Our long-term tester Ricky has persistently turned to her Liteville 301 Factory Machine for all her adventures in the past five months. Having covered more than 1,500 km and more than just a handful of enduro races, Ricky and the 301 are now inseparable. As she packs up her possessions for winter and flees to warmer climes, here’s an interim report.
Having covered the topic of customizing the 301 in her First Look article, Ricky rapidly got the bike up to meet her favoured spec: the Reverb seatpost’s bar-mounted lever disappeared on the underside of the bars at the left; the wheelset went tubeless even before the bike’s first outing; and the rear tyre was swapped for a 2.35″-wide Hans Dampf.
It took a while for Ricky to get used to the sense of the 30-42’s smallest gear being overgeared, but the initial judgment that 30-42 was too big a gear ratio eased with real world application as she took on steep climb after steep climb. And now? Well, she’s fairly happy with the 11-speed spec. Likewise the expensive and glaringly exposed SRAM X01 derailleur had given her sleepless nights, but the Syntace Rockguard does its duty like a paid one, and the derailleur is still intact, free from serious scratches and damage.
The RockShox PIKE forks felt too rigid for Ricky on her first outings, but once they were ridden in she felt they performed faultlessly. The Guide RSC brakes also meet her approval, with the simple tweaking to adjust the lever positions and biting point taking just seconds. Changing the brake pads takes some patience, she admits, as you have to repeatedly push the pistons back together and justify the brake calipers again.
The Syntace wheelset audibly makes itself known, proving reliable over the five months although a number of rear punctures have left the rims with a few dents. The loud freehub – while initially super welcome for Ricky and saw her deliberately freewheel past groups of other riders to save the need for a bell – is now more of an irritant. After all, women love to chat so the freehub just gets in the way of that. As a result, Ricky would suggest that this is a wheelset primarily aimed at riding solo.
As the Liteville 301 MK2 is compatible for a side swing front mech, it means that you’ll no longer have to fight with those nasty cables that run down the back of the seat tube when carrying the bike. A fact that in our eyes is another plus for its design as the side swing front mech is connected via the downtube.
Even though it pained Ricky to discard the pink saddle from the bike, she’s now far happier on the saddle of the black model for much longer. The Ergon SME-3 Pro in bikini-pink was sacrificed in favour of a Specialized Myth, which definitely delivers more fun on (and after) the trails. Ergon are clearly getting something right though, as the Ergon GE-1 grips have more than met her approval, losing just a touch of colour but performing faultlessly even in the wet.
Ricky was stoked to see that her latest incarnation of the Liteville 301 features two different wheel sizes, combining a 27.5″ at the front and a 26″ rear to lend the bike a tangibly smoother ride. The ScaledSizing design, now something of a Liteville trademark, is still one of her favourite features.
The Syntace cockpit with the short 40 mm stem and 760 mm Vector carbon bars with 10 mm rise give her an upright position and ample feedback. On steep climbs it’s all under control and she never feels that it’s necessary to press down further at the front. However, Ricky is yet to test the bike out in the rear DuoLink position in unison with a 27.5″ rear wheel.
How it climbs
The 301’s rear is lovely and calm on climbs, so even when she’s churning her up way up an ascent the bike retains its smooth nature. Ricky prefers to take long climbs with the rear shock on lock-out, which means even less sag and gives her the sense of more effective pedaling. The shock is re-opened once she’s back on more technical trails, so she can exploit the increased traction.
Handling and suspension
Super stable on speedy descents, the Liteville 301 shows no sign of nervousness. It keeps smooth over small bumps but keeps more than enough in reserve to roll over roots and rock gardens. On tight, twisty turns and hard cornering the 301 knows exactly where it wants to go, and gets there on autopilot. Once you’ve set the right sag, it keeps planted on climbs – although Ricky had some teething trouble to nail the sag, which meant it continued to settle too far into its travel at the beginning. 30 % sag has proven ideal for the bike park, but she prefers a stiffer 20 % on proper rides. Given her low weight, she chooses to ride the rebound damping almost completely open on both the fork and rear shock, which means consecutive hits are gobbled up willingly.
How it is coping
The frame is still intact, showing no signs of usage. Everything runs effortlessly, and there’s no play yet. However, the first three months took their toll on the Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyre, leaving the side lugs pretty wrecked, with sealant ‘sweating’ out of the sidewalls so Ricky had to refill the tyre frequently. According to Schwalbe, the latest generation should have eliminated this issue. The SRAM chain is still a few kilometres below its wear threshold, which is surely down to the many metres of vertical descent that have gone unpedalled.
A look to the future
Before the couple head south for winter, Ricky is going to get the RockShox PIKE and the Monarch rear shock serviced. Well on schedule, she’s already had the Reverb Stealth dropper post from SRAM serviced just a few days ago. The frame will also get another covering of clear protective lacquer, as La Palma’s volcanic rock is notoriously aggressive.
We are curious to find out how the bike holds it own on the island and how Ricky’s final verdict will be.
Photos: Andreas Maschke/Ricky Westphal/Christoph Bayer Words: Ricky Westphal
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