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Volagi Bikes by Alienator

Monday, November 7, 2011 (All day)

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I had a test ride today, for a couple of hours of climbing, of a Volagi bike (The disk brake equipped road bikes). Two hours isn't enough for real evaluation of a bike or for a review in the review section, so I thought I'd post some thoughts on it.

The only thing transferred to the Volagi from mine was my saddlebag and my pedals, so that makes conclusive differences between my Look 595 and the Volagi difficult and even questionable. Given that, I'd consider the following just impressions.

The bike was kitted with their own wheels (32 spokes front and rear I think, Novatech hubs, rims with eyelets), their own saddle, FSA Gossamer cranks, SRAM Rival, Avid disk brakes (cable, not hydraulic), their own seat post, and their own saddle. The frame was a 57 (57cm VTT) and had a BB30, uhm, BB shell. Compared to my Look, the Volagi has 7mm long chain stays (412mm vs. 405mm), a 72.75° HTA compared to the Looks' 73°, and a 1008mm wheelbase vs. Looks' 1002. The Volagi has 48mm of fork offset and 55mm of trail. The Look has 43mm of offset and 58mm of trail. The Volagi has a 72.5° STA, and the Look has 73°. The big difference is the Look is about 871mm to the top, front edge of the head tube, whereas the Volagi is about 930mm. That's calculated from the geometry charts and from my tire radius. Their bike weighed in at around 17lbs, so about a pound or a bit more than mine (mine does have a tank for a saddle). Like a lot of bikes now, it's sporting a tapered steerer (1.125" to 1.375").

Given it's geometry you'd expect that it wouldn't have twitchy tendencies, and it certainly doesn't. The best way to describe its handling is to say it's very neutral. On descents, it was no trouble picking a line and holding it, nor was it any trouble changing lines quickly. It was just a bit more deliberate process than, say, a crit bike. I'm okay with that. When I raced motorcycles, I liked neutral handling. Climbing with the Volagi was comfy whether I was standing or sitting. On the Look, I'm more comfy sitting than standing. Maybe it's just a quirk of mine.

As can be expected with a relatively long wheelbase, the Volagi has a pretty comfy ride. Big bumps had less impulse transmitted to my ass than on my Look, and it also damped better high frequency vibrations. The vibrations I'm talking about come on some roads where the tar or whatever gets washed off of/worn out of the road surface so that stones in the aggregate get left protruding Such things didn't disappear, but they were more muted than on the Look. Again, I refer you to the caveats already made: tire's were different, seat was different; wheels were different. Still, the difference between doing the same ride with the two different bikes seemed significant. The bike certainly didn't feel dead. There was still more than enough road feel.

I didn't make any adjustments on the road, and as it came, the brakes had more travel than I cared for before they engaged. On the front, I like a firm lever quickly. I like the opposite on the rear. I didn't care at all for the way Rival shifted and for the double tap thing. It's just not my cuppa. There was a periodic rub in the lowest gear, but I think that was likely the result of the small FSA chainring being warped and the need for a tiny change in the low limit screw for the front derailleur. The bars were 42cm versions, and I didn't much care for that narrowness, but that's easy enough for any owner to change. I'd change it since I'm a 44cm guy.

One big surprise was their seat. It's their own design (at least one of the owners has designed a number of saddles for others), and it was damned comfy. Again, that's an opinion formed after only one ride so take that for what it's worth. I normally ride a Selle San Marco Regal.

It seems likely it's a pretty aero bike. The down tube, seat tube, and seat post all had pretty well defined aero profiles. It certainly did like to roll downhill. It felt fast, but I'll have to check past rides on this route to compare with old speeds. One thing that killed speed was the braking. It was very powerful, and my usual braking points were way off. I ended up slowed down way to soon for a lot of the corners. Granted, I didn't want to push too hard since I didn't want to wad their bike and me, but there's no denying there be power a plenty. There was some brake squeal, but if it were my bike, I could use some of the tricks I've learned for diminishing or getting rid of squeal. I don't know how new the pads were, so I don't know if they were bedded in yet or not. The braking was such that for someone with either decreased hand strength, impaired hand function, or someone one a long descent, braking would likely be pretty damned easy and effective without being tiring.

Aesthetically, I think it were a pretty sexy looking bike. The company have definitely gone the conservative route with labeling, decals, whatever, and two of the owners told me that was a goal. The frame was nude unidirectional CF with clear coat, but the inside faces of the fork and the chain stays were painted red. I like that, the subtle addition of color. The CF finish looked very good and had no evidence of "we're new at this" or "we'll eventually figure out how to do this" to it. I didn't ask where their frames are made because, well, I don't care. They are not open mold frames. The design is all Volagi's. Given the subtle labeling and conservativish paint selection coupled with design elements of the bike, it certainly looks unique compared to other bikes out there. I has happy to see not a single decal that had the prefix "nano" in it, and there was no sign at all of things like SCLS, VCFM, or XYKZ or whatever worn out marketing crap is on any other given bike.

So, I dug riding the bike. I'd like to be able to give it a proper long test, maybe a month at least, to see what niggles or larger issues might come to the front.