When looking at carbon fiber road bikes it can be confusing. Different types of carbon fiber and differently shaped frames lead to bikes that look similar on paper but handle very differently on the road. This is the hard part with carbon.
When you look at metal bikes, each type of metal has specific characteristics that hold true for bikes made from that material. Steel is a springy material that trades stiffness for comfort and durability. Aluminum is stiffer, but it offers a harder ride and is not as durable. And historically, Litespeed has been known for titanium, which is the most durable material and sits between steel and aluminum in terms of rideability. When they made the move to carbon bikes, Litespeed covered their bases with a stiff aero frame in the “C” series and a more comfortable all-rounder in the bike I’m reviewing, the M1.
Available from Litespeed with SRAM APEX, the revised model differed in that it was built with a Shimano 105 groupset. As usual, the 105 drivetrain worked like a charm. If you have a bike equipped with Shimano 105 and higher or SRAM Rival and higher, you can expect big shifts as long as it’s set up right.
The core of this review is based on ride quality and frameset performance. The M1 is Litespeed’s entry-level carbon bike, but it doesn’t ride like an entry-level bike. The frame is stiff at the bottom bracket, which isn’t a surprise when you look at the construction. The junction between the down tube and the main tube is robust, with a large diameter down tube that increases torsional stiffness. The top tube is hourglass shaped, wider at the head tube and narrower in the middle. When I unload in full sprint, it feels like all the power is going to the rear wheel with no brake drag or noticeable front flex. The oversized chainstays resist flexing under load, while the slim chainstays add a lot to ride comfort.
On hill climbs, the bike responds well to both constant power and acceleration. Under a better climber than me it would be a rocket ship. It’s a better climber than the Time Edge Racer I rode last year. It’s a more solid feeling bike. The Time was snappy like an old-school steel bike, while the Litespeed M1 is more like an aluminum hardtail that doesn’t bang you around.
The fit of the M1 allows for a comfortable position as the head tube is slightly longer than many of the race bikes. A medium has a 160mm head tube which allows me to get the bar level with the saddle without the stem slanting up. Unlike many relaxed-fit bikes, the performance is on par with any race bike I’ve ever ridden. While the fit is good for an aging athlete like me, it’s not a super smooth ride. Comfort over rough roads is good for a race bike, but if you’re looking for a super smooth bike of the century and charity, I suggest the Rocky Mountain Prestige, as its longer wheelbase will produce less bump on long rides with a similar fit.
Describing the ride of a bicycle is a lot like telling someone what something tastes like. While you can get lab measurements of how stiff a bike is, it doesn’t tell you what it’s like on the road. The M1 is a great all-around road machine that balances stiffness, weight and ride quality, as well as having a slightly more relaxed handlebar position. For the build quality and details that go into this frame, the price with SRAM APEX is very good value for money ($2399 CAD). As usual with a bike this price point, you will benefit in the speed department by upgrading the wheels and tires, but this is not necessary to enjoy the ride.