Engineering genius or weird science? We swing a leg over Liteville's unique 301 to find out
Need to know
- 160mm of travel (140mm with different link)
- Sold as a frameset in six different sizes
- Full bike from £4,900
- Each frame size uses a different combination of wheel sizes
- Custom colour options available
There’s so much to say about Liteville’s 301 that I’m going to skip the preamble and get stuck right in. Available frame-only, the 301 is designed around the concept of scaled sizing, which means that while standover is kept low throughout the range, the top tube length, chainstay length and wheel size grow in proportion with the frame size. So, while the XS uses a 24in rear wheel, ultra-short 405mm chainstays and a 26in front wheel, the chainstays on the XXL are 55mm longer, and you get the choice of running either a 650b or a 29in rear wheel to go with the 29in front wheel.
For the most part it makes a lot of sense — varying the chainstay length with the front centre keeps weight distribution the same whatever the frame size — but we’re skeptical about the benefits of mixing and matching wheel sizes. Apart from the fact that it’s been tried before — both Trek and Specialized toyed with the idea during the early Noughties — we’ve never got on a 29er (or a 650b bike) and thought ‘what this bike really needs is a smaller rear wheel’. Thankfully, although our size large demo bike came with a mismatched 650b/26in combo, Liteville lets you run same size wheels front and back without any modifications.
“Compress the suspension and the links scissor upwards like the legs of a cricket”
Not only is the whole sizing model unique, the suspension design does an equally thorough job of breaking the mould. Actually, from the side, the 301 doesn’t look like a suspension bike at all. The shock is tucked up underneath the top tube and, actuated by a pair of particularly low-profile links, it really could be mistaken for a hardtail. Compress the suspension, though, and the links scissor upwards like the legs of a cricket. It’s certainly quirky, and it quickly acquired the unflattering nickname of the salami-slicer, but this design avoids excessive frame reinforcement by channelling bump forces along the top tube, rather than across the seat tube.
There are numerous clever details too, such as an integrated sag indicator that’s in plain view when you’re sitting on the bike, angled headset cups and even optional link plates (£109) to reduce the travel to 140mm. Engineering geeks will absolutely love it. But it’s a real shame that the high bottom bracket made it feel like it wanted to fall over in corners, and the soft, hyperactive suspension soaked up all our power.