Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Litespeed Toccoa [travel bike]

Note: The bike has since been tweeked and will
be undergoing a major refit summer 2009.

The Problem: I work and live overseas. I soon found out that traveling with a full sized bike is a real hassle. On my first trip to Venezuela, my bike was left at CCS because it couldn’t make the commuter flight into the interior. Fortunately, it made it on a later flight, but then and there I knew I needed a bike which would travel easier. One I could take with me back and forth to the USA or wherever I wanted to go.

A Possible Solution: It was during this first year living overseas that I thought about retro-fitting my old trusty Merlin with S & S bicycle torque couplings. Ultimately I could not bring myself to hack my buddy in two halves. I didn’t trust any frame-builder to do the job. If someone was going to do it, they had to do it right or I’d lose my favorite bike.

Experimenting: This project/idea was put on hold for a few of years. I tried other options like riding my road bike exclusively [see Bridgestone post], borrowing a friend’s mountain bike; I crashed hard and hyper-extended my elbow, due to radical geometry. And once I tried renting a mountain bike which turned out to be a performance pig, and I crashed hard due to a weird mushy feel due to heavy wheels, and a cheap, non-responsive suspension fork. None of these options were an adequate solution.

Problem #2: In the following spring (2006), I started getting a wild idea of buying a high quality travel bike. At first I was thinking of a Dahon Flo. It seemed a good design; high-end steel, quality components, designed by Joe Murray, etc. I found a shop on eBay selling them, and almost bought one, but my research found that the Flo travel bike had a weight limit of 230 lbs. Being a Clydesdale rider [about 215 – 220 lbs (98 – 100 kg)], I decided I needed another option. It was back to titanium.

The Solution: I am a big fan of titanium. I like it for its strength, lightweight, and ride quality, plus I like the look of titanium. I needed a Ti bike that I could convert into a folding bicycle.

The Quest for Ti: Working from Venezuela, and with a fairly quick Internet search, I found a complete 2000 Litespeed Toccoa for a very good price. After many e-mails, a phone call, and a leap of faith, I sent the guy a cashier’s check. I made an arrangement with Bilenky Cycle Works in Philadelphia and I asked the seller to send it there instead of my USA address. Bilenky hacked and retrofit the bike with S & S bicycle torque couplings then sent the bike on to New Mexico.

First Impressions: When I got home [my New Mexico hometown], the bike was waiting for me at the bike shop where I assembled it for the first time. That afternoon I rode it offroad for the first time up on Boston Hill. My first riding impression was very good. The bike seemed unstoppable. I found the Litespeed a great riding bike…smoother than the Merlin and still very light even with the big couplers; about 23.5 lbs. It climbs like a goat and it descends like a rocket on rails. It is firmly in the super bike category.

A Real Travel Bike: So far it has been to the all over Venezuela, including the Venezuelan Andes, the hills around Caracas, and a border run into Brazil to get sugar [an ongoing Venezuela problem]. On travels, it has been all over the mountain trails of New Mexico, the mountains and deserts of Arizona, the Colorado Rocky mountains, deciduous forest trails of Kansas and Missouri, Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle, and a supported trans-Scotland tour.

Conclusion: It’s great to be able to pack a bike into an airline legal 26” x 26” x 10” case and fly with it at no charge. The retrofit has paid for itself in bicycle fees already. It has traveled by Venezuelan buses and taxis, and it easily fits in the trunk of my small car and goes anywhere we go. It is a very cool bike. My mom says it is the best [bicycle] purchase I have ever made. I agree…but then, I like all of my bikes.

Litespeed Packed in it's case

Case Closed!

Update: (19-09-09): I had the Litespeed totally rebuild this summer. Now the only original piece is the frame.

Riding the Winsor Trail near Santa Fe, NM

The Toccoa has all new parts, only the frame is original.
- Frame: 2000 Litespeed Toccoa retrofit w/ S & S couplers
- Fork: 2009 RockShox SID Team (big improvement!)
- Handlebar: Groovy Cycles titanium "Luv Handles" (~660 mm)
- Grips: WTB clamp-on
- Brakes/levers: Avid Ultimate with Ti bits
- Stem: FSA 110
- Headset: Chris King
- Shifters: 2009 XT

- Derailleurs: 2009 XT front, XT Shadow rear

- Cassette: XT - Crankset: RaceFace Deus
- Pedals: XTR
- Chain: XTR
- Seatpost: Thomson Elite (black)

- Saddle: WTB Pure V Team, leather cover w/ Ti rails
- Wheelset: XT centerlock, DT spokes, WTB Dual Duty rims
- Tires: WTB MutanoRaptors
- Cables: XTR

weight: ~24 lbs, 4 oz. (not too bad considering the S & S couplings)


AlTheGud1sRTaken said...

awesome! sometime in the distant future i'd like to get a pack up style travel bike to tour the world with

Mimbres Man said...

Thanks! Its definitely a great bike. I am real proud of it since I semi-created it.