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Billy Thackray’s Liteville 301 Review | Committed

A man who has played the dilettante card for quite some time, but what happened to the hardtail hero with the ubiquitous pasty on the dashboard? Simple, he has risen to Web Editor and rides the finest hardware. Some questions on his long term ‘committed’ (where we try to match bikes to people and the type of riding that they do) Liteville.

From Dirt Issue 134 – April 2013

Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Ben Winder.

OK Billy, straight down the line with this? Before the foreplay was the…

Well, what happened was…the SRAM mob dangled a pimped carbon Specialized S–Works Enduro shaped carrot at me last year as an XX1 test bed teaser. Complications in the kitchen led to the root vegetable treat morphing into an object that to the untrained eye looked like a very sharp and efficient testicle removal machine – the Liteville 301 Mk10.

Committed though?

This was a forced marriage that got off to a rather rocky and nervous start at the altar. But as I found out later, the old adage about not judging books or indeed carrots or testicles by their looks is true.

You’ve been at this game a while now; you can no longer play the dilettante card right?

It’s my favourite card in the deck. Suits me. I’m only playing with the hand I was dealt with see. Yes of course. Dabbler and dilettante all the way, I have real commitment but do lack the knowledge.

How long have you had this pony?

It is indeed a Shetland of the wheel size (26”) but a horsier stallion in attributes. But I’m glad you bought up the subject of horses early on. Long before it was fashionable, I had been taking large amounts of horse–based tranquilisers to ease the jitters. Whoaaa boy. Just say neigh. I have stopped recently though (pulled up) but this has clearly impeded (or stampeded) my sensory perception to the finer handling characteristics of bicycles. Just so you know to take that into account during the following. Giddy up.

Is this the right amount of travel for you?

Good question. What is the right amount? How much is too much? When do you say no? A 120mm 29er seemed too little. Haven’t ridden a big DH sled in years. 150mm front and back sounds like a good bet. But it depends on the platform doesn’t it? A good 140mm is better than a bad 160mm. The majority of my riding or hacking is off–piste local trails (don’t go looking ‘cos you’ll piste them off), two–minute descents, thirty–minute climbs, bit of chat. Three hours and then home for tea.

And to answer the question? OK look, are there occasions when you need more/less?

I’m not a subtle rider by any means; bit of a plough–er to be honest with you, not so elegant in the air (I’ve been called the Flying Woodpecker) but partial to a drop–to–flat (Dead Woodpecker) so 160 is a comfortable number. I can climb with that too.

You’ve a big history of hardtails. Have you grown out of that now?

Is it an oxymoron that I’ve got a soft spot for a hardtail? Yes, you get battered to shit on some rides but I like that in a masochistic way. No bobage. No links. And I do love the simple aesthetics of the double diamond frame. That’s probably why I’m growing to appreciate the looks of the Liteville 301 more.

Lets start with basics. What’s this bike about? What’s its nature?

An all day–er piss about. Uplift. Enduro. All–Mountain. It will do them all. Versatile. Don’t be fooled by its apparent XC looks. Basically it’s a bloody light, stiff, well put together 160mm bicycle that wants to be thrashed. It’s expensive mind you, €2148 for the frame alone. So maybe it’s not going to appeal to someone who wants to just piss about then. Boutique chic. Sublime craftsmanship with exquisite attention to detail. All of which I didn’t really appreciate until the aforementioned sedatives began to wear off.

A good bike relies on suspension design, angles and damping. Torben at SRAM has really has done you a beautiful tune here.

It’s music to my ears. All good as far as the RockShox Monarch RT3 goes. Torben says he just gave it the standard Liteville tune. The shock bushings run on needle bearings too. Silky. RS Lyrik has been ‘fit and forget’. The lads at SRAM set it up and it’s been untouched since. Probably because I don’t know what I’m doing.

Angles good?

A low BB and 66º’ish head angle, 1188mm wheelbase. Good, but something just wasn’t quite right for me and my limbs. I felt slightly pitched over the front. Why is that? I’d like to try some offset hardware to slacken her out a touch. Kind of felt like the front centre needed to be a touch longer for me. The S Works Enduro is about the same wheelbase but shorter chainstays and longer front end. Or maybe should have tried an XL. Bear in mind this is the MK10 frame and I believe the MK11 has 1.5 degrees adjustment on the head angle.

A very versatile bike, very light, with impeccable damping, supportive, supple, you couldn’t ask for better surely?

Come on, we all want more. Oliver Twist. The Wonderstuff. Augustus Gloop.

Has your experience of riding 650Bs tainted your view of this bike? And how was it when you tried it in a 650B mode?

Oh yes most definitely. I spent two weeks on the Cube Stereo 650B just before the Liteville arrived and it had a profound effect on me. It gave me an erection. Long, low and slack. The bike, not my manhood. Loved it the minute I rode it. Other 650B bikes have given me a similar sense of arousal. That reassuringly confident feel of control when you’re feet up two–wheel drifting through the wet shit is insane. I tried bolting on 650B wheels to the Liteville, which turned it in to a bit of a rocket ship, a rocket ship with a slightly higher BB and a touch slacker. Though mud clearance on the chainstay was an issue with the 2.35 Hans Dampf. Clogged up in the thick mud. A 650B/26” set–up a la the old Big Hit could be the way forward. What do you reckon?

Thought you liked it rough, you like it flawed. The truth is 26” is not good enough any more is it Billy? There’s an argument here that stinks of ‘ungrateful’ possibly?

Yes, sorry, do I come across as ungrapefruit? The Liteville is an amazing bike, especially so with this SRAM build. Yes, there was initial scepticism, but we’re getting on well with just some tweaks to sort out. It’s very nearly there for me. Bloody hell, I’m a fussy bugger aren’t I? I want, I want. Just need it slightly slacker and slightly longer on the front centre. That’s what the feeling is – 10mm here, a degree there. This build weighs in at 29lbs with mud on it.

Any shape to this eleven speed SRAM stuff then?

Bloody quiet. No chain device plus a clutch makes this a stealth machine. I’ve been on a rapid wearing program with this XX1 kit with a very lackadaisical approach to maintenance, but despite this abuse and three months of wet grit the thing still works fine. Shifting is still precise. Operation is silent. Only lost the chain once and that was last weekend when the 650B wheels were fitted. Might be a connection there. Jockey wheel needed a bit of unseizing.

Are you sold on less gears?

I like running. You know, with shorts and daps. So am really not bothered about standing up cranking the old girl up hill rather than sitting down spinning. But 42 on the rear is a welcome relief when the legs are burning.

Verdict?

I skim, skim like a stone skimming over a troubled pond. Then…plop. Gone. Yes, of course, bikes should be fun. Make you whoop and shout.

So is it fun?

On or off the horse pills?

Oh god I’m confused, what is it?

I’m confused too, you’ve made me think too much, I’m not good at thinking. Did any of the above make sense? Should I go back on the horse pills? Or back on a hardtail? Well, dilettante or not I reckon I’m going to stick at this Liteville and make it work for me one way or another.

Footnote: Clearly this needs some kind of translation. The bottom line on the Liteville is that it’s one of the best 160mm bikes we have ridden. The detail is in the fact that, OK Billy might be between sizes on this bike and his prior dabbling with faster ponies, them being of 650 breeding, has clouded the vision slightly. The construction is of sound integrity, as are the angles. Having gone to some length to equip the bike with 650B wheels we were disappointed to find clearance very limited on the rear deeming the bike pretty much 26” only, or 26/650. We’d love to see this bike ready to rock the bigger wheel front and rear.

Want a Liteville? Go to www.evolutionimports.co.uk

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