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Pro bikes, April 13, 2007

Geoff Kabush's Team Maxxis Litespeed Sewanee LS

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Photo ©: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Ultra-fast and plush for the Canadian speedster

By James Huang in Monterey, California

Team Maxxis rider Geoff Kabush
Photo ©: James Huang
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Who needs an inner chainring?
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Crank Brothers' featherweight Egg Beater Four Ti pedals
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The new Stroker master cylinder
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The new Sewanee LS carries over Litespeed's Constant Leverage Ratio
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Kabush plants himself
Photo ©: James Huang
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Team Maxxis has switched bicycle sponsors for the 2007 season from Turner Bicycles to a new joint sponsorship arrangement. The team's gravity racers will run longer-travel machines from Ellsworth, but cross country stars Geoff Kabush and teammate Mathieu Toulouse will both campaign the season aboard dedicated titanium cross country machines from Litespeed.

Kabush cleaned house at the first MTB Nationals race of the 2007 season, winning both the cross country and short track races in consecutive days, and has been somewhat of a trendsetter in the pro field in years past with his preference for full suspension bicycles. Even with the new sponsorship agreement, things haven't changed much.

"I'll probably save the hardtail just for those races where you're running more than riding," said Kabush. "But I've pretty much raced the full suspension exclusively for the last couple of years. Even in the short tracks, most of the time I find that there are places where you can pick up time. I'm pretty happy, and especially in the last couple of years, with the new shock technology I don't really find any disadvantage anywhere."

Rather than just deliver existing off-the-shelf frames, Litespeed has decided to utilize the experiences of Kabush and Toulouse to help it develop brand-new platforms. Case in point is Kabush's prototype Sewanee LS, a fully custom longer-travel evolution of the company's existing short-travel bike that incorporates a number of significant changes, including new titanium tube shapes that offer better frame rigidity.

Out back, Litespeed retains its basic CLR (Constant Leverage Ratio) rear shock actuation concept, but the rear end morphs from what was effectively a simple single-pivot architecture to a new true four-bar design that incorporates chainstay-mounted dropout pivots. Rear wheel travel increases 25mm from 60mm to 85mm on Kabush's LS model, but Litespeed says the accompanying Sewanee SS model (that swaps the BB-located main pivot for flexible chain stays) will remain at 60mm.

Kabush had only ridden his new bike a handful of times before racing it in Arizona, but clearly felt comfortable enough on it to win. "It's a lightweight raceable full suspension for sure," he said. "I think one of the small differences I notice is the extra damping of the titanium. Just in the few rides we've done, I've noticed that while going down the hills in the really rough stuff in Phoenix, the bike felt really smooth and plush and just pretty much let me cut it all away and not really worry about the rocks or anything."

Given the nature of the team's title sponsor, it should come as no surprise that Kabush also runs unique tires on his race rig. Maxxis supplied a few batches of Kabush's favorite models covered in bright orange rubber to match the team's trademark color. Naturally, changing the color of the rubber results in some unavoidable material changes, but Maxxis insists that substituting silica for carbon black delivers virtually the same performance as the company's production eXCeption series 'race only' tires.

Interesting, although Kabush admits that he overwhelmingly prefers full-suspension over hardtails and sets up his race bikes "geared towards trail riding", he still typically opts for Maxxis' decidedly race-specific Larsen Oriflamme semi-slick tires on race day. "I pretty much run these until it gets wet enough," said Kabush. "Once it gets wet, these lose traction really quick. If it's really muddy I'll run the Medusa, but otherwise I have a couple of modified treads that I'll run. I use the Flyweight 490 quite a bit, sometimes the Maxxlight 310, or I run the smaller TT. But probably 80% of the time I'll run the Oriflamme.

"For the most part I'm looking to get away with the least amount of tread possible for the faster roll. For me the most important thing is the pressure and rubber compound. From there, the tread is usually the third thing I think about. Running these at 26psi gives me enough traction at race speed, and being able to run the Oriflammes on all of the high speed stuff just allows me to save a lot of energy over the course of the whole race."

Kabush has clearly shown that he's already on good form early on in the season, and he'll surely be one of the favorites in this year's Sea Otter Classic. This year's surprisingly dry conditions should also allow him to run his favorite treads, and we'll have to wait and see if Kabush can continue his winning streak.


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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Custom Litespeed Sewanee LS (prototype), 3/2.5 and 6/4 titanium G.E.T. tubeset, 85mm rear wheel travel
Available sizes: N/A
Rear shock: Fox RP23
Fork: Fox 32 F100 RLC

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.9m (6'2"); Weight: 74.8kg (165lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 500mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 560mm
Top tube length: 625mm (virtual)
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 790mm
Saddle nose tip to C of bars (next to stem): 625mm
C of front hub to top of bars (next to stem): 690mm

Bottom bracket: Shimano XTR Hollowtech 2 FC-M970
Shimano XTR Hollowtech 2 FC-M970, 175mm, 32/44T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7701
Front derailleur: Shimano XTR FD-M970
Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR RD-M970-GS Low Normal
Front brake: Hayes Stroker Trail
Rear brake: Hayes Stroker Trail
Levers: Hayes Stroker Trail
Rear sprockets: Shimano XTR CS-M970, 11-34T


Rims: Sun Ringlé Black Flag
Front hub: Sun Ringlé Dirty Flea Q/R
Rear hub: Sun Ringlé Dirty Flea Q/R
Tyres: Maxxis Larsen Oriflamme 26x2.00" eXCeption, team-only orange, possibly converted to tubeless with Stan's NoTubes sealant

Bars: Easton Monkeylite XC, 685mm x 31.8mm
Stem: Easton EA70, 120mm x -6°
Headset: Chris King NoThreadset
Tape/grip: ODI Ruffian Lock-On

Pedals: Crank Brothers Egg Beater Four Ti
Seat post: Easton EC90 Zero
Saddle: fi'zi:k Arione Carbon Tubular Ti
Bottle cages: King titanium
Computer: Cateye Micro Wireless
Other accessories: Rocket 7 MTB shoes

Total bike weight: 11.0kg (24.3lb)