First look: Volagi bikes

Californian disc-only comfort performance frames coming to the UK via Hoops Velo

by Dave Atkinson   October 28, 2013  

Gary from Hoops Velo popped over to see us today to show us the two Volagi frames he'll be bringing into the UK. We're keeping the Liscio to give it a full test.

Heard of Volagi? Well, the back story is that the bike company, based in California, was founded by Robert Choi and Barley Forsman, two designers from Specialized.

Their idea  was to build a more comfortable frame platform and their unique selling point is the Long Bow Flex Stay; The seatstays attach to the the top tube well past the seat tube junction, making them longer for more comfort and also allowing the  seat tube junction to flex more.

Specialized weren't best pleased with their ex-employees making a go of things on their own, and sued Choi and Forsman for Intellectual Property theft, amongst other claims. The courts found against Volagi but threw out the most serious claims and enforced a settlement of a single US dollar, and the startup retained the patents for their frame design.

Anyway, enough history. The now news is that Volagi's two frames – the carbon Liscio and the steel Viaje – will now be available in the UK via Hoops Velo. Gary is bringing the bikes in as framesets only, which means you can choose your build to suit your riding.

The Liscio is Volagi's original frame, and as a frameset (with headset and seatpost) will cost £1,595. Unlike most carbon road framesets that you can currently spec with discs, this bike has been designed from scratch to use disc brakes, rather than being repurposed from a calliper frame. It's designed to be comfortable, and the 30T/24T Carbon mix reflects that, with ultra-stiff race frames opting for ultra-stiff 60T and even 65T fibres.

That will likely mean the frame doesn't have the stamp-and-go directness of a race frame, and the 16.7cm head tube and 54.9cm effective top tube on the 55cm bike we're getting to test marks it out as a sportive comfort position rather than heads-down racer. But the point of the Liscio is that it's light enough to be used as a summer bike but adaptable and comfortable enough to carry on through the winter, or venture a bit off the beaten path, which isn't somewhere you'd normally want your carbon bike to go.

The bike pictured weighs in at 8.47kg (18.6lb) with Shimano 105, TRP's excellent Hy/Rd Hydraulic interface disc brakes, and sensible alloy bars and stem. It wouldn't be too hard to knock a kilo off that with a lighter groupset, wheels and finishing kit. The wheels fitted here are Volagi's own Ignite EL units and it's good to see a munfacturer getting that a road disc wheel doesn't automatically have to be a heavyweight.

This pair weigh in at a claimed 1,630g to 1,660g per set, and Volagi also have a carbon-rimmed Ignite SL that comes in at under 1,500g as well as a heavier Ignite XL wheelset; even those, at 1,820g to 1,850g, aren't overbuilt. All Volagi's wheels, as well as their frames, use a 135mm dropout spacing, which is pretty much the de facto standard now. That can have some issues with heel clearance on the bulkier disc brakes with the calliper positioned on the chainstay like it is with the Liscio; it's unlikely to be a problem with the Hy/Rds though.

The frame and fork has full mounts for mudguards, and it will take a 28mm tyre under them, so it's one of only a few carbon frames that has room for a proper winter setup. That, the comfort-oriented design and layup of the frame and the low overall weight make it look like an interesting option for a year-round machine. The bike we'll be testing is mechanical shifting but the frame is designed for Di2, with two seoarate mounting positions for the battery (on a frame under the bottle cage, or on the bottom of the down tube).

The second frame is the Viaje XL. This is a steel frame (4130 double butted Cromoly) that features Volagi's Long Bow Flex stays, and it's designed to be even more versatile than the Liscio. With room for anything up to a 42mm cyclocross tyre (or a 32mm with 'guards) it's more suited for off-road excursions than its carbon sibling. You can fit a rack to the Viaje XL too. The properties of the steel stays, and the fact that they're attached further up the top tube than the Liscio, means that the Viaje, according to Gary, is even more forgiving a ride.

It's an interesting-looking frame, with all the tubes in the main triangle curved, as well as the heavily shaped seatstays, giving it a very organic feel. It's up-to-the-minute as well, with a BB386 bottom braket and a tapered head tube. And discs, of course.

The fork is a full-carbon affair with a 1.5" lower race. In keeping with its all-conditions design the Viaje XL is designed to run full-length cable outers, with the cables tidied up below the down tube by a couple of hefty clips. Unlike the Liscio, where the cable or hose for the front brake goes through the fork leg, on the Viaje XL it's held in place with a clip.

All that tube forming, and the unique design, mean that for a 4130 steel frame the Viaje XL isn't cheap. It'll cost £945, meaning a 105 build is likely to be around £1,700. It's pretty light for a steel bike, though. With the Shimano 105 build and Avid BB7 brakes shown here, and Volagi's heavier Ignite XL wheels, It's still under 10kg. We weighed it at 9.87kg (21.75lb) which is a full kilo lighter than the similarly-specced Genesis Equilibrium disc that just landed, although that has a steel fork.

We'll get some miles in on the Liscio and let you know how we get on. For more info on the Volagi bikes, head to www.volagi.com

11 user comments

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Marmite looks. Somehow due to cost they won't sell in great numbers so exclusivity is likely. Jury is still out for me.

posted by Guyz2010 [280 posts]
28th October 2013 - 22:49

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That steel one is very nice.
Price will stop me but its one of the nicest I have seen.

posted by mattsccm [244 posts]
28th October 2013 - 22:56

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I think I'm sold on Spyre mechanical discs (until SRAM drip down hydraulic disks to a cheaper groupset) and a carbon frame that will take mudguards - not many of those about, maybe only this and the Orbea? Spyre's callipers weigh about the same as Ultegra cantis and you can get some seriously light and strong carbon mtb wheels for not too much money that will have nice and wide rims by default. The weight saving from losing the braking track will go a bit of a way to offsetting the weight of the discs too. Might have talked myself into this..!

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posted by tom_w [75 posts]
29th October 2013 - 0:01

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I must admit I am intrigued by these bikes, especially the steel one.

posted by Doper [35 posts]
29th October 2013 - 2:01

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I have to wonder about those long stay things on the steel bike... It's not as though steel is famous for needing more comfort built in. I look forward to a review to see if it's not just a gimmick.

posted by Nick T [751 posts]
29th October 2013 - 10:03

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Whoah...that steel one is...strange. To say the least. It looks wrong, and then you look again...and it still looks wrong. I quite like it. I think...maybe I don't...maybe I hate it. Disconcerting Thinking

posted by Ad Hynkel [46 posts]
29th October 2013 - 14:55

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those seatstays are beyond creepy looking

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
29th October 2013 - 17:36

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Ah, these were the kickstarter adventure bike guys. I was tempted by this at the time: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/874048428/the-viaje-bicycle-engineer...

posted by ped [164 posts]
29th October 2013 - 18:40

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Love the carbon one, but the seat stays really don't work on the steel one to my mind. Be interested to see what they look like in the flesh though....

Pastaman

posted by pastaman [208 posts]
29th October 2013 - 20:53

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I think they had initially spec'd 130mm disk hubs, which, ATMO, was a horrible idea. I'm glad they have gotten the memo and switched to 135.

I'm also interested in hearing whether they have sorted out the carbon layup any better than on the early models. Reports were that there was no additional compliance coming from the funky frame design.

It should be noted that, while both of the founders came from Specialized, at least one of them was a clothing designer. Also, the $1 judgement was, if I remember correctly, because they had broken their employment contract with Specialized, and, as you alluded to, not having anything to do with trade secret theft (if they had stolen any bike ideas, they wouldn't have made a road bike with 130mm disk rear hub spacing).

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posted by pedalpowerDC [202 posts]
30th October 2013 - 16:07

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I've had my Liscio for nearly two years - fabulous bike - fast, comfortable and capable - whether it's descending from Glenshee Ski centre the Cairngorms at nearly 100kmh in Britain's "worst storms in 50 years", cycling London to Edinburgh or just doing the daily commute, it's a fab bike. Never fails to draw admiring comments either. I put Di2 on it when I got it and I've just popped a TRP HyRd front caliper on - all good. Glad to see that the mainstream bike companies are finally catching up...

posted by Meanredspider [7 posts]
10th December 2013 - 22:10

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