In a tale of old is new again, Lemond Bicycles has announced that it will reenter the bike market this fall with a single, steel road frame, the Washoe. The company’s reemergence is yet another chapter in a convoluted history that involves not just Greg Lemond, the only American currently in the history books to have won the Tour de France, but also, strangely enough, his disgraced counterpart, Lance Armstrong.
Greg Lemond started his bike company in 1990 as both an incubator for technological developments that he could race on as well as a commercial venture to sell bikes to the public. In 1995, after the company initially struggled, the American entered into a licensing agreement with Trek to manufacture and market bicycles under the Lemond Bicycles name.
A few years later, Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France title—now revoked, along with his other six wins—and Trek began reaping the fruits of the Texan’s successes aboard their Madone series bicycles.
Now, it’s unfair to think that the Lemond brand couldn’t have existed side-by-side with the Trek flagship. After all, Trek was already successfully marketing and selling bikes under other marks, most notably Gary Fisher. But in 2001, when Lemond made critical remarks about Armstrong for working with Michele Ferrari, a controversial doctor with ties to doping, the American’s relationship with the Waterloo, Wisconsin-based company became strained. Trek forced Lemond to retract his statements, and Armstrong said he would “put Lemond out of business” over the comments. By 2008, Lemond sued Trek for mismanaging his brand, Trek countersued, and the two company’s reached a settlement to part ways in 2010.
Though the Lemond brand lived on through its successful Revolution trainer, the company has not produced bikes since its split with Trek more than four years ago. (Lemond did partner with Time in 2013 to produce three limited-edition frames to commemorate his Tour wins.) So the launch of the Washoe this year must be seen as something of a David-versus-Goliath triumph for the American brand and Lemond himself.
The Washoe also returns to a steel construction, with tubing of Reynolds 853. It’s a fascinating choice given Lemond’s long history with carbon fiber: he pioneered the material’s use and was the first pro to win the Tour aboard a carbon bike. But the material is renowned for its supple ride quality and should do well with the mixed-terrain riding popular at today’s fondos and gravel events.
The bike is no throwback either, with an oversized head tube, PF30 bottom bracket, an Enve carbon fork, and the updated geometry you’d expect from a modern machine. It will also come equipped to run with either mechanical or electronic components. The frames will be built and assembled in the U.S., and they will be hand-painted rather than decaled.
“The Washoe project offers a made-in-the-USA frame that showcases our vision of a modern steel platform,” LeMond said upon launching the bike. “We are not wed to any one material. To be honest, with all the traveling I do, I wanted a bike that was durable without sacrificing ride quality or performance. The Washoe provides one of the smoothest and most responsive rides that I have ridden at a weight that is competitive with similarly priced carbon models.”
On sale later this fall, the Washoe will be available as a frameset for $1,800 or four stock builds, ranging from a complete 105 group set for $2,600 up to Dura-Ace Di2 for $6,000. Campagnolo options will be available in the winter.
And Lemond made it clear that the Washoe is only the beginning. “I want to create meaningful products that positively impact the people that use them,” he explained. “We are just getting started.”