2004 Litespeed Solano
Finally. A Litespeed titanium bike.
Yeah, we know. Can’t really call it a “bike museum” if we’re going to let the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s fade away without making a mention of Litespeed titanium.
At the 1992 Olympics road race, nearly every bike on the start line was made out of steel. At the start of the Athens games in 2004, nearly every racing bike was made out of carbon fiber.
All of the bike races and years in between? Titanium ruled (but you may not have noticed).
Why would you have missed titanium’s reign? Probably because a painted titanium bike looks an awful lot like a steel one.
For some examples, let’s talk Lance Armstrong. So it’s the mid ‘90’s and Lance is racing for the Motorola team. Motorola rides Eddy Merckx steel bikes (and for one year Merckx bikes labeled as Caloi), only sometimes Lance has a Litespeed titanium frame under that Motorola team paint job.
Another example: It’s the 1999 Tour de France and Mr. Armstrong needs a time trial bike. Trek, his team’s bike sponsor didn’t make a time trial bike in 1999, so Lance does his thing aboard a painted Litespeed Blade.
Finally unmasked (or at least not painted), Litespeed’s brilliantly shiny frames got the world’s attention in 2002 with the Lotto-Adecco team. That year Robbie McEwen even won the green points jersey at the Tour de France aboard his Litespeed Vortex.
This bike? This is a Litespeed Solano from 2004. It’s made in America. It’s tough and it’s light. The plain metal tubes may make for an understated appearance, but there’s really no need for paint on it since titanium doesn’t rust and in this instance nobody needs to hide who actually made the frame.
The frame, made out of the 3/2.5 blend titanium tubes, weighs about the same as one made from carbon fiber. Being the early 2000’s, carbon fiber has to have a place somewhere on this bike, so we have a fork, rims, seatpost, handlebar and stem made out of the molded black fabric.
This bike is outfitted with the excellent Shimano Ultegra 6600 component group. The 20-speed group is smooth and precise, the shift cables are easy to replace (the cables don’t run under the handlebar tape or through the frame), and the caliper brakes are powerful and easy to maintain. This Solano comes from one of the last model years where it wasn’t socially acceptable among roadies to have a compact crankset, so the bike is outfitted with the standard Ultegra crank that has the 39 and 53 tooth chainring combination.