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Volagi Bike of the Future by Velo News

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 (All day)

What will road bikes look like in 20 years? It’s something we often ask ourselves when hearing about the latest innovation in the cycling industry. Will that innovation stick, or will it fade away like purple anodized cantilever brakes?

When imagining bikes of the future, the Velo tech team certainly has a wish list. A lively frame built from sustainable materials that handles well, transfers power effectively and keeps us comfortable would top the list. Fantastic brakes (why not anti-lock hydraulic disk brakes?), reliable shifting (something still not perfected) and tires that sing without the hiss of punctures would follow. If the bike had big tire clearance, its versatility would be incredible. A couple sets of wheels, one for road and another for cyclocross, would be easy to swap. Room for fenders would keep those in wetter climates happy.

For now, we’ll have to be patient. But there are plenty of manufacturers pushing the envelope. California-based Volagi is one such company. Its Liscio carbon has some of the amenities mentioned above, most notably disc brake, a comfortable frame and room for large road tires and fenders. Whether you it or not, off-the-shelf road bikes equipped with disc brakes will happen, and we think it’s a good thing. Carbon rims can be lighter than ever if heat from braking isn’t a factor. Wild rim shapes can be explored without the need for two relatively parallel surfaces for braking. Whether carbon or aluminum rims are used, disc brakes offer superior performance in wet conditions.

And while disc brake technology hasn’t quite caught up to Volagi’s innovative ambition, it will soon. Hydraulic-ready shift levers are coming in 2012 and cyclocross is proving to be an excellent testing ground for drop-bar disc brake tech.

A True Four-Season Bike

Volagi’s Long Bow Flex seatstays are attached to the top tube instead of the seat tube, meaning they are both longer and more compliant. The Liscio also has an aero down tube, seat tube, seatpost, seatstays and an aero fork with a tapered steerer. The bottom bracket is oversized too (BB30), but the bike’s versatility is what won us over.

                If you’re not a fan of disc brakes, Robert Choi, co-founder of Volagi, has you covered. “We actually have little post mounts under the top tube for the rear brake,” he said. “You can put on traditional caliper brakes, medium reach, front and rear.”

                The designers at Volagi also thought through fender installation. Mid-fork blade fender mounts help avoid clutter at the drop-out. Integrated mounts at the bottom bracket, rear brake post and dropout help a consumer neatly mount a fender on the rear. With room for 25mm tires and full fenders, Choi calls the Liscio “a true four-season bike.”

The Ride

The magic of the Liscio is in the ride. It is exceptionally smooth over small bumps. Choi explained that the seatstay design of the Liscio gives it “passive suspension.” The rear dropouts move 5-6mm with 224 pounds of force applied (something quite common in cycling).

                The Liscio certainly isn’t the quickest handling bike, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Choi describes it as “neutral handling.” And for long days in the saddle when you want a more stable steed, the Liscio delivers supreme comfort.

                Luckily, the compliance of the seatstays is independent of the bottom bracket, which is still very stiff. Energy never feels wasted. However, the E7 Ignite EL wheels that come with the bike feel a bit sluggish. The Volagi wheels use a 26mm deep and 24mm wide aluminum rim (turn the page to read about our love affair wide ride rims). The wheels look great and perform their duties, but they are a tad portly.

Unfortunately, swapping them out for a racier set of wheels isn’t easy. Volagi uses a 130mm rear spacing, standard road width. The problem is that most disc hubs are 135mm, mountain bike standard, so wheels for the Liscio aren’t really available. Volagi is working on a tubeless carbon clincher wheel to spice things up. That said, a shift to 135mm would be a wise move.

A 55cm frameset weighs 1,100 grams and runs $1,800. The fork weighs a very respectable 430 grams. Total bike weight for the Ultegra-equipped bike we tested was 17.2 pounds, without pedals. This isn’t superlight by any means, but it’s not bad either.

At first glance the Liscio leaves some wondering just what sort of bike it is. Some see a disc-brake cyclocrosser, other see a Specialized Roubaix knock-off. But the Liscio that could play über commuter, gran fondo crusher, dirt-road plaything or simply a sweet road bike. Volagi is not a major player in the cycling industry, but those companies that are had best be paying attention – the bike of the future has arrived.