When looking at carbon fiber road bikes it can get confusing. Different types of carbon fiber and different shaped frames all lead to bikes that look similar on paper but ride very different out 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 bike made from that material. Steel is a springy material that trades stiffness for comfort and durability. Aluminum is stiffer but gives a harsher 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 ride wise. When they took the step into 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 model reviewed differed in that it was built up with a Shimano 105 group. As usual, the 105 drivetrain worked flawlessly. If you have a bike equipped with Shimano 105 and better or SRAM Rival and up, you can expect great shifting as long as it's setup well.
The heart of this review is based on the ride quality and performance of the frame set. The M1 is Litespeed's entry level carbon bike but does not ride like an entry level bike. The frame is stiff at the bottom bracket which is not a surprise when you note the construction. The downtube / seatube junction is beefy with a large diameter downtube adding to the torsional stiffness. The toptube is an hour glass shape wider at the headtube and narrowing in the middle. When I unload in an all out sprint it feels like all the power is driving to the rear wheel with no brake rub or noticeable front end flex. The oversized chainstays resist flex under load while the thin seatstays add a lot to the comfort of the ride.
On hill climbs the bike responds well to both steady power and accelerations. Under a better climber than me it would be a rocket. It's a better climber than the Time Edge Racer that I rode last year. It's a more solid feeling bike. The Time was whippy like an old school steel bike, whereas the Litespeed M1 is more like a stiff aluminum bike that does not beat you up.
The fit of the M1 allows for a comfortable position as the headtube is a little longer than many of the race oriented bikes. A medium has a 160 mm head tube which allows me to get my bar even with my seat without the stem angled up. Unlike a lot of relaxed fit bikes, the performance is on par with any race bike I've ridden. While the fit is good for an aging athlete like me it is not a super soft ride. The comfort over rough roads is good for a race bike but if you are looking for a super smooth century and charity ride bike I would suggest the Rocky Mountain Prestige as it's longer wheelbase will yield less beating over long rides with a similar fit.
Describing the ride of a bike is a lot like telling someone what something tastes like. While you can get lab measurements of how stiff a bike is but it does not tell you what it's like out on the road. The M1 is a great all round road machine that balances stiffness, weight and ride quality as well as having a little more relaxed bar position. For the quality of the construction and detail that goes into this frameset the price with SRAM APEX is a very good value ($ 2399 CAD). As usual with a bike of this price you will benefit in the speed department by upgrading the wheels and tires but this is not necessary to enjoy the ride.