liteville 301 syntace

Review: Is the Liteville 301 MK14 the most German mountain bike on the market?

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German brand Liteville sent us the 14th iteration of its 301 full suspension trail bike, which is quite possibly the most over-engineered mountain bike we’ve ever laid our hands on. Naturally, we put it in the hands of our local lover of all things German and over-engineered, David Hayward. Over to David!


Few companies would be confident enough to send a test bike that had already done a season as a rental bike, so hats off to Liteville for being exactly this confident, handing over a Liteville 301 Mk 14 that had just done a season of hard riding at Lake Garda.

It was in surprisingly good nick, but did have some telltale signs of being a year old: it had some reasonably worn brake pads, gear indexing issues, a tube in the rear tyre, and worn grips that I immediately swapped out. No major issues though.

I was hoping Liteville would send the 160mm build of this frameset, which as well as swapping the fork uses a different linkage. But upon getting this 140mm All Mountain Factory one, I thought “Well if 140mm is good enough for Joe Barnes…”

liteville 301 syntace
Liteville is the bike brand of German component manufacturer, Syntace.

One of the things that really impresses me about Liteville is the brand’s commitment to making bikes in the right size for the rider. A little more on this later, but unlike most companies that do just a Small, Medium and Large by swapping front triangles, Liteville make no less than six different sizes of the 301.

Each uses entirely different front and rear triangles to the others, and in accordance with that scaled sizing, different wheel sizes too. The XXL rolls on 29in hoops, while the XS on a 26in wheels front and rear.

liteville 301 syntace
With 140mm of travel at either ends, the 301 is Liteville’s technical trail bike.

The Bike

Our test bike weighed in at 13.22Kg – basically spot on Liteville’s claimed weight of 13.2kg. There is a 180g saving from the C33i carbon wheel upgrade (alloy wheels normally come stock), though our test bike also has a heavier Magic Mary tyre on the front instead of the stock Nobby Nic, which is likely how it all balances out.

Boinging is all done by SRAM, with a Pike up front and a Deluxe out back. All very familiar and easy to get running well. Related to that, the frame is full of nice touches, the first of which I noticed while setting up the shock: A small red stud sits on the inside of the linkage, and when that aligns with a matching stud on the top tube, it indicates you’re at exactly 30% sag. Lovely.

liteville 301 syntace
The patented “Sausage Chopper”.
liteville 301 syntace
Lovely little integrated sag guide.

People tend to comment on the aesthetics of the linkage, Ross in particular calling it the Sausage Chopper©, but I’m pleased to report my family jewels are intact after seven months of testing. The way Liteville’s engineers have designed it is as a four bar linkage, but with a load of it in front of the seat tube instead of behind, deftly avoiding that pooing dog silhouette that curses some four bar designs.

As mentioned, it’s rolling on Syntace’s C33i wheels, which brought the 2.35in tyres up nice and big, giving plenty of cushioning and allowing for slightly lower tyre pressures. C33i’s are a €480 upgrade option over the default spec, and so far they seem to be indestructible. We had a second set on test under Wil and Andi, and you can read the separate review of these high-end carbon hoops here. None of us managed to damage any over the summer.

liteville 301 syntace c33i wheels
Our test bike came adorned with a carbon fibre wheel upgrade.
liteville 301 syntace c33i hub
The Syntace hubs are very good, and also very underrated.

Syntace’s Vector carbon handlebars did a very good job of tuning out palm buzz, though they do taper very quickly from the stem clamp, which meant most of the lights I had access to could work their way loose along the bars. Bear this in mind if you do a lot of night riding.

One of the nicest touches on this bike is that Liteville has rationalised nearly everything to use a 5mm allen or T25 bolt, and then made a key with both those tools that inserts into the rear axle. Any time anything needs fettling during a ride, the tool is right there, without even having to take your pack off.

liteville 301 syntace
The Syntace 148x12mm thru-axle features an integrated 5mm hex key.
liteville 301 syntace
With a T25 torx bit on the end too!

Rather than having a derailleur hanger that’s meant to bend, it has a bolt that is meant to break. If you’re unlucky and it does, there’s a spare bolt screwed into the non-drive side chainstay. If you’re REALLY unlucky and break both in one trip, you can whip one out of the chain guide, and it too will fit. Some real get-you-home design there.

liteville 301 syntace derailleur hanger
Details abound – the hanger bolt is designed to shear before the hanger does, while a bolt-on guard shields the derailleur from getting smacked in the first place. More bikes need this.
liteville 301 syntace
That little black bolt below the main pivot is a spare hanger bolt.

The internal cable routing is very neat, with a large bolt-in cable cover near the bottom of the down tube to make routing things a little easier. One thing I was sceptical of were the fairly sharp bends in the gear and brake routing, as they exit the front triangle then feed into the chainstays (as mentioned, it did have some gear indexing issues, and changing the inner wasn’t enough to fix them). Rather than using little rubber pucks to cover cable ports, the smaller port covers also bolt in, seeming to clamp the cables in place slightly.

liteville 301 syntace internal cable routing
Unbolt that port for easier access to the internally routed cables.
liteville 301 syntace cable routing internal
There’s a pretty sharp bend for the rear mech cable though.

Finally, there’s the 34.9mm diameter Eightpins dropper post, which is unlike any other on the market. It works with a gas cartridge, which sits on a thru-axle in the seat tube, and has a collar with some bushings in the top of the seat tube. The visible part is an outwardly conventional looking aluminium seatpost, but with a toothed profile on the inside.

By turning a fixing just below the saddle rails, you can pull the post up to set your saddle height. You can also hacksaw the upper post down to get it slammed all the way to the frame in the dropped position. In principle, this is a great design that gives all riders maximum dropper travel (up to 220mm!), but more on that later.

liteville 301 syntace eightpins dropper sq labs
The Eightpins dropper offers up to 220mm of travel.

Overall, the attention to detail on the Liteville frame is second to none I’ve seen. No one else I can think of packs features in this thoughtfully.

The Ride

The carbon wheels made this a fairly quick climber. Coupled with that, the slightly wider tyre profile also seemed to result in plenty of traction. It felt very stable and composed, even on steeper descents.

The rear suspension is incredibly supple, with noticeably good small bump compliance. It’s certainly a very comfortable bike to ride. That said, it’s also progressive enough that with sag at 30%, I rarely went through the full 140mm of travel even when getting out of my depth.

Rather than the lockout keeping the linkage fully extended, it seems to hold it at the sag point, which took a little getting used to. This turned out to be very useful for technical climbing, with a good combination of locked out on smooth bits and extra traction on rougher ascents, but it was only efficient when seated. If you stand up to climb it’ll bob a fair bit, so if you’re eyeing a Mk14 up, you’d best be prepared to give those glutes a workout.

liteville 301 syntace david hayward
The 301 is a good climber, but it will bob out of the saddle.

It really came into its own spinning up to and on the moors, terrain and extremes not dissimilar to most UK riding. It accelerated quickly and handled everything, but I really found its limits on the descents.

Overall it was plenty capable, but felt too small for me. Oddly, on paper, it mostly isn’t. Reach (440mm) and stack (605mm) are in the territory I’m used to for a Medium-sized frame. Syntace’s VarioSpin headset also puts the head angle at 65° (my favourite bike is half a degree steeper).

While Liteville’s frame design brings the seat tube forward, the Eightpins compensates with a layback clamp. The 74.4° seat angle is within a degree of what I’m used to. Despite all of this, it somehow felt short, and the only things that stood out in the geometry were the 1167mm wheelbase and 563mm effective top tube, each sitting about 20mm shorter than I’d like.

On the trail, all of this translated into twitchier handling than I’m used to. It seemed that it combined with the 140mm travel and somewhat stiff wheels to mean I just couldn’t thunder down some trails with the same confidence I normally would. Rather than powering through tech at warp speed, it would pick its way through. If I did try to thrash it, things got skittery and it didn’t like to stay on choppy lines. They’d quickly make apparent I was hitting the limits of both my riding and the bike. Joe Barnes, I ain’t.

liteville 301 syntace david hayward
The suspension is smooth, active, and effective.

For everything else though, it was a fine bike. It was a competent trail bike, and the slack head angle and smooth-sliding Pike fork especially made it feel surefooted when pointed down smoother running steep trails.

After a couple of attempts at Hebden Death Tech, I started considering the Liteville for just some of my riding, rather than all of it. With the 2x setup and 42t cassette, it tended to be the bike I’d reach for when going out on longer days.

Despite my height being almost dead centre of Liteville’s recommended range for the medium, the by-the-book size for me just didn’t feel quite right. I do seem to have relatively long limbs though, so maybe sizing up to a Large would have solved some of these issues.

This was also somewhat evident in the standover and dropper sizing – the idea of the Eightpins is that you can set the top out height at your climbing position, then slam it all the way to the frame, giving you the maximum possible travel for your frame and height. In practice, the 220mm travel of the gas cartridge meant that at maximum drop from my climbing position, the seat sat a few inches higher than the seat collar in the medium frame.

liteville 301 syntace eightpins dropper
Hidden bushings keep the post sliding smoothly.
liteville 301 syntace eightpin dropper post
The gas cartridge mounts to a thru-bolt at the base of the seat tube.

On one of the aforementioned Hebden Death Tech trips, a high speed crash saw it land on and spin the seat, banjaxing the first Eightpins post by breaking a clutch that would normally help prevent crash damage. To be fair, it was a bad crash: despite a soft landing it turned my jaw far enough to stun me, and the marks my face made on the trail were about twice as far down it as I thought I’d flown.

Eightpins duly sent a replacement. It’s all bushings and through axles, so in principle should just go together like a wheel and fork. In practice, there’s some faffy alignment to do to make sure it runs straight in the bushings. That wasn’t difficult, but repeatedly pulling the post and reinstalling it to get the alignment and cable length just right became quite tedious.

Furthermore, the replacement gas cartridge they sent seemed to lose some pressure, leaving the post slow to come back up. If you want to refill it, it uses a special adapter, and getting that in place involves removing the entire post from the bike, then resetting the clutch torque too. I want to love the Eightpins dropper, and the integrated concept is brilliant, but it feels an iteration or two away from being great.

liteville 301 syntace dropper post
With the 2×11 drivetrain, the Eightpins dropper is activated by an over-the-bar remote.

Three Things That Could Be Improved

  1. The Eightpins dropper. A dropper with a replaceable gas cartridge that sits on a through axle has so much promise, but in practice this version of the Eightpins is faffy to remove and refit.
  2. The wheelbase and ETT coupled with mid-travel made it feel a tiny bit retro, and I couldn’t quite push my riding and the bike up to each other’s limits.
  3. Lack of clamping area on the Vector handlebars for reliably fitting a light bracket. Syntace does make a thing called ‘TwinFix’, which replaces the stem faceplates with M5 or M6 brackets, and is designed to work with Lupine lights or Syntace’s own phone holder. That’s a lot of specific components and brands though. I would have liked better generic clamping space on this otherwise nice set of bars.
liteville 301 syntace vector carbon handlebars
Syntace Vector Carbon bars are lovely and smooth to ride, but they taper too quickly, making it a pain to mount a light bracket.

Three Things I Loved

  1. The very well thought out frameset. As well as a spare derailleur bolt and a sag indicator, nearly every bolt on it is 5mm allen or T25, and there’s a tool for both stored in the rear axle.
  2. SQ Lab saddle: Looking at something that flat, my initial thought was “nope”, but it’s one of the most comfortable saddles I’ve ever ridden.
  3. The Syntace C33i wheels gave a nice big tyre profile, and seemed to be indestructible over the months of this test.
sq labs saddle
David wasn’t convinced at first, but the SQ Lab saddle turned out to be a winner.

Update: After the test bike had been sent back, Liteville contacted us with some comments regarding the problems we encountered with shifting and the Eightpins dropper:

The gear indexing issue was down to the fact the outer cable hose was damaged/frayed at one end, there was no plastic end cap for some reason so the outer cable could move slightly. I can only think this might have gone astray when it was a rental bike and someone snapped a shifter cable, lost the end cap in the repair process and then never told us when it came back as it’s very odd that this would have been omitted when it was built. We never have shifting issues as a rule and this is one department the company have given a lot of thought to.

“The Eightpins seatpost – it can be set up to drop all the way down, this is done during setup and cutting the post shorter would have facilitated this and still given you all the height you would have required. Unfortunately, I was away when you had the damaged seatpost replaced so I could not help with the installation and tuning of the replacement from Andreas. There were a couple of tweaks needed to set the post up perfectly once I got it back and it’s been fine ever since (in fact sold on to someone who tested it)”.

Overall

The longer travel, 1x build of the 301 Mk14 would have been far more comparable to the kind of bikes and riding I’m used to at home. This 140mm All Mountain build didn’t quite live up to winch and plummet, but elsewhere it rode excellently as a very robust and precise trail bike.

The frame has some spectacular attention to detail, and there are many riders out there who will appreciate the level of engineering that has gone into this complete bike. If you’re considering this 301 build, the AM is a bit of a Swiss army knife, so bear that in mind if you’re more used to a machete or a straight razor, so to speak.

Liteville 301 MK14 All Mountain Factory Machine Specifications

  • Frame // Custom Heat-Treated Alloy, 140mm Travel
  • Fork // RockShox Pike RCT3, DebonAir, 140mm Travel
  • Shock // RockShox Deluxe RT3
  • Hubs // Syntace Straight MX, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // Syntace C33i Straight Carbon, 28h, 33mm Internal Rim Width
  • Tyres // Schwalbe Magic Mary 2.35in Front & Nobby Nic 2.35in Rear
  • Chainset // Shimano Deore XT, 36/26t Chainring
  • Front Mech // Shimano Deore XT
  • Rear Mech // Shimano Deore XT, 11-Speed
  • Shifters // Shimano Deore XT, 11-Speed
  • Cassette // Shimano Deore XT, 11-Speed, 11-42t
  • Brakes // SRAM Guide RSC, 200mm Front & 180mm Rear Rotors
  • Stem // Syntace Megaforce2, 40mm Length
  • Bar // Syntace Vector Carbon High 10, 10mm Rise, 760mm Wide
  • Grips // Syntace Screw-On Gripz Moto
  • Seatpost // Eightpins Integrated, 34.9mm Diameter, 2200mm Travel (Max)
  • Saddle // SQ Lab 611 Ergowave Liteville Edition
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes Available // X-Small, Small, Medium (tested), Large, X-Large, & XX-Large
  • Confirmed Weight // 13.22 kg (29.08 lb)
  • RRP // €5640 + €480 (Syntace C33i carbon wheel upgrade) + €80 (SRAM Guide RSC brakes)

Review Info

Brand: Liteville
Product: 301 MK14 All Mountain Factory Machine
From: Liteville, liteville.com
Price: €6,200 (as tested)
Tested: by David Hayward for 7 months
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Comments (7)

    Having owned one i wouldn’t say its over engineered but made right in the first place. it did take me a long long time to get the best out of it though.

    Absolutely love my Mk10.
    As a serial switcher of bikes I can safely say its the one bike I will never sell.
    It does take a while to get it setup right but Iv definitely hit the sweet spot.
    140 on the rear 160 at the front on 26in carbon hoops.
    Sized up to a large frame (I am 5’8) with 40mm stem and 785m bars
    The suspension is incredibly active which is great but means it needs a solid lockout. Fox DPS is the best I have found. I can pedal out of the saddle on climbs and it feels like a hard tail. I definitely prefer this form of suspension design for my style of riding (winch and plummet). It means no compromises to suspension performance by trying to dial in a pedal platform that I will never use.
    1×11 drive setup and a Fox dropper (not sure about the 8 pins)
    I do prefer my longer, slacker Mondraker Dune for bike park days and Alpine holidays…but 90% of the time I reach for the Liteville. On steep natural terrain and tight and twisty local built trails “modern Geometry” bikes just cant compete.

    I had a mk11, and absolutely loved it, 160 mm travel. Incredibly well made – as close to a bike for life as you could get I suspect. Fantastic climber and excelled at tech nadgery descents., a real skills flatterer. Unfortunately mine got nicked just over a year ago, I got the chance of a discounted stumpy enduro for half the price of the Liteville, but I do feel it’s half the bike and I aspire to get another 301 in a couple of years time.

    I’ve got a Mk 10 (M) and I’m in the process of building up another (L). One of them will end up living in Greece but I’m not sure which
    The one I’m using has 160mm travel rear and Marzocchi 55 RC3Ti 170mm forks, which I’m sure is more travel than I can justify but….
    As has been said above, they excel at technical, nadgery, steep descending, which is what I love the most. In fact, it was watching the Vertriding videos that made me want one in the first place.
    Not long and low enough to be fashionable, maybe, but I don’t give a monkey’s about that – I can’t imagine liking anything more. Well, maybe the Mk14 but that’s outside my price range…

    How tall is the tester? I’m 5’8” and went for a large Mk11. Brilliant bike

    I’ve recently purchased the Mk14 which has replaced my old Mk11. The Mk11 was (is) a fantastic bike but the sutble changes they have made to the geometry on this model has taken it to another level. Due to its ‘do it all nature’ you have to persevere to get the right ride for you, but get it dialed and you’ll be in for a treat. (Being a size small frame I had to wait nearly 5 months for the raw finish but I have not one regret!).

    P20 – sorry, missed this at the time. I’m half an inch shorter than you.

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