Even without the disc brakes, Volagi bicycles stand out against the crowd. After starting with just a single model, the company now produces three distinctive endurance road bikes, all using their swooping Longbow FlexStays. If you’re new to the Volagi story, the arching seatstays are about more than just looks. Bypassing the seat tube completely, the stays allow the seat cluster to flex under harsh impacts providing a more forgiving ride than your typical racing-inspired road bike.
Volagi first made the transition in to metal with their category defying Viaje XL. Built to accept a wide range of tires and ride over any surface you can find, the Viaje sits somewhere between a cross, gravel, and road bike. Now, Volagi has updated the Viaje, instead crafting it from titanium. The details are the same – disc brakes, Long Bow Flexstays, generous tire clearance, and a carbon fork. But the ride? It’s safe to say the Viaje Ti is a new beast…
Like the original, the Viaje Ti a sexy bike likely to standout in any group ride. As an “adventure bike” it has disc brakes, abundant tire clearance, and sufficient mounts for commuter and touring duty. While I hated to cover up the curvaceous frame with panniers, I was looking for something faster for my commute. So, like Homer Simpson weeping while he ate his pet lobster Pinchy, I worked through my conflicting emotions, attached an ugly rack and fenders, and savored my rides to work.
For my 20 mile commute, my old race bike and messenger bag setup was starting to make me feel my years. I wanted something quick like my race bike, but comfortable like my old 26” mountain bike turned commuter. The Viaje fit the bill perfectly. At 19lbs (57cm), the titanium Viaje isn’t as light as my carbon race bike, but it accelerated quickly and had faster steering than I expected. Cranking out of the saddle, the bike had same race-bike feel of solid power transfer. The handling was so quick, I worried how the bike would behave when loaded, but it rode fine even with 20 pounds of gear (rack, panniers, clothes, and Dell Albatross laptop).
Volagi was an early adopter of disc brakes on road bikes, but for me, the standout feature of the Viaje is its pure comfort without noticeable loss of efficiency. The slightly more upright position let me stay in the drops, without neck strain. There was no road chatter to wear on the hands. Despite a surprisingly thin-to-win Volagi branded saddle, my arse remained un-kicked.
The Viaje is a remarkably versatile road bike, and builds up to be a great commuter. On several morning rides, I ended up taking the scenic route well past the office. Zipping along the back farm roads, I found myself humming songs and cheerfully greeting the occasional horse. It’s a ride-all-day bike, perfect for charity centuries, full-on endurance racing, or just about any high mileage adventure you want. And it still has enough pep for weekend club rides, or slashing through city traffic. It’s both a floor wax and a dessert topping.
I’ve always been skeptical of flexing frame designs as the early flexing mountain bikes never seemed to live up to their promises. On the initial rides of the Viaje, I attributed most of plushness to the widish 28c tires, ergo bars, and comfortable position, rather than the frame. As a test, I switched to thinner 23c tires jacked up to 100+psi. I expected to get that chattery race bike feel, but even with rock hard race tires the ride was smooth. The frame design really does reduce chatter and seems to take the edge off potholes while never feeling flexy or soft when mashing the pedals.
True to form, gravel and dirt roads were non-issues, and with cross tires even buffed singletrack is on the menu. However, the rocky singletrack in my part of New England marked the Viaje’s sensible limits. The TRP disc brakes helped keep some control on my local mtb test loop, but winter gloves and fat bars made for a tenuous grip and slightly out of control downhills. Long story long, this adventure bike is best suited for paved, dirt, or gravel roads.
The Viaje has also made me a believer in disc brakes on road bikes. I was expecting low modulation and scary amounts of power, but that wasn’t the case at all. No unintended skidding; just really nice controlled braking from the TRP HY/RD brakes. My only issue with the controls was minor. The flat and fat ergo FSA carbon bars and cushy tape were comfy, but restricted my reach from both drops and hoods. Combined with thick winter gloves, grip and braking reflexes were dodgy. Folks with smaller hands may want to make adjustments. For my rural road rides, it wasn’t a problem worth fixing. The only other limitation to consider is that the hooded dropouts could hamper certain trailer setups.
The Volagi branded Ignite E7 carbon wheels helped keep overall weight down, and at 28mm wide can handle tires up to 45mm. The wheels held up to intentional abuse, especially while I tested for frame flex and aimed for every pothole and rock. Your old road wheels won’t transfer (not that they would anyways, unless you already have discs), but 135mm rear spacing makes for a stronger wheel, and provides interesting interchangeability with MTB wheels and tires. There looks to be enough clearance to cram in low profile 29er tires approaching 2.0.
Having worked for small frame builder in the past, I can appreciate a well-made Ti frame. Volagi appears to have a quality frame vendor in ORA Engineering (Taiwan). The Viaje’s welds, cuts, and overall spacing were all spot on. The butted and oversized tubing is sure to handle anything you’d want to ride. Our test bike came with Ultegra and Volagi’s top-line carbon wheels, and sells for about $6,500. Build options are numerous, and alloy wheels and SRAM drivetrain can get the bike under $5,000. Other notable features include electric shifting ports, bolt-on alloy clamps to hold full-length cable housing, and PF30 bottom bracket shell.
Strong, versatile, compliant and efficient, the distinctive Viaje is priced fairly and comes with a lifetime warranty, although I doubt you’d ever need it. This Ti road bike is built for the long haul.