Litespeed refines its gravel game with the new Watia titanium frame
Litespeed is continuing to iteratively improve its titanium gravel offerings with a new frame called Watia. In a first for Litespeed, the Watia features a solid semi-yoke chainstay section that’s also welded lower down on the bottom bracket shell, providing a bit more drivetrain and tire clearance than before (and it also looks super trick). Interestingly, though, stated maximum tire clearance remains the same at 700×45 mm or 650×53 mm, although that doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
“You’re exactly right with the numbers,” said Brad DeVaney, who leads design and development at Litespeed’s parent company, American Bicycle Group. “When comparing to our older designs, tire clearance is decreased at the seatstay, increased at the chainstay, and the bike is capable of larger tires.”
Elsewhere on the frame, the 3AL/2.5V straight-walled titanium tubes are more heavily shaped than before with more dramatically ovalized ends at the seat tube and bottom bracket, and the seatstays are also more widely spaced at the seat cluster. That plate-style chainstay yoke also makes for fewer bends out back, all of which suggests a stiffer chassis and a more responsive feel.
“Design goals were more precise than the generalizations that may appear on the surface,” DeVaney said. “The initial goal of this bike was a style and fabrication challenge that had been burning in me for a bit. Loving some of the composite styling in the market, I simply wanted a wider seatstay that blended into the top tube. We wanted new style and function. I’ve been super turned on by the wide stay, clean top tube / seat tube / seatstay junctions we enjoy on some of the latest molded bikes.”
Interestingly, Litespeed is giving buyers their choice of internal or external cable routing — depending on if they want a cleaner look or a setup that’s easier to service — as well as a Di2-specific internal setup. A PF30 bottom bracket comes stock, but there’s also an optional upgrade for a narrow-format T47 threaded setup (which I would highly recommend). Coming standard regardless are three water bottle mounts (two inside the main triangle, and one under the down tube), and front and rear fender mounts.
Geometry is altered a bit from the current gravel model as well, with a slightly shorter reach and taller stack figures on the larger sizes for a more upright riding position, subtly slackened head tube angles for additional steering stability, and a more varied range of bottom bracket drop with the smaller sizes going lower, but the larger ones growing taller. Chainstay length remains constant at 430 mm throughout the five-size range, with an additional XS size planned for the near future.
As with all Litespeed titanium frames, the Watia is built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and is offered in a wide range of configurations. A bare frame with external routing retails for US$2,350. A Watia frame with internal routing is a bit more expensive at US$2,649, and the matching fork in either case will tack on another US$445 with fender mounts only, or US$490 with both fender and rack mounts.
“We have kept price in check with precision straight-wall tube spec,” DeVaney explained. “One of the lesser-known capabilities of Litespeed is that we refine tube walls as we begin the build process on every single tube or every model we make. Aerospace standards for titanium tubing can range a bit more than we’re comfortable with. Using that tubing to create cycling specific tubes (shape and wall thickness), we take it a bit more granular and vary wall standards based on frame size. We create our tube designs, make our tooling, and define our processes to make each given tube. Not all frame builders have this capability.”
Complete builds start at US$3,500 with Shimano GRX 400, Sun-Ringle Charger Comp wheels, and external routing, and top out at US$5,425 with Shimano GRX 810 Di2, the same wheelset, and internal routing. Other options like that T47 threaded bottom bracket shell, rear rack mounts, and top tube feed bag mounts are priced a la carte.
I’m admittedly pretty curious here. Should we bring one in for review? Let us know in the comments below.
Additional information is available at www.litespeed.com.