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Litespeed Bikes: Made in the USA

Before Litespeed Bicycles created bicycle frames, it was a high-end machine shop that specialized in producing exotic metals. The business in Chattanooga, Tennessee was called Southeast Machine.

They manufactured a variety of items anywhere in between custom nuts and bolts for nearby companies and government-commissioned underground tanks that used liquid gunpowder. This family-owned business was run by mom and dad, their daughter, and their three sons.

After encountering a running injury, the oldest son was told he needed to ride bikes to get around instead of running to which he was accustomed. When he went to look for one, he couldn’t find a bike that he liked from the local shops, so he decided to build his own from the titanium in his family’s store.

Eventually, the two elder brothers created a bicycle frame and decided to take it to their local bike shop to buy an attachable fork. Though their metalwork was initially laughed at by the shop owners, word eventually spread, and a few regional athletes asked about their bicycles. Soon, Southeast Machine was spending the weekends producing bike frames.

In 1986, the family decided to present two of their titanium frames at the bicycle show in Long Beach, CA. They received overwhelmingly positive responses at the show and needed to decide on a name for themselves. One of the suggestions for their light and fast bicycles was “lightspeed,” which was later changed to “Litespeed.”

The family business quickly gained a notable reputation as a titanium manufacturer. Litespeed began crafting frames for renowned bicycle brands such as Rocky Mountain, DeRosa, Marin, Tommasini, Mrckx, Basso, and Alpinestars. They even manufactured titanium components for NASA’s Mars Rover.

By working with and providing parts for these powerhouses in the bike industry, Litespeed learned about various design philosophies. They soon put into practice creating and selling their own bicycle frames and components. Litespeed is now considered one of the world leaders in bicycle innovation and pushes the boundaries in cycling technological development.

Just two years after its business came into existence, Litespeed received the “Best of Cycling” award from Bicycle Guide magazine. In 2007, they received the Silver Award for their Archon road bicycle at Eurobike in Germany, the show’s highest design prize. The business was then inducted into Bicycling Magazine’s “Gear Hall of Fame” in 2011.

Most recently, Litespeed was selected by the White House as Tennessee’s representative for its “Made in America” showcase on the White House lawn, which heralded American brands that are crafted with U.S.-made products.

For over 30 years, their innovative design has aimed to set a high bar for titanium bikes worldwide. They take pride that their frames are all handcrafted in America at the same place where it all started.

Our Favorite Litespeed Bikes Made in the USA

Waita: Named after Watia Creek, deep in North Carolina’s Nantahala National Forest, it’s an off-the-grid beautifully inconvenient natural wonder. This is exactly why Litespeed has named their latest creation after it, because it’s a wildly capable gravel bike, ideal for weekend escapes. This technologically advanced titanium bike is available internally or externally routed or just as a frame. It breaks normal conventions of gravel riding and offers speed, comfort, and tire clearance to handle any adventure. 

Cherohala: There are two versions of the Cherohala, one is all-road and one is a city bike. Both are made from lightweight titanium and capable of comfortable all-day rides, bikepacking, and, weekend adventures. The city bike is ideal for commuting, running errands, or weekend rides around the bay. Whilst the all-road version is for those looking to hit more gravel and dirt roads in their free time. 

Ultimate: Litespeed’s team of craftsmen has really pushed the envelop to create a technologically-advanced titanium road racing machine. The Ultimate is a pro-level performance race bike with a handcrafted balance of geometry that delivers quickness, out-of-saddle stiffness but responsive, light, climbing acumen. 

Pinhoti III: The Pinhoti III is the latest edition of LiteSpeed’s classic Pinhoti handcrafted titanium hardtail trail bike. Not named lightly, this bike needed to live up to its namesake in Tennesse’s rich mountain biking heritage. The Pinhoti Trail is a track within the Chattahoochee Forest where riders are challenged with off-camber banking, roots, tacky forest dirt, and rock gardens. This bike has been carefully designed to be the pinnacle of pure trail excellence and handle the most challenging – and fun – mountain biking. 

Manufacturing Notes

Despite going for 35 years, Litespeed maintains its exacting quality and design standards throughout. It has a team of experts in both manufacturing and cycling, some of which were the ones to help design and craft some of the original bikes. Over the years, they’ve continued to innovate, test, and develop American-made bikes that deliver the best ride experience possible. 

They take great pride that their titanium frames are American-made and that their bikes are handcrafted from their factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Though their non-frame components are not made in the USA, Litespeed Bikes are devoted to quality, aiming to create bikes that will last a lifetime rather than their competitor’s consumable bikes with a limited lifespan.

Instead of using softer and lesser quality titanium to make their frames like many other bike frame companies, Litespeed gained popularity by using premium cold-worked, cycling-specific tubesets to build their frames. Though cold-worked titanium is much more difficult to work with, the team of master craftsmen continues to use it to create pro-tier performance bikes that are fine-tuned by hand for an unrivaled ride experience. 

In cold-working the titanium, the tubesets are shaped to achieve targeted performance gains without sacrificing strength or adding compensation weight. The cold-worked tubesets perform better on trails or the road because it has improved aerodynamics and increased damping where it’s needed. 

If you’re looking for a predominantly USA-made lightweight titanium bike built to last a lifetime that has the history, awards, and accolades to back up its quality, then look no further than Litespeed Bikes. 

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