- by Michael Bachman
- Published: 6 February 2012
HSV’s iconic marketing phrase “I just want one” summarised my first thoughts the moment I saw the first pictures of the Volagi when it was presented at Interbike 2010. Since then, I have eagerly followed it’s development to the point of finally going on sale and then an Australian agent being appointed.
With a stroke of luck, I was offered a test ride whilst the TdU was in town, and naturally I jumped at the chance. I’ll admit up front, that as an early adopter, I’m sold on the idea of discs on a road bike. Not only are there uge benefits when riding in inclement weather (they work as if it were dry), they offer brilliant modulation and control that when braking from high speed for a 15 km/hr switchback on your favourite descent, to stopping gently for the next red light.
Anita Johnson is the agent appointed for Australia, and along with her husband, Drew (National Sales Manager of Shimano Australia), they have extensive contacts in the cycling industry, so are well positioned. In speaking with Drew prior to my ride, many of the World Tour team mechanics, bosses and even some riders have taken the bike for a spin and commented positively, with Drew mentioning “they get it” when it comes to the future of braking on road bikes is discs. Whilst we may not see them in the World Tour in 2013, wait for them to burst onto the road scene. The Volagi Liscio is the tip of the iceberg !!
The bike that I was lucky enough to test ride was Drew’s personal bike, and with a 57cm frame size it was perfect for me. It differed only from the standard offering in that it was fitted with Ultegra Di2 with a 53/39 crankset and a corncob 11-21 cassette, a pair of the 6700 Ultegra carbon pedals and bars/saddle to suit Drew. The tyres fitted were Michelin Pro Optimum in 25C.
It certainly looks better in the flesh than it does in all of the promotional pictures ! The understated graphics are classy, that’s all I need to say. I strongly believe in the axiom, ‘less is more’, and the Liscio fulfils that well. As the frame is not designed for Di2 (although there are revisions coming to the frame) the installation is not ideal, but the Di2 system works brilliantly. After a brief chat and seat adjustment, I was off.
When I learnt of the test ride opportunity, the plan was to head to a great local climb, Greenhill Road (7.3km @ 6.2% with great corners to descend) to test the climbing, handling and then head down to the beach for a latte, and then return. The standard crankeset and 11-21 cassette meant that, for me, Greeenhill Rd was out, but being desperate to test the bike on a climb and descent, instead I headed to Belair Rd (3.7km @ 5.5%) which is a short sharp climb with some great corners, but also choppy surface.
As I headed out to the climb, I went via a local paved road to see how well the Liscio lived up to it’s name in soaking up the bumps. The ride was impressive to say the least. Controlled, smooth yet I knew what I was riding on. I was loving this bike already. So when are they arriving in Aus for sale …?
Onto the climb; back down to the 39/20 ratio (I am used to a compact with 12-27, so this was going to be interesting) and off I went. The bike responded really well and I had some ‘carrots’ up front to spur me on to a fast time. Despite not being well setup on the bike, I still felt great and very comfortable carving up the hill. It was getting me up the hill with the same apparent efficiency as my very stiff Cinelli Nuovo SuperCorsa, yet no harshness was evident. I was getting near the top of the climb and heading for a PB, so I dug a bit deeper and managed to shave of a few more precious seconds. Was it the bike or was it me ? A bit of both, as despite the gearing and so-so fit, it felt very comfortable yet precise. Now, for the descent.
Up into the big chainring, and off I went. Belair Road is a mixture of well cambered corners with varying speeds and surfaces due to a number of repairs over the years, so at speed, it can be challenging – not a place to let the mind wander. As I hit the first series of sweepers, I noted just how well the bike turned to where you wanted it to go, and how it kept that line with minimal input, even if bumps and undulations tried to shake you off course. Even the rough patches in the straights at over 60km/hr that normally shake the bars and have a wobble were merely small bumps in the road. The discs worked great in hauling me up without a hint of locking, veering or sending me over the bars as many people think they will. So when are they arriving in Aus for sale …?
A quick ride along the flat to the beach over train lines, road repairs, rough bitumen and man hole covers reinforced the stability and level of absorption in this frame. It was really a cut above many of the bikes I have ridden. Another test I do to get an idea of the lateral frame stiffness is to give the bars a ‘wobble’ at speed and see what happens. The stiffness in this trial was very similar to my Cinelli (made from Columbus UltraFoco steel) so the levels of comfort achieved in this frame are not at the expense of overall control, something that reinforces the cornering stability of this frame.
Finally it was time for a latte, and to admire the bike by the beach against the backdrop of a cloudless blue sky, I had to make a minor adjustment to the HSV slogan, “I just want one… NOW”. Sadly, it was then time to head back to the TdU village and the first thing I could say to Drew on my return was “So when are they arriving in Aus for sale …?”
Anita and Drew are hard at work in finalising the specs on the bike, with an option of maybe some more Shimano componentry being fitted (calipers and Ice Tech rotors for example) to help them achieve comparable US pricing once GST is applied here.
Previously, I was sceptical regarding the Di2, but now having trialled it, it will be on the shopping list, especially when the frame is made compatible for a neat installation. The level of comfort over choppy surfaces, the ‘feel’ of the handling and ability to provide a fast yet stable ride around corners sold me, and that’s before we get to the brakes. They are the future – it’s as simple as that. Throw in elegant and understated styling, it is worth the premium that a steed such as this will command over the mass produced bikes that roll out of many of the large suppliers in their thousands.
The bike that this is based on is the Ultegra level model (currently offered in the USA with SRAM Rival, Ultegra and Dura Ace, with the frame module and some wheel options also being available), and with 5 frame sizes from 50cm to 60cm, there is sure to be a size to fit you, visit www.volagi.com for more details.
If you are after a racing bike for crits or that ‘pro look’, whilst the Volagi is capable, this probably isn’t the bike for you. Bit it does mean it is for everyone else. For those that love riding for the enjoyment, the thrill of riding in the hills on a cool morning or just being on a bike, soaking up the scenery, pushing that little bit harder up a hill to get a PB, carving up that favourite descent, to a 100km + sportive and arriving with a grin on your face, rather than a grimace. It WILL be my next bike, the only decision is, which colour ?
- Brilliant handling, ability to make rough roads smoother
- Braking for the 21st century
- Classy and stylish lines
- The brake calipers need to be black
- Not yet available in Aus (but soon)
- I had to give it back
Many thanks to Anita & Drew Johnson for providing the opportunity to finally ride this bike.
The Volagi website with the model range and options: www.volagi.com