MOUNTAIN BIKE ACTION - USA
Litespeed is a brand that’s almost synonymous with titanium frames. Established in 1986 as a machine shop capable of working with what back then was considered a very exotic new material, Litespeed grew alongside Merlin, the only other company building titanium bikes at the time. Lightspeed’s bikes quickly became renowned for their light weight and responsive handling, and the company established a reputation for working with this aerospace-grade material that was unmatched to that point.
Titanium bikes hold a special place in the hearts of the Mountain Bike Action crew. They’re not necessarily the lightest or most technologically advanced machines on the trail anymore, because carbon fiber and other alloy technologies have chipped away at the technological advantage of titanium, but we love the “signature springy and lively” feel that only a well-built titanium bike can deliver. We set out to see if Litespeed still has what it takes to build a truly remarkable bike.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Pinhoti is built as a cross-country bike with a tight geometry that’s designed around 29-inch wheels. The hardtail frame is designed to feel fast with oversized tubes yet feel compliant thanks to the forgiving titanium material. The Pinhoti is a fast and nimble bike that would feel right at home on a cross-country racecourse, but would also feel comfortable on an all-day ride so as long as the trails are relatively smooth and flowy. The ideal rider for the Pinhoti will value craftsmanship and ride quality alongside tried-and-true geometry over “flash in the pan” suspension or material innovations.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Pinhoti is a brand-new model for 2015, and what makes it new is the blend of titanium alloy used. Whereas other Litespeed models use a 6-4 blend of titanium, which essentially means they are built with 6 percent aluminum and 4 percent vanadium blended into the alloy, the Pinhoti is built from the more conventional 3-2.5 blend, which means less of the aluminum and vanadium are blended in. Without getting into the metallurgy too much, Litespeed’s 6-4 bikes have a higher tensile strength, which Litespeed claims makes for a stiffer and lighter frame. The Pinhoti’s 3-2.5 titanium alloy, by contrast, is easier to work with and less expensive, making the price tag much more appealing.
The Pinhoti is built with a 3–4-inch (80–100-millimeter) fork in mind and features aggressively butted and shaped oversized tubing throughout. The bike also features a Press-Fit bottom bracket, tapered head tube, and 12×142-millimeter dropout.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The U.S.-built titanium frame is the standout here. The Pinhoti features old-school craftsmanship and blends it with new-school features like a sculpted and oversized tubeset, a tapered head tube, and a PF30 bottom bracket. The Pinhoti is built for the long haul, but that doesn’t mean it has to look like it was built a long time ago. The frame alignment and finish quality are top-notch, something that’s extremely difficult to execute with titanium as a base material. Whereas comparably priced carbon frames are all popped out of a mold by the hundreds with exacting precision, it takes a craftsman to make a titanium bike that’s not crooked and flexy. The Pinhoti delivers a dialed finished product that’s worthy of the Litespeed name.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
There’s little question that the most efficient pedaling machine out there is a hardtail, but the Pinhoti answered the question with a fast and racy feel that impressed even our most skeptical racers. While there are carbon bikes out there that deliver more lateral stiffness, there are very few, if any, titanium hardtails out there that feel this fast. Thank the oversized subset. Thank the steep geometry. Or, thank the 29er wheels. The bottom line is that when the rider pushes the pedals, this thing moves.
The Pinhoti is built for rugged trails, like the 300-mile North Carolina singletrack network it’s named after. The bike is light, stiff, and responsive, which means power is transferred to the pedals efficiently and effectively. The neutral geometry keeps the rider in a strong feeling position, and the bike begs to be pedaled faster up the hill.
The Pinhoti is a sharp-handling bike with a relatively steep head angle, and that keeps it feeling quick through corners whether uphill or down. While the bike doesn’t lend confidence on the fastest-sweeping corners, it’s very at home picking and choosing a line quickly through technical turns.
Titanium is said to have a built-in suspension feel, because the material is not as rigid as aluminum or carbon. While the Pinhoti delivers a comfortable ride on the descents, it doesn’t offer the comfort and control of a suspension bike. That said, however, the Pinhoti handled smooth and flowy descents with a quick and confidence-inspiring feel that our test riders praised. The buttery feel of the titanium frame delivers a connected feel that few other bikes can provide.
On more technical descents, the Pinhoti is confident yet unforgiving. The bike is not exactly “twitchy,” but its quick-handling nature requires the rider to be on point at all times through rough sections. The relatively short chainstays, short stem and wide bar will help you navigate through technical trails, but the Pinhoti won’t do the work for you.
Litespeed chose SRAM’s Guide brakes for this bike, which deliver a tremendous amount of power for a lightweight hardtail like this. Riders looking to save precious grams should look into a lighter option, like SRAM’s XX1 single-piston, cross-country brake, because for most riders, it will deliver adequate power. For riders who want to use the Pinhoti as a trailbike, though, the Guide brakes are right at home.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The Pinhoti features Litespeed’s Multi-Wheel Compatible (MWC) system enables the Pinhoti to be run with 29-, 27.5- or 26-inch wheels via an adjustable bottom bracket that allows riders to change wheel sizes without compromising geometry too much. While this feature may give riders the option to slowly adapt to a larger wheel format from their 26ers, realistically, we don’t see anyone using this feature. Ride this bike like the 29-inch-wheeled machine it was meant to be right from the start.
The Pinhoti is a fast-feeling U.S.-made dream bike with a price tag to match. Ideal Pinhoti riders will prize the craftsmanship of Litespeed titanium as much as they prize the ride quality. This is a dialed hardtail with a feel that’s much more than a carbon copy of a bike from mountain biking’s early years. The Pinhoti sports serious features, like an aggressively oversized tubeset, tapered head tube, oversized bottom bracket, and thru-axle rear end to keep the performance high. We appreciate that Litespeed includes these high-performance features alongside the creature comforts of a quick-handling geometry and supple ride quality that only a titanium bike can deliver. The Pinhoti is not afraid to deliver the performance racers and serious trail riders demand with the craftsmanship and tasteful looks purists lust after.