by Caley Fretz
Strong in the lab, but weak in the wind tunnel and slightly off expectations on the road, the C1 narrowly slots into the final spot in this roundup. But, as is so often the case, that one figure doesn’t tell the whole story: the Litespeed strikes the best balance between aerodynamics and stiffness, between speed and cash outlay.
The C1 will roll off the show floor for a few thousand dollars less than anything else in this test, despite its comparable component group. Its frame sits just a few watts away from the most aerodynamic available, and is torsionally stiffer than two of the bikes that beat it overall. It is very nearly as good as the best here and is still faster than any traditionally shaped frame, making it the undisputable winner for your wallet.
Scientific Testing: 20 of 30 points
The C1 tested well in the lab, slotting into second behind the Scott Foil in our torsional stiffness test. It may have been 4% less stiff than the Foil, but it was a significant 11% stiffer than the similarly-shaped S5, with most of that difference coming at the seat tube.
It was the slowest in the wind tunnel, but was still packed closely with the other aero frames and was well ahead of our round-tubed control bike. In fact, it was faster at 0˚ and 5˚ yaw than the Foil, ending up with only 19 extra grams of drag (using our weighted average), or about 1.9 watts at 30 mph, compared to the Scott.
Subjective Ride Quality: 18 of 30 points
The C1 is quite comfortable for an aero frame, likely thanks to the tapered seat stays, which are pencil-thin near the seat tube. The front end feels much harsher than the rear, though only because the back end is so buttery smooth.
Both acceleration and handling suffer from a muted feel, lacking the crisp response we expect from high-end carbon bikes. The C1 is plenty stiff, and laying into it mid-sprint is rewarded with an equivalent surge, but overall ride quality feels a bit wooden.
The short chainstays, 12mm shorter than the Specialized Venge and a full 2cm shorter than the Foil, combined with a stable 58mm of trail were likely intended to provide a balance between agility and stability, but the result is a frame that doesn’t seem to want to provide either. Twitching around in a group doesn’t feel natural, and the bike is hesitant to commit to hard corners. However, once you get it on edge it does hold a lean very well. As a result, it was most at home on long, swooping descents rather than tight switchbacks or right-angle crit corners — most definitely a long solo breakaway kind of ride.
User Friendliness: 13 of 15 points
The C1 garners the most User Friendliness points of any bike in this test, and for good reason. It’s the easiest to work on, easily swapped between mechanical and electronic systems, with no real stinker components. It does have internal routing, but came out of the box with nice, long sleeves for easy installation — sleeves that can be used again next time you need to swap cables.
The saddle clamp is a bit odd, though, with a lateral, two-bolt design requiring quite a bit of force to keep the saddle from twisting sideways.
Value: 18 of 20 points
Is the C1 the best bike in this test? No. But at $5,600, it isn’t just the best value; it blows every other bike out of the water. Cheaper than the Foil by $1,900, the Venge by $3,200, and the S5 by $3,400, and yet just a tiny bit slower in the tunnel and stiffer than all but the Foil in the lab, the C1 is untouchable for the money. Use the thousands saved and pick up a set of aero race wheels and you’ll have a quicker ride than just about everyone else on the start line.
Weight: 3 of 5 points
The C1 was third lightest in this test at 16.12 pounds.