Liteville’s new immaculately detailed, carbon mainframe, Shimano-powered eMTB is one sweet gravity chariot but it might swing too low for some people.
Design and geometry
Liteville is famous for its fanatically detailed alloy frames and the back end of the 301CE showcases that superbly. Oversized hard anodised square/rectangular rear stays are joined with massive, immaculate fish scale welds. You can move the ‘DuoLink’ rear chainstay pivot back or forward to fit a 27.5+ or 29er rear wheel. Internal chainstay routed brake and cable lines pop out just in front the pivots and the rear axle uses the excellent threaded receiver and vertically bolted ‘X12’ system from partner brand Syntace. You get a bolt-on ‘mech protector’ to shield the mounting bolt and the removal tool is a neatly embedded L Allen key.
The ‘seat stays’ extend past the seat tube up to the distinctive, highly evolved Four-Pivot linkage on the top tube. This pair of immaculately machined (again) deep hooked plates completely reverse the suspension input, driving the RockShox Super Deluxe coil shock against a bridge mount in the ‘armpit’ of the mainframe. A small stud inside the offside linkage matches against a stud on the mainframe for easy ‘DynaLevel’ assessment of ideal sag. The ‘Pro’ tag on the 301CE also denotes the use of a custom 33 per cent progressive Liteville coil spring.
The full-carbon mainframe is a first for Liteville but allows them to fully encase the 630Wh Shimano battery in the down tube. It’s held in place with a neatly machined retainer screw on the upper side of the tube, which will be revised on production models to solve an occasional loosening issue we had on our sample bike. Our Mk1 sample also had the battery ‘filler cap’ behind the seat tube where it was regularly buried under rear wheel roost. That will be moving to underneath the top tube on production Pro bikes though. The bright red, raised carbon logo battery protector plate is a keeper though and when the battery is removed you can see the metal cable clamps that keep the whole bike impressively silent and calm even when you’re deep into the most chaotic segments. Big air vents behind the head tube and a custom ‘cylinder head’ on the Shimano motor keep it cool electrically as well as emotionally too.
The seat tube houses the fantastic EIGHTPINS dropper post which uses an oversized shaft for serious stiffness and a zero friction stroke of up to 220mm. Top out height can be changed in seconds via a locking dial under the saddle clamp and it even has a protection clutch to disengage the internals in a crash. In case we forget to mention later the remote lever is the super neat
Our sample bike was also fitted with several optional upgrades. These include a €98 Chain Tunnel (think a small version of the snow protection galleries from Alpine roads) to keep tire muck off the chain and bottom bracket and a super thick Skidplate (€118) under the belly of the bike to protect the motor and chainring.
That’s because the most dramatic set of digits in the geometry is the unsagged bottom bracket height which is 342mm according to Liteville’s ‘geometrie’ sheet but we measured at 330mm. Rest of the geometry is slightly less radical but still on point for pushing hard with a 64.5-degree head angle, 470mm reach, 1250mm wheelbase on the large and 442mm chainstay length in 27.5+ set up. The 74.5-degree seat tube angle does mean you need to shift onto the nose of the saddle to keep the front wheel down on steep climbs, especially if you’re in Boost mode on the STEPs motor. There are only currently two - medium and large - sizes of 301Ce too, although the extra extension available from the Eight Pins dropper expands fit beyond the usual restrictions of the 441mm and 465mm seat tube measurements.
Components and build
The STEPS motor itself is currently the proven E8000 model, which is comparatively low on power and vocal in terms of noise levels but very reliable and with a narrow Q factor for same pedal spacing as a conventional crank. To counter the low bottom bracket Liteville have fitted super short 160mm length crank arms, but the tips and pedals still took a beating on rocky/stepped terrain.
The rest of the spec is Shimano XT too, with a 200mm front rotor for the four-cylinder brakes but only a 180mm on the rear. Power was still plentiful but it could potentially be worth upsizing to 200mm on the rear too if you’re a heavy rider or regularly ride super long descents. While the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate RC2 170mm fork is its usual impeccably controlled self upfront, the 35mm legs do look skinny in the massive mainframe so those same bigger riders may also want to look at the 38mm legged Zeb fork.
Outside of that, it’s almost exclusively a showcase of the excellent components from Liteville’s partner brand Syntace. These include the excellent W33i Straight Alu wheels in 29-inch front and 27.5-inch rear complete with oversized Torque Cap hub terminals to match the Lyrik fork. The stem is the award winning MegaForce2 (choose your preferred length from 30-60mm options) which can mount a custom internal battery-driven Lupine light or the Syntace Smart Gripper phone mount (separate review coming soon). The 780mm carbon bar is a Syntace Vector Superlight in a relaxed 12-degree sweep and the Syntace Gripz Moto ergo lock-ons can be ordered in 30 or 33mm girth. SQlabs provide the broad, but boxer short friendly 60X Ergowave Active saddle on top of the EIGHTPINS post.
Ground contact is taken care of by a Schwalbe Magic Mary 29x2.6in up front and Schwalbe Eddy Current 27.5x2.8in rear both in reinforced Apex Evo carcass with Addix Soft compound. While this is a pretty much vice free spec (as long as the XT brakes behave) with some real highlights it’s worth noting that you can get a fully custom spec version through Liteville’s ‘Kit-Bike’ programme.
Ride, handling and performance
While most people who know about Liteville are going to be drawn towards the brand for their incredible engineering attention to detail we need to be clear about one thing straight away. The 301CE isn’t just a work of brutalist industrial art, it’s also an outstandingly well balanced and massively fun bike to ride.
While the geometry numbers aren’t extreme and a steep seat tube would help extreme climbing, the sense of anchorage onto the trail is insane. A big part of that is obviously the slammed bottom-bracket height but the Four Pivot linkage and progressive spring together with the unsprung to sprung weight ratio wins from the battery and motor mass give incredible ground-hugging sensitivity. The ultra-accurate alignment of all the pivots, plus the quality of those pivots mean an outstandingly clean and precise feel to the rear wheel feedback even with a monster motocross tire at the end of the swingarm. If we had to pick fault (it’s kind of our job) the kinematic it was almost too keen to push through the mid-stroke on the sample bike we had. Production bikes will have a slightly different ‘two-stage’ spring character to sit them higher with more support though and while we obviously can’t confirm that'll totally hit the sweet spot it certainly sounds promising. It’s also a great example of how Liteville is constantly evolving their bikes to improve performance (‘standard’ 301 is now in its Mk15 format).
Back to the current bike while mullet isn’t a rare set up these days, the 301CE is another bike that showcases the benefits brilliantly. The Magic Mary front gives great railing and cutting traction whatever the ground conditions. The excellent frame stiffness, Syntace Torque Cap front wheel, Syntace cockpit and Lyrik Charger 2 damper control mean you can ride it on the front wheel with total confidence and the reach and chainstay length are naturally weighted to do that too. The complete lack of cable noise and even the impeccable smoothness of the EIGHTPINS dropper create a sense of ‘next level’ control and accuracy that boosts rider confidence further whatever their skill level.
In contrast, the caricature block tread Eddy Current on the back is a total rubber hooligan that creates a genuine party out back. Not only can you run it down to low teen pressures for comical grip levels, but when it does let go it’s a really predictable drift that just turns the front end in tighter. While the battery itself isn’t particularly low in the frame and the motor isn’t specifically moved round to massage centre of gravity, it doesn't stop the bike encouraging you to try and scrape it’s ergo grips on the floor at every opportunity. The extra volume out back lets you charge into the biggest boulder fields without anywhere near the appropriate level of anxiety and one consistent comment from other testers was “I need to give you this back before I really go too far on it”.
As with any bike that chalks up a whole stack of superlatives in one respect there is some kickback in other areas. The Eddy Current tyre is not as slow as we expected considering grip levels but it is heavy and it definitely rolls slower than a 29er rear. That means you should go for matching front and rear wheels if you want maximum range and efficient pedalling from your 301CE. A larger rear wheel will also lift the bike higher as pedal strikes and skid pan grinds are very frequent on really broken terrain. Again it’s something we were happy to work round to reap the benefits in terms of stability but some testers definitely struggled with it.
If you don’t like tapping your pedals on the trail and you just want an efficient, vanilla-riding eBike with the best spec for a given price then the Liteville isn’t for you. Only having two sizes obviously excludes some riders, too.
However, if you want a properly outstanding example of how super detailed, constantly evolving design and precision engineering can translate into next-level control and confidence then very few brands come close to matching Liteville. The planned tweaks to production models also address all the detailed concerns noted on the pre-production test model.
The real surprise is that while the front end is definitely all about the business of turning stomach-churning speed and terrain into an eerily calm and controlled experience, the mullet back end makes this serious-looking machine a proper party bike. Alternatively, if you want that precision and efficiency at both ends then just go double 29er. Considering the level of tech and build quality the price isn’t as excessive either and if Shimano’s launch dates are to be believed a whole new Shimano motor with Bosch matching power will be fitted as standard very shortly.
- Best e-MTB: our pick of the best e-mountain bikes available this year
- Best mountain bike tyres: all the top mountain bike tyres reviewed
Temperature: 8-20 degrees
Surface: Mixed local woods, red to double black DH and Enduro trails and moorland backcountry
Tech Specs: Liteville 301CE Pro
- Discipline: Trail/enduro
- Price: €8,610 plus extras
- Head angle: 64.5-degrees
- Frame material: custom carbon fibre mainframe and alloy swingarm
- Size: Large
- Weight: 24.5kg
- Wheel size: 29in front, 27.5in/29in rear
- Suspension (front/rear): RockShox Lyrik Ultimate RC2 170mm travel, 44mm offset/RockShox Super Deluxe Coil with custom progressive spring 160mm travel
- Components: Shimano XT 10-51T 12 speed gearing and shifter. 30T chainset. Shimano XT 4 pot brakes with 203mm, 180mm rear rotors. Schwalbe Magic Mary EVO APEX Soft 29 x 2.6in front and Schwalbe Magic Mary EVO APEX Soft 27.5 x 2.8in rear tires on Syntace W33i Straight Alu wheels. Syntace Vector Carbon Superlight 780x31.8mm bar and MegaForce2 40x31.8mm stem, EIGHTPINS 220mm dropper post, SQlab 60X Ergowave Active saddle.