Tonic Fabrication's superbly named Vanishing Point frameset is another in our recent run of very lovely all-black bikes (there's more on the way too), in this case handcrafted from a mixture of Columbus Zona and True Temper OX Platinum steel tubing in Portland Oregon.
Pretty much everything about the Vanishing Point is interesting. For a start, although it's steel, and by modern standards made for a relatively unusual mix of tubing, this isn't about producing some sort of retro homage. Retro bikes don't come with oversize head tubes. Nor is it an attempt at a super-light race bike (frame weight is 1.9kg and the Enve fork brings it up to 2.4kg). Instead, it's all about the ride. Tonic describe the frame as being ideally suited to sportives, leisure riding and commuting.
That said, ours came built up with some pretty fancy kit that keeps the all up weight down to a pretty light 8.4kg, and the over-size headtube, short chainstays and deep-section down tube all say stiff and efficient pedalling platform to us. So, the Vanishing Point may be steel but this is no retro road bike exercise.
Tonic are Landon and Tony who, after working as frame builders for other bike companies, struck out on their own a few years ago. They started with two jump bikes – the Fall Guy and the Howie – then followed that with a fixed – the Supernaut – then a 'cross bike, and now their first road bike – the Vanishing Point. These guys believe in the benefits of large diameter steel tubing, sloping top tubes, and short chainstays – which are a feature of all their frames, although as they offer a full custom service you can go to the next level if yo.
Our bike comes built up by Tokyo Fixed with a very spiffy Enve Road 2.0 carbon fork, (you can also have the Tonic Steel Fork on request) SRAM Force groupset, Easton EC90 SL wheels, Easton EA70 stem and bars, and a Fizik Antares saddle, but the build process offered by Tokyo Fixed and Tonic is fully custom so you can take things in whatever direction you want. Rack and guard mounts are options for production as well as custom frames for those looking for a high end fast audax/commuter bike – although not with that Enve fork.
Tokyo Fixed are selling the frameset for £1,300 including the Enve fork – which is a fair lump of money on its own – and Tonic's semi integrated headset set-up. The build we've got will cost you a cool £4,100 with the Easton EC90 wheels accounting for a chunk of that. If that isn't high end enough for you there is talk of a stainless steel version in the offing.
So what's going on with those big tubes and the mix of steels. In terms of performance, what do they bring to the party on the Vanishing Point? I'll let Tony from Tonic explain:
"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 38mm down tub is a staple of just about every Tonic and for the Vanishing Point it is paired with our 22.2mm Supernaut chainstay, creating a very stiff chassis, without sacrificing the great ride quality of a modern steel road frame."
You can see why we're looking forward to throwing a leg over this baby. On paper at least, the geometry looks set up to give a stable but still lively ride, parallel 73° in the middle sizes with the seat tube slackening off a touch to 72.5° in the larger sizes while the head tube sharpens to 73.5° in the very biggest model while the seat tube slackens a nudge to 72.5°. All the main tubes vary in length depending on size, including the chainstays which run from 405 through to 410mm, and it's all beautifully put together.
And the name, Vanishing Point? Inspired by the trick of perspective involving parallel lines first employed by renaissance painters, or the 1971 film Vanishing Point starring Barry Newman as Kowalski, an all-American anti-hero on a benzedrene-fuelled cross country race to destruction at the wheel of a Dodge Charger or similar?
Nah, it's not going to be the renaissance painters is it? In fact, the Vanishing Point was nearly called The Kowalski but the guys at Tonic figured that hardly anyone would make the connection to the film. Here's hoping the ride is just as exciting, but without the same ending as the film (not wishing to spoil it for anyone… the film that is).
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.