When a steel bike for testing was mentioned I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I love steel bikes, I've owned three of my own in last few years and tested a couple more and every one has left a smile on my face. While I was doing a bit of research on Tonic's Vanishing Point I just couldn't get one little number out of my head - 2400g frame and fork weight. After miles and miles on carbon and alloy machines weighing a kilo under that was I finally about to ride a steel bike that wasn't going to inspire?
Everything from Tonic Fabrication is hand made in house by the two man team Landon & Tony in Portland, Oregon. Right down to custom bending their tubing to the CNC machining of dropouts and other parts allowing full control over every detail found in one of their frames. The Vanishing Point is their first foray into the road market after cutting their teeth with jump bikes, fixed gear and then cyclocross.
Available as a frameset,r custom build or off the peg the options are endless We're testing our Vanishing Point mainly as a frameset, but the build we have is available as an option too for £4100 - it does include some pretty snazzy componentry not least those Easton EC90 wheels and builds up to a complete bike weight of 8.4Kg.
It's a beautiful looking frame with neat touches like the open ended seat and chainstay tubes blending into the, in comparison, dainty machined dropouts. My favourite part of the whole frame though has got to be the wishbone seatstay. The transition between tubes and diameters is seamless and so much more pleasing to the eye than the usual twin stays. In fact the smooth welds and black paintjob create a flowing structure throughout the frame. The oversized headtube with intergrated headset also flows nicely to both the top and down tube, with no logo or badge covering it the lines are kept clean and simple. The only quibble with the quality of the frame is the fact that the threads on the water bottle bosses weren't cleaned out, no doubt the production models will come with cage bolts so this would be noticed before dispatch. The understated black paint looks classy but if its not to your taste custom colour options are available starting at a reasonable £95. If you want to go the full custom route things like mudguard eyelets and rack mounts can be sorted at the time of ordering as well.
Tonic's design spec was to create a comfortable frame but fast and stiff like a track bike. The use of oversize Columbus Zona and True Temper OX Platinum tubing create the stiffness with deep section 22.2mm chainstays and 38mm diameter downtube controlling the flex from the bottom bracket area. In Tony's own words "As for the tubing used, we select it based on Diameter, wall thickness, Butt profile and intended use (No magic formula here) . But we have always preferred the aesthetic and ride quality of large constant diameter tubes over award winning shapes and tapers." The ride itself was somewhat compromised by the overly stiff bar, stem and seatpost choice, taking away the vibration reducing qualities of the steel but on rides of three hours or more the frame comfort shone through as I was finding my body a lot less fatigued than usual even when really pushing it.
The beefy carbon Enve forks bring a lot to the ride with good vibration reduction to match the frame but plenty stiff enough to give loads of feedback in the corners. Tonic Fabrication can supply a steel fork if you want something a bit different. Its a trimmed down version of the Suernaut steel fork. Getting the power down was fun too, when once up to speed the Vanishing Point is easy to keep there. The lightweight Easton wheel and component package our frame was supplied with balances out the frame and fork weight. Better to have the weight as a static than revolving in the case of heavy wheels. Hard acceleration and climbing showed no problems with stiffness with barely any flex felt anywhere and high speed descents were easily controlled thanks to the confident tracking of the Enve fork.
Although a frame and fork test obviously the components fitted to the frame will have a large impact on how the bike feels. As mentioned above the Easton finishing kit was so stiff it was really at odds with the frame, especially the aero bars - one of the reasons we reckoned it was fairer to test the Vanishing Point as a frameset. A swap to a more traditional bar with a bit of flex in it would help the overall comfort levels a huge amount. The Easton EC90 SL wheels, while amazing to ride giving loads of feedback and some of the best braking (in conjunction with Swisstop yellow pads) I've ever known are just too stiff to compliment the frame. Sram Force provided the drivetrain and gears and while not being one of my favourites gave clean shifts and stayed running quite and in alignment over the test period.
In conclusion the Vanishing Point is a great looking and riding frame and fork. Build it up with some slightly less harsh components than we had, for day long rides and getting big miles in fast its up there with the best of them. The kudos of having a bike that not many people have heard of also is a feel good factor especially with its understated looks. A great blend of speed and comfort gives the Vanishing Point a large appeal to many, if you're after an unassuming stealth sportive bike to slot in between the MAMIL's Pinarello's book yourself a test ride.
Oh yeah, the 2400g f&f weight - I never even noticed it!!
road.cc test report
Make and model: Tonic Vanishing Point
Size tested: 54cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Columbus Zona and True Temper OX Platinum steel tubing with carbon forks. A steel fork option is available plus a list of add ons if you go custom route
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
I'd say its for the Sunday club rider, sportivist, that type of thing as a opposed to full on racer.
the manufacturers have pitched it roughly the same market while flinging commuting into the mix which I suppose is a possibility if its a long distance ride
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Beautifully finished except for the bottle cage threads not being cleaned. the quality of the paintjob was excellent
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Differing tube diameter and butting using the two steels listed above
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
xs s m m/l l xl
TT LENGTH 510 530 550 570 590 610
ST LENGTH 490 510 530 550 570 590
H/T ANGLE 72 72 73 73 73 73.5
S/T ANGLE 74 74 73 73 72.5 72.5
HT LENGTH 100 115 128 148 168 186
CS LENGTH 405 405 408 408 410 410
BB DROP 70 70 70 70 70 70
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Height and reach was pretty standard for the size we tested. everything felt comfortable from the off
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bike was comfortable but would have been helped with less race orientated components
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, no flexing issues at all
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? perfectly balanced,
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The frame and fork tracked beautifully, descending at high speed was a joy
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
seriously planted and shock absorbing
Did you enjoy riding the bike? yes
Would you consider buying the bike? yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? yes
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
A bike that you seem to take more notice of when you've finished riding it. When you're riding it nothing catches you out or really gets the adrenaline going it just gets on with it. Looking back over your ride though you realise how much fun it was. ideal for the long distances where fatigue can make twitchy bikes a pain
About the tester
Age: 32 Height: 180cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Genesis Flyer My best bike is: Ribble Gran Fondo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With a background in engineering dabbling as a CNC programmer/machinist, draughtsman and product development engineer how a bike is made is just as important to Stu as how it rides.
He knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and has been chucking bikes around the west country ever since and the only reason he climbs is so that he can descend like a nutter down the other side. After years as a competitive time triallist Stu is on the lookout for a new form of competition after realising that the choice of a few glasses of wine in the evening versus riding up and down dual carriageways at 5am was becoming very one sided.