Strengths: Virtually indestructible material
Quick change of decals and you're "up to date"
Razor sharp handling but still a relatively forgiving ride given the responsiveness
Weaknesses: There is no way on earth that I would have paid 5000 MSRP for this bike. But, at 1800 bucks for a Litespeed frame with full Ultegra, I think the deal couldn't be beat.
Bought this from Litespeed's recycling business when they had it going on ebay. Basically they used to take trade-ins, strip the frames, ball burnish them and rebuild them with brand new components. For 1800 bucks I bought what was essentially a brand new Vortex! As you'd expect from a Ti bike, the frame is in as good condition as the day I bought it. Essentially indestructible. I'd like to see a TREK frame with as many miles as are on this frame and see how good it looks. I rebuilt it about 2,000 miles ago with Ultegra 10 and currently have some EA90SLX wheels, FSA carbon compact crank. I think this is the last road frame I'll ever buy, it's that good.
I know you MUST by carbon nowadays if you are spending 3K and up on a road bike or people will look at you funny. But, if I had a dollar for every Madone or Cervelo I dropped on my favorite climb on this rig, I'd have enough for another Vortex. Oh, and if you're really into 'show' Well, you can strip the decals with some acetone and get new Litespeed decals in the current year's colors (I hear red, black and white are the thing this year, LOL) so you look good at Starbucks if that's what you're after.
It handles like it's on rails. The vortex alloy (3/2.5) is a bit harsher than the other more friendly mixes used in the Tuscany etc. So, if you're heading off for Paris-Roubaix well maybe consider one of their other frames. But, the frame is super responsive, climbs like a rocketship and handles like it's on rails.
Strengths: Very light. Stiff without being harsh. Titanium is very durable, corrosion resistant, and easy to keep clean and looking like new.
Weaknesses: Expensive if purchased stock from Litespeed. I got a great deal on a complete bike and couldn't pass it up.
Actually a 2004 but this wasn't an option on the list. I have lusted after Litespeed road bikes for as long as I can remember. This year, I bit the bullet and bought one. The rig is a Douglas Elite 6/4 which is basically a 2004 Vortex with straight (rather than curved stays). Reasons I delayed? (1) Cost. (2) Concerns about negative reviews. (3) Concerns about being overly stiff/harsh. I have only ridden it once (30 miles over rolling terrain with some hills) but all I can say is WOW! My other primary road bike is a Look KX Light so I am not comparing it to a piece of junk. The main thing I notice is how rigid this bike is. Absolutely no bottom bracket flex at all. Despite being very stiff, it is not harsh all. I threw on my Ksyrium SSC SLs on it (figuring that if it wasn't harsh with these wheels it wouldn't be so with any) and it was stiff and responsive without that harshness you get with aluminum. Fantasic. I can't speak of the newest versions, but mine (53cm) isn't "noodly" at all. The front end tracks straight. Hit a corner at 30 mph on a downhill and it was confidence inspiring. Overall, with Ultegra 10 I am very pleased with this rig and likely will have it for the remainder of my life with Litespeed's warranty as peace of mind.
Visually, this is the only bike I've ever seen that looks good in bigger sizes (mine is a 59.5cm custom) because of the head tube design and the huge bladed down tube. Every other bike looks storky in 58cm+ sizes, including my adored Serotta Legend.
Weaknesses: Absolutely ridiculous, outrageous price. Litespeed is doing things with ti tubing that nobody else in the industry is doing (have you seen the 2004 Ghisallo? AMAZING!). However, if I didn't get a team deal on this Vortex, I would have bought another Serotta Legend Ti, because the Litespeed is just too damned expensive to buy in a store.
This bike is a 5 on a scale of 5, however, I have rated it lower due to the shameless price gouging by Litespeed.
Litespeed has changed the character of the Vortex 180 degrees since 2002. The 2004 Vortex is RADICAL.
I owned a 2002 Vortex, which was EXTREMELY comfortable, but a bit too noodley for me (I weigh 200+ and am 6'2"). The 2003 was stiffened up a bit to McEwen's spec, which made it IMHO a better bike. One of my teammates had the 2003, and I coveted it. This left me a bit bitter toward Litespeed, because they changed to the 2003 spec (bladed down tube) in the middle of the 2002 season about a month after I got my 2002, so my 2002 Vortex was obsolete when it was still brand new.
For 2004, Litespeed may have gone too far with the boy-racer tubing. This year's Vortex is easily the stiffest ti bike I've ever ridden. It's now a racer's go-fast rocket. By no means is it the long-distance Mercedes-like cruiser it was in 2002. Definitely no longer a weekend warrior's bike. This bike is a Porsche 911 GT3, for racing only. Defininitely not a grocery-trip vehicle.
At first I didn't like it, because my main bike is a Serotta Legend Ti, possibly the best-riding bike on the planet, and the Litespeed seemed too much like an aluminum-like ride. I wound up easing the buzz by using soft-spoke wheels (Topolino), which softened up the ride and softened up my heart toward the Vortex.
For long-distance crusing (3 hrs+), I still use my Serotta Legend Ti. I use the super-light, super-stiff Vortex for uphill TTs, interval training, and short-distance all-out blasts.