LeMond road bikes are back, but there are more questions than answers - CyclingTips

2022-03-11 09:38:20 By : Ms. lisa li

There’s plenty of buzz, but hopefully there’s some real substance here, too.

LeMond Bikes stepped back into the high-performance road bike market a few days ago with the quiet announcement of the LeMond 8 — a tribute to Greg LeMond’s historic eight-second margin of victory over Laurent Fignon in the 1989 Tour de France — and it certainly looks to tick all the boxes for a modern flagship road racing bike. 

It’s made of carbon fiber and features aerodynamic shaping designed to cut efficiently through the air. It’s disc-brake-only. It has clearance for 700c road tires up to 32 mm-wide. There’s an integrated one-piece carbon fiber bar-and-stem in multiple sizes with fully internal cable routing.

There are also a number of intriguing features that set the LeMond 8 apart.

For one, there’s the brand’s MatrixCore composite construction method, which uses an expanding foam inside the frame and fork instead of disposable pre-forms or inflatable bladders to squish the carbon fibers outward against the mold for what the company describe as “superior carbon fiber ply consolidation.” LeMond says that foam damps vibration for a distinctly smooth ride quality, too.

The tapered steerer tube boasts a novel X-shaped internal truss arrangement that, together with the expanding structural foam, supposedly provides enough strength and rigidity that there’s no need for a conventional compression plug. Threads for the preload cap bolt are even molded directly into the steerer, so no matter how it’s cut, it’s always ready to be assembled with no extra parts required.

Interestingly, those preload cap threads are carbon fiber. In fact, all of the threads in the LeMond 8 are carbon fiber; there’s supposedly no metal in the frame or fork at all. The threads for the T47 threaded bottom bracket shell? Carbon fiber. The replaceable rear derailleur hanger? Also carbon fiber — and it’s only offered in direct mount for Shimano drivetrains.

All of this is being done at LeMond Bikes HQ in Knoxville, Tennessee with no international outsourcing. Frame reliability is apparently a prime directive here, too, with the company boldly claiming to offer “some of the strongest and safest frames in the world.”

Further setting these bikes apart is the frame geometry, which uses proportional chainstay length for each of the eight stock sizes, starting at 405 mm for the 47 cm, and going all the way up to 430 mm for the 62 cm. Otherwise, the 54 mm trail is about what you’d expect for a fast-handling road racing bike, and the stack and reach figures are also about what you’d expect. If anything, they’re perhaps a little on the tall size for a road racing bike (although I’d argue they’re more inline with what everyday riders actually need).

Up top, the flat-backed aero-profile carbon fiber seatpost is hardly revolutionary. However, LeMond claims the unique clamp geometry reduces the chance of damage relative to more traditional clamp designs, and there’s also a channel in the back of the post for a range of to-be-released accessories like lights and bags. 

The whole bike is even cost-competitive (which is to say that it’s just as ludicrously expensive as other top-end road bikes these days). A complete bike with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and LeMond-branded carbon wheels built around Tune hubs will pull US$12,500 / £11,400 / €13,900 out of your wallet. Want to go the DIY route with just a frameset? That’ll be US$8,500 / £7,800 / €9,500. Australian pricing is to be confirmed.

Projected delivery date is July 2022, with “priority given to complete bicycle orders and/or receipt of full payment.” Customers who have only paid the US$9,500 or US$6,000 respective deposits for the complete bikes or frameset apparently have to wait a little longer.

LeMond first rose out of the ashes with a pair of rather striking-looking e-assist urban bikes — the Prolog and the Dutch — and with the addition of the LeMond 8, it’s shaping up to be a somewhat eclectic mix.

LeMond Bikes clearly has growing performance aspirations, though, as the product page for the road bike also hints at an upcoming aero gravel bike, a second-generation LeMond 8 road bike, additional LeMond wheels, and additional carbon fiber LeMond components that will be developed “over the next 3-4 years.”

There’s even a Team LeMond membership program that’s included with the purchase of a LeMond 8. What do you get with this membership, you wonder? 

“As a Team LeMond member, you will have exclusive access to annual private rides with Greg and his team — in Europe and the USA — free entry into cycling events, and early access to new products that LeMond is developing, even helping us to evaluate and test new products.

“In addition, Team LeMond members will receive annual cycling kits, including jerseys, shorts, and socks, and quarterly Town Hall talks with Greg via Zoom.

“Our goal is to create unique and extraordinary experiences that will last a lifetime.”

Team LeMond members also get 50% discounts on all of those future products mentioned above, all of which is designed to keep people firmly within the LeMond ecosystem in the coming years. 

Why should you be interested in being part of this community? LeMond Bikes is seemingly selling a philosophy, not just a bike, with that philosophy apparently defined by a number of questions:

Why is it done this way?

Why is it made this way?

Why can’t we do things differently?

Why can’t we do things better?

We love asking these questions.

As it turns out, I’ve got quite a few questions myself. 

That July 2022 projected delivery date sounds promising as it’s only four months away. However, if you look closely, all of the images on the site are computer renderings, not photographs of actual product. With the stated initial delivery date just over the horizon, are there no physical prototypes?

And what about the frame itself? The web page is frustratingly devoid of hard information. What’s it weigh? How’s it made? Is it actually aero, or does it just look aero? 

Regarding the frame construction, it can’t be ignored that sister company LeMond Composites made a big deal in 2016 about a new method of carbon fiber production that was supposed to dramatically reduce the cost of composite bikes. Does the LeMond 8 use this technology? Maybe, but if that’s the case, then why is it still so expensive?

How are those carbon threads constructed, anyway? Are they cut post-molding, or are they molded in place? Are they strong enough? How tolerant are they to over-torquing, particularly as compared to various metal threads?

Should you prefer to not run fully internal cable routing, the web page mentions an external option — but doesn’t show it to you. What’s it look like? Likewise, there’s an option for a separate bar and stem should you prefer it (or if one of the four integrated sizes doesn’t work for you). Is it a standard handlebar clamp shape and diameter? Is it still compatible with the fully internal routing? If so, what type of bar is required?

Make no mistake; I’m very, very excited about this bike being announced. In fact, one of my favorite road bikes was a steel-and-carbon LeMond Maillot Jaune — so much so that years after foolishly selling it years ago, I recently bought a rather used Maillot Jaune frameset to correct that mistake, and am still on the hunt for an old full-titanium LeMond. I’ve always subscribed to LeMond’s versatile stage-race frame geometry philosophy, and I’ve likewise always been a fan of the brand’s prioritization of ride quality and handling over weights and figures. 

So in short, yes, I’m dying to see — and ride! — one of these new LeMond 8 bikes. But this cryptic release unfortunately leaves me quite puzzled, and several days after sending an inquiry to the company, I have yet to receive any answers to my questions or additional information.

I guess we’ll just have to see where this goes. But fingers crossed, it goes to an actual bike, and not just vaporware.

(Some) more information can be found at www.team-lemond.com.