The Liteville 301 MK 14 in a custom all-mountain configuration was convincing on the climbs in our group test of six high-end trail bikes but showed significant weaknesses when descending. Jo Klieber and Nathaniel Goiny, the developers of Liteville, couldn’t believe the result, and so after finding the fault, an extensive test of different setups of the Liteville 301 MK14 ensued.
It all started with a phone call; it was around 7 pm on a Tuesday evening when my phone rang, Jo Klieber was on the phone. The founder of the Liteville brand had just read our test report of his flagship 301 model – he couldn’t believe what it said. It was clear that the bike climbed well, but our words about the downhill performance almost left him speechless. The test report stated the following:
Once the trail points downhill, however, the magic comes to a disappointing end. The handling of the 301 MK 14 with the custom spec is very precise, which quickly turns nervous at higher speeds. In rough terrain you have to significantly reduce your speed and remain alert, as the bike seems to jump from left to right involuntarily. Contrary to what the geometry suggests, the bike is noticeably lacking in composure.
A verdict that we continue to stand behind for the custom bike we had in the group test – but as it turns out, it doesn’t apply to all of the Liteville 301 MK 14 configurations on offer.
Finding the fault – how did it come to that conclusion?
Shortly after the test, the bike went back to Liteville to be examined by Jo and his team. Two points could explain the nervous handling and our criticism of the suspension: The fork’s offset was too long, and the shock didn’t correspond to the standard version either. The solution for the shock was relatively simple: more volume spacers for added progression. To compensate for the unsuitable fork offset, Jo’s Team then installed the Syntace VarioSpin headset and slackened the head angle by 1.5° – since the head angle and offset directly influence each other; this is a suitable way to adjust the trail on the front wheel.
The second test – the changes deliver results
We hit the trails again on the tuned bike, but instead of Lake Garda, we rode our home trails in Bavaria and the Bikepark Samerberg. The changes made to the Liteville showed results, the MK 14 with 140 mm travel had noticeably more feedback on the rear end and convinced on flowing, winding trails with excellent balance and agile handling. However, the composure on high-speed, rooted sections was still not as good as we are used to on other bikes of this class. Often we had the impression of our posture being too compact on the bike and having too little room to move. The chainstays are quite short, which gives the bike very direct, agile handling – but at the cost of stability. The revised bike continued to climb well.
Frame length instead of frame height – Upsizing as a solution
For years Liteville has defined the size of their frames not by the length of the seat tube, but by the length of the front triangle. Thanks to the generally short seat tubes, it is possible to choose between three frame sizes for one bike: a smaller, very playful version, supposedly corresponding to body size, and a longer version. Since the 301 MK14 with 140 mm travel in L was still a bit too nervous for us, we decided to try the XL version – and it paid off! Even our smaller test riders at 178 cm felt much better on it.
It’s not only due to the extended front triangle but also to the increased chainstay length. They are 5 mm longer; together with the increased reach, this gives the bike much smoother handling. Although the XL is not quite as lively and agile in very narrow sections as the Large, it isn’t cumbersome in the least. Suddenly we were significantly faster, had more grip in open corners and more stability in steep terrain. Especially when things get steep, however, you get the feeling that the 140 mm travel FOX 34 fork dives too much and limits the bike’s performance – the next upgrade followed.
More travel = more fun
The last thing we wanted to know when testing the 301 MK 14 was how the bike would ride in the enduro configuration with 160 mm of travel. Replacing the FOX 34 with a 36 added a mere 230 g to the bike. Also, we exchanged the rocker link, which meant that the rear suspension now offered 160 mm of travel and the geometry was adapted to the longer axle to crown height of the fork – at no additional weight. After we adjusted the setup to the changed progression rate and removed some spacers under the stem, we hit the trail. The first time we got on the bike, we could already feel the difference: the rear end felt noticeably plusher even when the bike was stationary. But not to worry – we can reassure everyone who fears that in return the bike loses a lot of its uphill performance. Thanks to the steep seat tube angle, the sitting position with this setup is still very central, and the front wheel remains on the ground on even the steepest climbs. As with the 140 mm version, the rear end rocks slightly, but it doesn’t wallow and can also be completely locked out via the adjustment lever if need be.
The size XL Liteville 301 MK 14 in the 160 mm configuration and the 1.5° VarioSpin headset reveals its full strength on the descents. The difference to the bike from our group test could not be bigger. Nervous handling? Not here! The rear end works very sensitively, provides a lot of traction and still gives good feedback. In steep terrain, the bike inspires a lot of confidence. Unlike the 140 mm model, you feel integrated between the wheels, and the front remains high in its travel. Even on narrow sections, the bike lost almost none of its agility. The suspension offers plenty of feedback, and so you can easily jump or manual the bike through rollers and off ledges.
Upgrade Option – FOX FLOAT DPS instead of the RockShox shock
Liteville offers the FOX FLOAT DPS shock as an upgrade to the RockShox Deluxe. We compared them directly in the 140 mm configuration. The DPS shock gives the 301 an even plusher rear end, but at the same time provides a little less feedback, but found the support it offered adequate. With it the rear suspension is even more sensitive over small bumps, offering more comfort and grip.
The versatile and adaptable Liteville 301 MK 14 surprised us over the last few months. It climbs very efficiently, offers sensitive suspension, and a successful mix of composure and agility on descents. If in doubt, however, we recommend going for a larger frame size and the 160 mm travel setup. In this configuration, the bike can unfold its full potential, and the concept of the bike can be fully realised. The 140 mm travel version remains compromised.
More information on the Liteville website
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