Construction and Features What's new?
We reviewed Liteville's 301 MK 14
two years ago and our review bike, the MK 15, looks like an identical twin at a glance. So, what's new? For starters, its aluminum frame uses a new, stronger alloy that Liteville is reluctant to divulge. The only hint may be in the welding, which has transitioned from merely excellent to outstanding - some of the best I've seen in my life. Liteville says the size medium frame weighs only 2760 grams without a shock, which meets or beats the claims of many carbon rivals in the 160-millimeter-travel arena.
The swingarm has been reconfigured to provide more chain clearance, and there are two positions for the rear swingarm pivot that allow owners to run either a 29 or a 27.5-inch wheel without significantly affecting the bottom bracket height or frame angles. That means you can configure the 301 with mixed wheel sizes or, using a Syntace "Level Link" headset spacer, switch to 27.5-inch on both ends (More about that later).
Geometry has changed as well, with a longer reach, a longer wheelbase, a slacker head tube angle and a steeper seat tube angle. The chainstay length has been lengthened slightly too, about six millimeters, depending upon the frame size. (Liteville alters the chainstays to correspond to each of the 301's five size offerings.) Great news, skip to the riding impressionsWhich features carry over?
Liteville's list of stand-out features is long. Some have been available as aftermarket upgrades, like needle bearings for the shock bushings and adjustable-angle headset cups. The 301 also shares its offset rear triangle and dishless rear wheel concept with Cannondale, and it's rare, but a handful of bike makers also alter the frame geometry and chainstay lengths for each frame size to ensure consistent handling and climbing performance.
Liteville's engineers also account for a number of firsts. They were the first bike maker to adapt their frame design for an integrated dropper post, with the award winning Eightpins design. Its X-12 axle uses tapered collets to cinch the axle in tension and torsion, and the 301's Type-3 derailleur hanger, with its breakaway bolt, offers a much stiffer, better shifting alternative that also protects the derailleur more effectively.
The deeper you look, the more you'll discover: the spare hanger bolt in the swingarm yoke; the Allen/Torx wrench that stowes into the rear axle fits almost every screw on the bike; the oil port on the seat collar which lubricates the dropper post; its virtually invisible cable and hose routing; the cable access/storage door under the downtube; and perhaps you'll notice that every piece of its titanium, aluminum and stainless steel hardware is designed specifically for its application, and accompanied by a torque specification. The list goes on, but the message is that, by themselves, few of these enhancements would generate much fanfare. Together, however, they make the 301 an impressive machine.