AX Lightness certainly have a tendency to go for some crazy light components, like their new enduro wheels we featured several weeks back. Now ever since they introduced their VIAL evo series of carbon frames a few years back, they’ve been constantly moving forward with ever lighter bikes. This fall at Eurobike AX was showing two new Vial bikes: the new Vial Evo XC hardtail mountain bike and an updated special layup Vial Evo Ultra that they suspected is the first production road bike where all size framsets, including frame fork, and headset come in under one kilo.
And that’s not all they had to show. There was also a partial prototype of an upcoming road disc Vial, several examples of their light aluminum crankset, and a few new updated rim profiles for road and cross. Check out the details and some close ups of the killer specs of the premium bike builds after the break…
Vial Evo XC
Based on the technology of AX’s race winning Vial Evo road frame, the Vial Evo XC gets some distinct differences to suit off-road riding. The carbon layup is based on UD fibers, but get woven reinforcements at strategic points. How the bike is put together is immediately visible when looking closely at the raw finished frame. Different carbon types and layers are visible where they are added to high stress areas of the frame. AX Lightness doesn’t hide the carbon under a lot of paint, and their attention to detail and the quality of their process is easy to see.
The 29er Vial gets short 427mm asymmetric chainstays for quick handling and max tire clearance. There is plenty of room for a wide range of chainring sizes, but the possibility for a front derailleur was thrown out for the light race bike to keep tire and chainstay clearance. The bike goes with a long frame reach that will pair with short 70-90mm stems for modern predictable handling.
The Vial Evo XC will be available at first in just two sizes, M & L, with frame weights of 860g. The frame uses a tapered 1.125-1.5″ headtube, an X12 thru-axle rear, a BB392EVO bottom bracket, and a 30.9mm seatpost. The frame will be available with full internal routing for mechanical or Di2 drivetrains. Complete bikes will come with an XX1 group, AX clinchers and finishing kits with weights from 7.5kg. The size M bike should be available in November, with the L ready over the winter. As is sometime rare at shows, it was nice to see that this Vial Evo XC had clearly gotten some trail time before being mostly cleaned up and brought inside for the show.
Vial Evo Ultra
For the road version of the Vial Evo, AX Lightness pulled out all the stops with a new Ultra version that takes weight savings to new extremes. Starting on the drawing board with the same light Vial Evo that we looked at last year, AX redesigned the entire layup to shave weight, while maintaining stiffness. What results is a frame that takes almost 20% more man hours to layup for a savings of just 35-70g to around 600g. And it doesn’t sacrifice performance; just as the bike comes to market one of the first bikes of AX Lightness’ product manager was loaned out and ridden to victory in the overall standings of the 2015 TransAlp Tour this summer.
But they didn’t stop there and every component on the bike gets optimized for lighter weight, in part with a lot of time spent with partner THM to trim their already light components. No item was too small as the gains really did start to add up. Ceramic Speed bearings were even redesigned with ceramic coatings on aluminum races to get a gram back here and there. The special edition THM Scapula CT-X fork even shaves off an extra 20g and gets a matching carbon finish.
Tuned down to around 125g for the pair with light hardware, AX’s own brakes provide stopping power against Continental Podium tubulars rolling on AX Lightness’ own Ultra 24T rims. The frame gets a finish similar to the new XC bike that uses several different types of high modulus carbon throughout, with UD and weaves carefully selected to minimize material to get the weight down.
Add in trimmed down hollow carbon drop out and a lightened THM Clavicula SE compact crankset, and the complete bike weighs just 4.4kg and will sell for a whopping 15,000€. AX Lightness expects the new frame to sell quite well, and ultimately their proudest statement on the Vial Evo Ultra is that every size (even the XL) manages to keep the complete frameset – frame, fork, and headset – under 1000g.
With two new Vial Evo frames, why not add another? AX Lightness had two copies of this prototype front triangle of their forthcoming Road Disc version; one here and the other with THM displaying their in progress Scapula Disc road fork. We couldn’t get any firm details, but we expect to see a version of the X12 thru-axle from the Vial Evo XC to match the 12mm thru-axle of the THM fork, combined with the tiny seatstays of the other road Vials. We’ll hope to get a sneak peek sometime soon.
We looked at an early sample of the AX forged and machined aluminum crankset last year, but get a bit more detail now. The TransAlp winning Vial had a 110BCD set bolted on with BOR mid-compact chainrings, so clearly they are up to competition.
The cranks are available now with road and mountain spider variants from just 530g with a 30mm spindle and a wide range of compatibility for most frames/bottom brackets.
With regards to wheels, AX came out with several updated rims over the last year and a half. They had a nice display that highlighted their new and current line-up. They picked out a few to show us that they see as the most interesting or unique: the fat Streem 38 and 55 as the most interesting aero tubulars for them, the U28C clinchers that went head to head with the best even deeper aero wheels on the market in a test by Procycling, and of course the new T-shaped Enduro clincher with its built in flex for durability.