Wow. Another day, another aero road bike review. Earlier this week we looked at the Cervelo S5 and the BMC TMR01. Today we have Litespeed’s aero road bike entrant, the C1. BikeRumor just got their hands on a C1R Ultegra and have started to run it through the paces. While they are getting the details, we here at AG can give our first impressions.
Normally we talk about price last but since we have had the opportunity to talk recently about the C1R’s competitors (and price is a huge part of the buying process), we thought we would start with price today. The MSRP on the C1 Race is $4,999, which places it below the BMC and just above the Cervelo. While Litespeed does make a cheaper version the C3, the C1R is probably the most comparable to other bikes we’ve already reviewed.
As expected, the C1R’s frame is designed with aerodynamics in mind. The headtube is both large and deep to cut through the wind. Like the Cervelo, Litespeed has additionally widened the downtube at the water bottle mount (something we like to see). And when we look at the seattube, you see the standard cutout for the rear wheel. In many ways the frame has hints of an older Felt B series bike, which is not surprising considering current design seems to be trending toward a merge between the last generation of TT bikes (Cannondale Slice, B Series Felt, Cervelo P2) and today’s road bikes—creating the “aero road bike” category.
One of the pluses we see with the C1R is that it comes with an aero wheel set—the Reynolds Assaults. While not the greatest set of aero wheels, they are still better than the majority of wheels you’ll receive with today’s bikes straight from the shop. Some may prefer to buy wheels on their own, but with this set, you can feasibly keep it for the immediate future.
In our opinion, one item that’s missing from this is the hidden rear brake. The Trek Madone and BMC have both started to hide the rear brake—a path first blazed by TT bikes. In fact, BMC has even begun to hide the front brake. When it comes to an aero-type frame, we would prefer at least see the rear brake hidden below the bottom bracket. We understand it may be asking too much to hide the front brake as well, but going with an aero brake such as the Omega would have been a great compromise.
For now, I think this is the best “real” first impression we can get. From looking at the bike and the specs, we like it. And the price is right when compared with the competition. The C1R gets a definite wheel upgrade over the S5 for only a minimal increase in price. However, our biggest question remains: how does this bike stack up in terms of controllability, specifically on the descents versus its competition. One of the biggest criticisms of aero road bikes, which are similar to comments we traditionally see regarding TT bikes, is that they go great in a straight line but have control issues once the road starts to climb and turn. With the BMC we saw a bike that moved past these challenges, but the S5 still had some issues. When it comes to where the C1R falls, only time—and more rides—will tell.