When Votec debuted their carbon VRC endurance road bike back in midsummer, we wondered just how off-road ready the all-road bike would be. Coming off the heels of a successful & affordable VRX gravel bike that sold out faster than they could keep up, Votec has refocused on what they do best – reasonably-priced drop bar bikes for mixed surface riding. Thus, this new Votec Road Carbon… VRC bike finds a nice all-road sweet spot, balancing geometry that is stable yet quick from smooth asphalt, to dirt roads, to even a bit of proper gravel…
2020 Votec VRC a carbon endurance road bike for all-roads
Votec calls the VRC their ideal take on what a modern road bike should be, venturing more into all-road for the increased versatility over any road surface. Figuring out what is the difference between an all-road and a gravel bike often comes down to personal preference, how you want to ride, and just how gnarly your gravel is going to get…
Some gravel riders like to push the limits into terrain that might be better suited by a proper mountain bike…
…while others might just be riding rough asphalt & cobblestones, or hunting the holy grail of buff dirt & gravel roads away from car traffic.
Personally, I don’t really like being confined to one type of road or another. And that’s probably where the Votec VRC shines best, with a quick-feeling road ride feel that’s happy to get dirty when necessary.
Endurance all-road geometry
To make the mix of on-road handling work with off-road capabilities, Votec mixes mostly road-like steep-ish angles with a slightly forward position, endurance-focused wheelbase & a lot of bottom bracket drop. Frame reaches tend to be a bit compact for similarly sized road bikes (or especially compared to gravel bikes), with slightly longer endurance-oriented chainstays to fit big tire clearances in and a slightly longer wheelbase similar to other modern endurance road bikes.
My medium test bike for example was a bit more slack that many road-only bikes with a 72° headtube, which paired with short 378mm frame reach & all-road-ready 414mm chainstays, yet a short for all-road 991mm wheelbase.
(For comparison with two similarly focused endurance road bikes I’ve spent time on recently – the medium Canyon Endurace gets a 73° headtube, 382mm reach, 415mm stays & 990mm wheelbase; the medium Merida Scultura Endurance gets a 73° headtube, 380mm reach, 418mm stays & 1001mm wheelbase.)
The result is that I put on a 10mm longer than stock steam and was rewarded with a stable position on the bike and a slightly forward weight balance that lent a quick but predictable feel to handling, on or off-road – a happy medium.
All-road setup Overview
The version of the new Votec all-road bike I spent the second half of the summer riding was a medium VRC Pro in Norwegian blue that retails for 3000€. Outfitted with a Shimano Ultegra mid-compact 52/36T crankset & wide enough 11-30 cassette, it offered a good gearing range for varied terrain, but definitely leans towards hard surface road riding.
My test bike was equipped with the standard 19mm internal alloy Mavic Ksyrium wheels, but had 32mm WTB Expanse tires on it rather than the stock 30mm Vittoria Corsa Controls – presumably because Votec knew I wasn’t likely to stick to the tarmac. To experiment a bit in more versatility, I also spent time with some 33mm knobby Greim Pro cyclocross tires and 35mm G-One Allround gravel tires fitted – covering a broader range of all roads.
Votec VRC Pro – Tech details
A number of unique details stand out on the VRC, like the ‘VR Knot’ seat cluster that incorporates a conventional-clamping seatpost binder that sits flush with the toptube, and also allows the seatstays to slip past for additional comfort. The VR-Knot was easy to adjust and didn’t give me any troubles (like some wedge-style clamps can). And the decoupling of seatstays from the seattube surely made it feel like rough road vibrations didn’t make it up to the saddle.
The VRC has internal cable routing with a single modular port in common spot at the top of the downtube. But its fork routing is a bit more unique, with a small flat section of the crown extended out to the side, allowing for the front brake line to drop straight down into the top of the fork, while staying clear of the headtube.
One detail feature that seems a bit odd now is the VRC’s adopting of Mavic’s Speed Release quick release thru-axle standard. A good idea mixing the benefits of QRs & security of thru-axles without having to set you axle down on the ground when you take a wheel out, SpeedRelease never really caught on. All of the stock VRC builds do include Mavic wheels though, and the system works really well. And Votec does offer separate 12mm bolt-on axles that make the bike compatible with any other standard thru-axle wheels.
VRC Pro – Actual weight
With tubes inside of the slightly larger than stock WTB tires, my medium test bike weighed in at 8.59kg (18.9lb). That’s just 200g more than Votec’s claim, and for sure setting the bike up tubeless with the included valves will make up for it, although it is unclear if the stock Vittoria tires are the TLR version.
Riding Impressions on the Votec VRC
Most of the kilometers I rode on the VFC were actually on-road (seriously, I realize these photos may be a bit deceiving), but I can’t think of a single ride I took on the bike that didn’t leave the tarmac at least once. That’s really where the VRC shines – riding quiet dead-end backroads, then connecting with a dirt road alongside a farmer’s field or gravel road through the forest to the next village.
Now don’t get me wrong. As I alluded to back in July with my first impressions on the all-road VRC – Votec is pretty clear that this isn’t actually meant to be a gravel bike. Even with room for 35mm tires plus a decent amount of clearance you can fit pretty off-road capable tires in here – this VRC rides best on the road with something around a 30-32mm tire.
That seems to hot the sweet spot for quick on-road feel, smoothing out rough riding surfaces, and still feeling fast over hardpack dirt & gravel sectors.
There is room for mud though, especially if you swap in a set of cross tires. I personally felt better with a semi slick tread than these mud tires, because the low BB height is going to keep you from doing anything crazy off-road in any case. Bigger gravel tires like the 35mm G-One added extra volume, but didn’t really improve the ride enough to be worth the reduced clearance.
And about the only real nit to pick if you want to run off-road-ready tires near that 35mm upper limit, would probably be the potential for toe overlap. A result of the short reach/short front center dimension combined with larger diameter tires on the VRC is the dreaded toe overlap.
I normally ride a medium road/all-road bike and am used to almost 1cm more of frame reach. Instead of sizing up the frame, I sized up the stem, and stuck with an M. The result was that when I mounted taller CX tires, my size 43 shoe (with cleats pretty far back) crossed paths with the front tire. It was never actually an issue while riding, but something that doesn’t happen often in M or larger bikes. But mixing big tires with a compact front end, and it is no huge surprise.
But I would recommend riders on the bubble about size choice, to size up to keep it from happening.
The VRC is ready to ride any road. There’s no bikepacking or other major adventure accessory mounts (although it does have hidden full-coverage fender mounts). No 650b gravel wheel compatibility.
It is a road bike. Just one for any and all roads – a bike with a surprisingly comfortable rear end that makes slipping off-road feasible to extend the reach of your road rides, much thanks to fast-rolling, gravel-capable tires.
While the VRC isn’t really a gravel bike, it does hint of what could possibly be in the works from Votec for heading further off-road. Their alloy VRX was quite popular, and I’ve spotted a few riders tackling a good bit of gravel on this all-road bike. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a large volume, more knobby tire evolution of this bike in the future – taking advantage of the VRC’s unique design features, with maybe even more comfort over bumpier terrain…
The new carbon VRC all-road bike is available now, direct from Votec in five stock sizes (S-XXL), three different colors, four complete bike builds – with pretty much all versions in stock and available for delivery across Europe now. For full details on pricing & options can be found in our original in-depth tech coverage of the Votec VRC launch from July here.