LeMond launches new all-carbon frame at Tour de Georgia

Tour de Georgia tech, April 24, 2006

LeMond joins the sub-1kg club

Tour de Georgia sponsor LeMond Cycles has emerged from the shadow of its parent company Trek’s OCLV lineup with the introduction of a new 950g all-carbon frame. The new offering promises to reign as the top “professional-quality” road offering from the Wisconsin firm. James Huang takes the new design for a couple of test rides on the roads of the Tour of Georgia, including the brutal finish up to the top of Brasstown Bald Mountain.

LeMond Cycles’ new carbon Triomphe line of frames marks its most ambitious high performance road offerings to date as well as its first all-carbon frame developed fully in-house. Lead engineer Aaron Mock and the rest of his crew brought into play a “Min/Max” design philosophy to produce a frame with “minimum weight but maximum output”. According to Mock, simply hitting the weight targets for a carbon frame is a fairly straightforward task, but yielding the desired strength and comfortable ride characteristics that LeMond himself values so highly is a much more difficult challenge. With this in mind, LeMond frame designers are confident that they’ve hit both marks with a frame weighing just 950g in a fully painted 55cm version.

Careful use of finite element analysis in LeMond’s new design methodology resulted in some interesting tube shaping. The front ends of the top and down tubes are both highly ovalized in the vertical plane to increase front end strength. In contrast, the rear ends of the tubes are highly ovalized in the opposite direction as well as extremely wide and flat which is said to not only increase the lateral rigidity of the front triangle but also enhance the frame’s vertical compliance. The rear end received similar attention: for example, LeMond engineers found that increasing the height of the driveside chainstay, but the width of the non-drive stay, is the best approach to resist rear end twist under high torque.

Tube shape and size specifications, as well as overall frame geometry, are also tailored for each of the Triomphe’s ten available frame sizes (seven men’s, three women’s) in order to maintain similar ride and handling characteristics across the range.

Just as Greg would want it

Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond himself was on hand here in Georgia to help launch the new line. For the new frames, LeMond wanted to produce something “more like what the pros really used that will get you the day with the least amount of fatigue”. In LeMond’s eyes, that translates into a light and efficient package that also has a predictable and stable personality, as opposed to the quicker handling that has proven to be more pervasive in today’s high-end market.

LeMond has always described himself as a “big believer in carbon fiber” and, in the prime of his career, was one of the earliest top pros to adopt the new material for his race machines. Although even those very early carbon machines were already very light (often around 17lb at a time when many were pushing 23lb rigs), the stability and stiffness of the frames left much to be desired. LeMond's Spine line of titanium/carbon and steel/carbon frames come close to his vision, but he really saw carbon fiber as the ultimate material to achieve his goal and new Triomphe frame is the product of that.

Ow ow ow ow ow

Test rides of the new Triomphe frame included a several hour stint from Helen, GA up to the top of Brasstown Bald Mountain along the route of stage five of the Tour de Georgia which would pass the following day. Upon the first pedal stroke, the bike was noticeably snappier in terms of drivetrain response than the steel/carbon LeMond Spine bike that I currently ride, yet yielded a significantly smoother ride that still conveyed a healthy amount of road feel.

The ride out of Helen rises gradually for the first eight miles before leading to the base of the stage’s penultimate climb, a relatively mild 4 mile long pitch where the bike’s sub-16lb total weight was a welcome attribute. On the following moderately twisting descent, the bike tracked accurately and predictably, and held a line with confidence.

Unfortunately, there was likely no technological advantage on the LeMond that could propel me up Brasstown Bald Mountain’s 18% maximum grade, but the drivetrain stiffness of the new frame certainly didn’t hurt as pedaling inputs were nicely translated into what little forward motion I could muster. Thankfully, LeMond fitted my test rig with a compact crankset and a 27T rear cog!

Late to the party, but welcome nonetheless

LeMond may be a bit tardy in joining the carbon-tubed fray, but they’ve obviously learned quite a bit in the 13 years that they and their parent corporation have been laying up carbon. Time will tell how things hold up in the long-term, but based on my limited saddle time thus far, things are certainly looking promising, particularly as they are also planning on releasing an even lighter Triomphe Ultimate frame later in the season that will shed another 100g for the final weight of just 850g.

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