 – 27 teeth
Seatpost: Easton EC 70
Saddle: Serfas
Handlebar: Ritchey Carbon
Handlebar Stem: Easton EA 70
Headset: 1″ Shimano 600 Ultegra

Wheels
Hubs: Shimano Ultegra, 32-spoke
Rims: Mavic open pro SUP

The bike has serial number 39534 (DA) stamped under the bottom bracket.  I gather that earlier years had the number stamped above the drive-side dropout, but I don’t know when the change happened.  The two-letter indicator evidently refers to the welder who worked on the frame and in the “earlier” years that code apparently always ended in “Z”.

 

I emailed the serial number to Litespeed and didn’t hear anything back from them.  A month later I emailed a second time and got this response:

Hello,

Our records indicate that it was manufactured in 1998.

Thanks!

Dave McDaniel
Account Manager
Litespeed & Quintana Roo

The 1998 Bikepedia entry is pretty much the same as the one for 1995 with respect to the frame,  it lists all of the Ultegra components, and it gets the Look fork right.  However, like the 1995 entry, the 1998 version differs on the handlebars, saddle, seat post and stem.  If the frame was manufactured late in 1998 it could have been sold as a 1999 model, but the 1999 Bikepedia entry isn’t any closer.  If it was manufactured at the beginning of 1998 it could have been set up with the 1997 configuration – but the 1997 Bikepedia entry has the same differences.  I could go to the Shimano part numbers for help in dating the bike but I’d have to take the components off and find the numbers.  (One clue, though, Flight deck wasn’t introduced until 1998.)  The comment Odette relayed about the repurchase of the company ought to be another clue, but Wikipedia says that the Lynskey family sold Litespeed to ABG in 1999 and never bought it back (maybe she got it backwards and the significance was that the bike was built before Lynskey sold the company.)  I could go back to Litespeed and ask them if maybe they really meant 1994, but they’ve already brushed me off once and besides, the guys on Bike Forum say that Litespeed doesn’t have records that far back (although there are threads that seem to indicate otherwise.)  I could go back to the seller and ask if he still has the original paperwork…

The history of model changes at TiRides isn’t any help except that they show a change in 1999 to the position of the cable stops so that they are closer to the head tube – which is where they’re located on this bike.  The catalogues available on-line show a change from horizontal to the vertical rear dropouts on the Classic with the 1996 model. (However, one of the commenters in the TiRides Classic model history says:  “I have Litespeed classic serial #21692. It has vertical dropouts, but Litespeed rep says it’s a 1995…”)  The 1994 catalogue describes the Classic as having horizontal dropouts with adjustable screws and this bike definitely has vertical dropouts and no screws.  The 1994 catalogue also doesn’t offer the Look fork as an option while the 1998 catalogue does.  There is a Bike Forum thread that identifies 1998 as the year the sculpted top of the seat tube was introduced – but the TiRides history doesn’t mention it and the only mention in the 1998 catalogues is as one of the things that differentiated the Classic from the Tuscany (the 1999 catalogue touts the sculpted top as new.)  The illustrations in the catalogues show 1999 as the year when the shifter barrel adjusters were repositioned, but that likely also happened some time in 1998 and was picked up in the 1999 catalogue for marketing purposes.  I’m pretty sure that everything on the bike is stock, as an aftermarket change from a quill stem to a threadless stem would mean a new fork and headset, too, so I can’t imagine that would have gone unmentioned.  I’m going to guess that the compact gearing, the Easton stem and seat post and the Ritchey bars were upgrades that were just not featured in the catalogue.  (Just like every other manufacturer’s catalogue,  Litespeed says “specifications are subject to change and other options may be available.”) Based on the email from Litespeed, the fork, the dropouts, the seat tube, and the barrel adjusters, I’m pretty convinced that this is a ’98 bike and I’m not inclined to chase that any further.

When I got it I inflated the tires and adjusted the saddle but otherwise I didn’t do anything to it.  I understand that it was taken to a local shop for an appraisal and they said it seemed to be in pretty good shape but that there was a crack in the rear rim.  I inspected that rim really carefully and couldn’t see what they were talking about.  I may use that as an excuse to have a wheel set built with deep-section rims that look fast.  I put a chain checker on it and it slipped in on both settings so I probably need a new chain and probably ought to use that as the occasion to have it serviced and the wheels checked.

I went to buy a frame pump and found that to fit under the top tube I needed a Zefal #3 which nobody had in stock (at least not in silver.)  On a ride a couple of weeks later I found a Zefal #4 on the road and brought it home.  It works and with a doodad from my parts bin it fits along the down tube – but that means I have to give up a water bottle cage.  When I took off that cage I noticed that the rivet nut for the upper bolt was loose.  I’ll need to see if Recycled Cycles can do something about that.

The first couple of rides I took  there was a lot of noise that I attributed to the fenders.  It has Portland Design Works fenders with very little clearance from the tires.  (I’d noticed those fenders before since they have front fender stays that use an eyelet on the quick release complicating the fork block attachment on my roof rack.)  The noise went away when I tightened the rubber band on the seat tube, so I decided not to worry about it and just wait until I can take the fenders off for the summer.

I put together a toolkit with an inflater, a couple of cartridges, a tube and a pair of tire levers.  On my first long ride it startled me when the velcro came loose and the bag hit me in the backs of my thighs.  I had a slightly larger saddle bag that mounts with a bracket so I switched to that, and it gave me enough room to add a second tube, a multitool and a 9-speed master link.

Here is a gallery of photos taken a couple of weeks after I got the bike.

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