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Why does litespeed?(26 posts)

Why does litespeed?parking in tow zone
Oct 23, 2001 4:19 PM
I know this has probably been brought up before BUT humor me. Why does litespeed charge the same or even more than a custom frame builder. LS does not seem to custom make. They slap together in their "factory" and ship all over the place. I am not knocking LS quality but other than huge friggin profits, how can they justify that pricing. If I was going to buy a high end bike, I believe that kind of money could buy me a custom frame.
Why not?Kerry Irons
Oct 23, 2001 4:47 PM
Let's see, does your custom builder butt, taper, swage and shape tubes? Can they build a bike out of 6/4? Do they have the welding capabilities that LS has? Metal fab capabilities? I'm not saying LS's prices are "fair" - they charge what we are willing to pay. I'm just saying that all frames are not created equal, and that it's just possible that some custom shops can't bring nearly as much to the party as a "big" outfit like LS. Given your attitude toward LS, I would suggest that you completely ignore them. If you think you may have convinced anyone of anything with your jab, you're probably off base.
I second thispmf1
Oct 24, 2001 5:56 AM
Are LS's prices really so high compared to Seven, Serrotta, Merlin, etc who make high end custom bikes out of straight gauge 3/2.5 tubing. Ever priced a Seven? I'm not saying that they're not good bikes, but they are quite expensive. Do most people even need a custom bike?

LS has almost 50 years experience in ti fabrication. Their "factory" is far more advanced than any other ti bike manufacturer. They make good bikes and stand behind them. Given the amount of them I see around, the pricing must not be too out of line. If you were making bikes, would you lower your profit margin.

And a hint ... unlike Seven, Serrotta, etc, you can find LS bikes on sale frequently for much less than retail. Colorado Cyclist recently ran great deals on LS Ultimate and Vortex. Labicicletta and also come to mind. You don't have to pay full retail if you're patient and look around.

If you (the original poster) want to rag on LS, that's your right. You'll have lots of company on this page (I can never understand this). As a LS owner (as well as Kestrel and Colnago), I can tell you that the LS bike I have (Ultimate) is very nice. I paid $1600 for the frame and fork on a close-out. It fits great. I've got no complaints.
Consider Your Pointsgrzy
Oct 24, 2001 8:57 AM
"And a hint ... unlike Seven, Serrotta, etc, you can find LS bikes on sale frequently for much less than retail."

Ahhh, one would think that the profit margin would have to be large enough to support this - which goes along with the original poster's point. Serotta doesn't make the Legend out of straight gauge tubing - not even close - in fact it's one of the most manipulated tube sets out there. Custom or not a Legend going to cost the same. Ain't no way that LS has been making ti frames for 50 years so you must be talking about 10 guys doing it for 5 years or some other formula. You could take various shops and come up with all sorts of numbers - doesn't mean their knowledge is superior. Merlin's been making ti frames for as long as anyone and this is where the Seven guys came from. Finally, if LS is so good why bother buying Merlin and moving the production?

The original poster wasn't "ragging on LS" he just raised a fair question - given the amount of attention and custom work on other bikes why does LS price their mass produced frames in the same range? It's b/c they can. I honestly don't have anything bad to say about LS - I've never riden one.
Oct 24, 2001 9:59 AM
1. My mistake about Serrotta. You must own one. I do know the Seven bike is straight guage because I looked at buying one. I'm sure these bikes sell at a huge profit margin too.
2. I meant that LS has been in the ti fabrication business for almost 50 years. Most of that time as a military contractor. Mil specs are probably a bit more stringent than those in the bike industry.
3. LS has been recently bought out by someone who wants to get into the bike industry competitively. To do this, you buy out the competition. Look at Trek, Alcoa, Microsoft, ... Do Trek bikes suck?
4. LS bought Merlin and relocated them probably for economic reasons. Why run two shops when you can run one? Doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to figure points #3, #4 out. I have read that the production lines are separate and the new Merlins are the same as the old ones.
5. Is a LS frame "mass produced"? Yeah there are a lot of them, but what If Merlin, Serrotta, etc hired 25 more skilled welders (yeah, these guys exist) and produced more bikes? Are they now "mass produced" too?
6. Can you get a new Serotta/Merlin/Seven frame for $1250? Thats what I paid for my Ultimate. I wanted a Seven, but I just couldn't pass that up. I've got no regrets.

Maybe I just read this guy's post wrong, but it just seemed like another LS slam.
Oct 24, 2001 1:53 PM
$1250 isn't exactly list price, but then I snagged my used Legend for $1500 complete. Then I rebuilt it. Like you said, "no regrets." There are no right or wrong answers - it comes down to personal preference. I didn't want to compromise on the frame any longer and was able to find one that fit really well.

Mass produced is conceptually very different from a custom shop. Mass produced requires a marketing plan, forecast and distribution network and then flooding the marketing channels with product that you hope will sell. Custom shops may have dealers and all, but they basically build to order and avoid having to hold a fire sale at the end of the model year. I predict that LS will run into trouble this year - not that this is an amazing revelation, but the high end bike market is quite picky - a certain yuppified segement is going to defer buying that BMW SUV and the matching LS to go with it. The guy who's been scrimping and saving for the custom Moots, Serotta, or Seven isn't going to change their mind. The economists call it demand elasticity.

I'm not sure of the history of ti, but 50 years goes back pretty far, but not many consumer oriented products have been using titainium for very long. Serotta has been building bike frames, and only bike frames for over 25 years. Being a defense contractor isn't exactly a ringing endorsement - and this is coming from someone who's been around the military aerospace business for a quite a while. Besides if they're so good why do they keep screwing up? And why run two shops at all - what did the Merlin brand offer that Lightspeed couldn't develop? Quality is but one guess. Eliminating competition would be another. Tryi8ng to be all things to all buyers is yet another. All they really got was control of the brand name and easy access to their designs. Other people will say that the new and old Merlins are no longer the same - there was a guy that has posted here several times on his problems with getting a new Merlin via Colorado Cyclist. He finally gave up after shipping back several crappy frames. And yeah, Trek, Microsoft, and Alcoa manage to screw up pretty royally - both from the perspective of the general public and on a personal basis. Getting big isn't necessarily a good thing. Just look at GM.

The other model for getting into the bike industry is to build a really good product in smaller quantites and plow the revenue back into the business, and limit your debt ala SRAM. You make carefull steps in your growth path and make deliberate decisions as to what's important and what kind of company you're going to be. Any moron with enough inheritence can buy up existing companies and their competition. Running it and staying true are the hard parts. Remember Schwinn?

It's kinda funny that you say you wanted a Seven, but couldn't pass up the LS. The rest of the ti world has no problem passing on LS. Some people are price sensitive while others are into brand image and others are stricly performance oriented. It's seems that the ride isn't that important to you and that price took priority over brand image. It's a personal thing - sort of like people who buy SUV's and pickup trucks, but skip the 4 x 4 option.. You want to own a ti bike at a good price. I wanted the same thing, but I wanted to make sure it had a certain ride and I ditched my OCLV for it.

At the end of the day it's just bikes and how we choose to spend our time and money. The guy was really asking why the LS is relatively expensive in comparison. One would have to conclude that if he pays anything close to list price he'd be paying way too much - by your own admission. Last time I checked the guys that run the smaller custom shops aren't exactly getting rich and they don't blow out their frames. Custom ti bikes aren't for everyone - it's a question of values. Do you value you value bike XXXXX enough to shell out that kind of caash and time?
Building bikes is hard work...TJeanloz
Oct 23, 2001 4:48 PM
Litespeed is able to justify their pricing by pointing out that it's what the market will bear. Kudos to them for building so much hype around their bikes that they command top dollar.

But there are other issues here. First, your assumption that Litespeed does not custom build is incorrect. They have done, and continue to do, custom work for average cyclists and Euro-pros. Lance Armstrong rode a custom Litespeed in 1999 TdF time trials. They are happy to be a custom builder. It costs even more.

"I believe that kind of money could buy me a custom frame". You're right, it could. But not the same frame. And custom isn't inherently better. If a stock bike fits you well, there's no clear advantage to custom work. Ask a custom builder what he would charge for a 6/4 titanium frame. A reputable builder would be close to, or more than, Litespeed.

Litespeed is able to do a lot more R&D work than a small custom builder. They can optimize tubesets, and better tune the ride of bikes than a custom builder is able to do. If you want an 853 custom steel bike, a custom builder is probably a good option. But for high-end ti, there really aren't custom builders with the know-how to design and weld them as well as Litespeed does.
Building bikes is hard work...Harry Hall
Oct 23, 2001 6:16 PM
Specific to their material, ti is more time-consuming and requires a larger equipment investment than steel. However, LS does still seem to make mistakes that a lot of steel builders don't--a Lyon, Sachs, or Davidson won't have a crooked brake bridge that I've seen on Ultimates and Palmares!
Very true...TJeanloz
Oct 24, 2001 7:11 AM
Lyon, Sachs and Davidson are perhaps the best American frame builders. Their bikes are, practically, flawless. But they have their drawbacks as well- try getting a Sachs a week after you order it. Could Litespeed build a bike as well as Richard Sachs does? I doubt it.
But does Sachs even build TI bikes???ColnagoFE
Oct 24, 2001 8:36 AM
Kinda like apples and oranges if you're comparing custom steel to TI. Davidson does I think...not sure about Lyon. If I was getting a custom TI I'd look long and hard at Spectrum...which is designed by Tom Kellogg and constructed by Litespeed/merlin.
Litespeed, Merlin and SpectrumAce
Oct 24, 2001 10:01 AM
A Litespeed is not a Merlin. There is common ownership, but not a common production line, materials, welding technique, geometry etc. Tom Kellogg thinks the new Merlin's are actually better than the old ones because of new plant and equipment that the new ownership was able to purchase. He is a perfectionist, and he used to have to send old Merlin's back all the time. That was in the days when all the Seven guys were still there. After the move, he checked out Merlin, Seven and IF and stayed with Merlin for producing his Spectrums. If you line up a Litespeed, a Merlin and a Spectrum the differences jump out at you. The detail and finish on the Spectrum is stunning and with Kellogg fitting you, you know it will be a perfect fit.
Oct 24, 2001 11:51 AM
You just keep telling yourself that they are different. they come out of the same plant. Made by the same workers. The differences are mainly cosmetic at this point.
re: Why does litespeed?Obiwan
Oct 23, 2001 7:34 PM
I agree with you that LS charges a bit much. They have convinced many that they are a superior frame builder though I have seen two examples of terrible workmanship from LS. One was a Vortex that they had made the chainstays too short to allow a standard 23c tire to fit. They "fixed" it by welding these ugly extentions on the stays. They should have made it right the first time, yes? The second is a Blade owned by a friend of mine and his rear triangle is just plain wrong. The dropouts are not even and they suck in when you tighten the skewer since LS did not space the stays correctly. Yea, that's some serious quality going on there! The whole 6/4 ti thing is just hype. All they do is roll and weld a full seam on a piece of sheet stock, big deal, and far easier than the seamless propriatory and size specific tubeset from say Serotta. But LS does one thing very well... sell the hype. Oh yea, did they not recently buy Merlin, fire all the workers and move the equipment to Tennessee? Seems Merlin's quality went south about that same time... Hmm...interesting.
re: Why does litespeed?Obiwan
Oct 23, 2001 7:35 PM
P.S. The first LS with the too short stays ended up breaking at the BB anyway.
Oct 24, 2001 3:36 AM
So this "Big company bought little company, and now the quality is poor" attitude seems to be really prevalent here - oddly enough, posts condemning the quality of the "new" Merlin's were being posted before the new product even hit the street! Now - I am not saying that the quality hasn't gone down, because I really don't know (don't have a series of pre- and post- buyout bikes to compare) - I suppose my question to you would be, how has the quality gone down? How do you know?

I personally have never seen defects on the order that you mention (extensions on the dropouts, messed up rear triangles, etc. - those seem a bit extreme!) - however, why did the owners even accept a frame which was messed up from the shop? when I am spending that kind of money on a frame, I go over everything with a fine toothed comb!

Sure Serotta makes nice bikes, too, and there is definitely no hype on their website... ;-) however - it's much cheaper to make a round, seamless 3/2.5 tube, than to work with 6/4 - as far as a welded seam - you can't see it. in a frame application it's not going to be a weak spot, so why does it even matter if it's there? As far as size specific, most manufacturers use different size tubes ("size specific") for different size bikes.

As far as defects go, it's a statistical sort of thing - the more product you sell, the more defects make it out the door (not saying that's an excuse, just sort of the nature of the beast).
Bad Assumptiongrzy
Oct 24, 2001 9:28 AM
> As far as defects go, it's a statistical sort of thing - the more product you sell, the more defects make it out the door (not saying that's an excuse, just sort of the nature of the beast).

That assumes that the defect rate is constant and that nothing can be done or learned as volume ramps up with increased production. This assumption flies in the face in how quality is looked at these days. If your process is "robust" and you fully understand all the variables then things should get better, much better. The LS model calls for agressively marketing mass produced frames in the exotic arena and making a tidy profit. Many builders in the exotic frame biz totally reject this concept claiming not enough indivual attention gets spent on the bikes.

Technical note:Dunno where you get your info, but it's far easier and cheaper to roll and weld tubing out of sheets than it is to produce seamless tubing. Grinding away the weld doesn't change the fact that the material is not uniform. The material is priced accordingly. You want seamless you're going to pay for it.
Not really what I meant...DrD
Oct 24, 2001 6:11 PM
Actually, it doesn't assume a constant defect rate - no process is perfect - defects can and will get through - the defect density can be managed and minimized via process improvement and more stringent test + eval, but you will never completely eliminate it. Maintaining very low straight numbers of defects becomes increasingly difficult as the volume goes up - statistically, the more you make, the more defective things you will make (that's why people like to thing in terms of %yield or %returns, rather than number of bad parts you found, and number of bad parts you missed, but someone else found). Are you saying that every frame produced by some shops is perfect? Seriously?

Material fab wise - true, all things being equal, welding sheet is likely going to be cheaper, but all things aren't equal here - we are talking about different materials - Ti 3-2.5, which is readily fabricable/drawable, and Ti 6-4, which is not (it's sort of an oddball amongst the alpha/beta ti alloys). I don't believe anyone is presently drawing butted 6-4 tubes (it would really be expensive) - I am also not so sure on the cost, either, when comparing drawing something like 3-2.5 and doing pretty much anything deformation wise to something like 6-4 - the bottom line, though, is that 6-4 is hard to work with - many of the frame shops can't even deal with it! (however, it is stronger, and will let you build a stronger, lighter frame) Also - I didn't say the material was uniform - it clearly is not - however, the weld along the tube is close enough (in terms of mechanical properties) to the bulk of the material that it will not, under the conditions experienced by a bike frame, be a source of weakness (and by that I mean early failure)

I would really be curious to see how long Litespeed actually takes to make a frame (in terms of the actual building process) as compared to other titanium frame manufacturers - the mindset here seems to be that they cut corners and spend much less time, but that's only one way to increase production - you could also increase the size of the workforce, increase the quality/throughput of the equipment, etc. - if I am not mistaken, Litespeed is a bigger outfit than many of the other ti frame shops... also, more capital (from higher sales) translates into more money to buy the latest and greatest equipment.

Litespeed is going to have a higher profit margin than many of the small shops for a number of reasons, and they don't have to include cutting corners. For every frame manufacturer, a part of the cost of the bike is going to be things like paying for fixed costs of the manufacturer, depreciation of processing equipment, advertising, etc. - as the volume goes up, the cost per frame of the above goes down. Similarly, increased volume get's you preferential treatment by suppliers, etc. (in terms of cost, quality, delivery times, etc.), again lowering the cost per frame. If you continue to charge what the market will bear, it follows that the profit margins go up - so at the end of the year, when Litespeed blows out old inventory, they do that because they can, and still make money - smaller outfits just can't compete in that way.
Oct 24, 2001 12:32 PM
The owners had to battle with Litespeed since the shops they were dealing with sucked. Litespeed wasn't much better. It is actually cheaper to roll sheet stock than to have a propriatary tubeset drawn and butted, so I don't know what you've been told. In fact you can see where it's been welded if you know how and where to look. Not pretty. Some, not all, manufacturers use an off the shelf size specific tubeset, while I used Serotta as an example of a company that uses a special tubeset available only to them. And they never miss with the dropouts. There are other good companys out there, but LS is not one of them. Having worked in the bicycle industry as long as I have I've seen a lot of frames, good, bad, outstanding. Litespeed has been one of the most unimpressive companys out there on many levels.
Oct 24, 2001 5:43 PM
Sorry to hear about the poor warranty support (sounds like the LBS had a big part in it, as well) - I have heard alot of positive stories, though.

I agree that In general it's cheaper to roll + weld sheet - however, drawing 6-4 is extremely difficult - it, unlike other alpha-beta titanium alloys (such as 3-2.5 for example) is very difficult to mechanically process/deform - that's why you generally don't see seamless 6-4 tubing - In this case, if you want to use the higher strength alloy, you are pretty much stuck with a seamed tube. Myself, I haven't seen the weld on my Ultimate or any of the the Ultimate/Palmares/Vortex at my local shop - I imagine it's either the leading or trailing edge of the blade on my downtube, but I don't notice it (and it certainly doesn't seem very apparent while I ride)

Tubing wise, Litespeed uses swaged/butted seamless 3-2.5 for many of their other frames (and most of the Ultimate) - and that's tubing they fabricate for themselves - so I suppose that everything they use also qualifies as "a special tubeset available only to them"

Sorry to hear you are so anti-Litespeed.
They even jumped on the carbon bandwagon this year tooMatt
Oct 24, 2001 12:07 AM
Litespeed Ultimates this year are coming with the now all too familiar carbon rear ends. It was cool last year when I was it done, but now that Supergo is producing Cinelli knock offs, it is common, and Litespeed is even slower on the draw than that. Why follow the trends? Why not come up with something truely unique and call THAT the Ultimate. Go for shaped tubing, or improve something, but don't copy two year old technology and act like you invented the wheel. Hell...even airborne is making a road bike with the carbon rear. By the way, they seem to have better quality control than American Titanium(which is the company that was created by Litespeed, Merlin, and Quintana Roo). We have a customers Litespeed Obed in our shop(first generation full suspension mass produced by Litespeed) that Litespeed wont even sell us parts for since Amp Research made the rear end on it. It needs a new rear shock, and they said since Amp made the rear-end it is their responsibility. Called Amp, and they just laughed at us and told us they regretted ever doing buisness with Litespeed. That is some great customer service. Now we look like asses because we are a Litespeed dealer. If you want truely quality ti, then look closer at moots or seven.
re: Why does litespeed?Leisure
Oct 24, 2001 1:56 AM
I actually kind of like Litespeed frames, even if I would buy something else for the money. Some aspects of Litespeed's marketing and pricing should be attributed to where they are in the market. R&D costs, bottom line. That cost is going to be passed on to customers, and on top of that when you buy any wildesque new frame you become a guinea pig. While some R&D is genius, the majority of it may as well be random. You'll see this trend on all levels of research, be it academic, military, medical, whathaveyou. But R&D has to happen, and it tends to happen with larger companies. They get credited with all the successes and failures because they could afford to do it first. If I could make an intuitive leap and observation, a lot of growing companies probably get jaded by the inconsistent fruits of what research inevitably yields, and arguably LS could be going through such a phase. When you're not sure what direction to go it gets really easy to sit on your laurels and let the profits be. I'm not saying be a loyalist one way or another. In fact, I'd argue just the opposite and just let the individual products stand up for what they are. Ultimately it's smart companies and smarter shoppers that make free-market economies work. If Litespeed is really guilty of all these things then let smart customers choose something better and Litespeed will snap to.
...because it can't slow down! :-) nmDog
Oct 24, 2001 8:13 AM
Yes, but you usually find them cheap right now anyway.nmk mand
Oct 24, 2001 8:14 AM
Are you really price shopping?Price shop
Oct 24, 2001 8:17 AM
IMO, people who think Litespeeds are too expensive haven't really price shopped them.

I got my Catalyst frame in '98 for $ 900; my partner got her Classic frame in 2000 for $ 1050. Those are very competitive prices for a ti frame, and you can build the entire bike with something great for $2000 - $2500. That's cheaper than some of the major manufacturers (Trek and Cannondale) prices for STOCK aluminum (not custom) bikes.

Colorado Cyclist was offering great prices on built out Classics and Vortexes earlier in the fall.

It is hard to blast LS pricing when several major US manufacturers are charging upwards of three grand for non-custom CF, AL, and Steel.
Stock sizing of LS framesEric
Oct 24, 2001 10:08 AM
One thing that really irks me about Litespeed is the stock sizing ranges they produce. They only build in 2cm increments with the exception of one model (used to be the Ultimate, this year it was the Palmares which had 1cm increments). For the prices they are charging, like $3000 for a Vortex, they should definitely be building stock frames with 1cm increments in size. This drawback kept me from buying a 2001 Vortex on sale. Why pay even $2K for a frame which might be a compromise in fit??
Then it would cost even more...TJeanloz
Oct 24, 2001 10:18 AM
The reason they only produce 2cm increments is to keep down their number of SKUs, thus keeping production costs lower. They do 1cm increments on the most expensive framesets because there is enough profit built into them to make it worth their while. But seriously, if they built every frame in 1cm increments, they'd have 96 SKUs in road bikes alone.

Litespeed has often been criticized for bringing ti to the masses (long before Airborne et. al. came along), and they've accomplished this by cutting production costs in this manner. Next, they'll go compact- further reducing costs.