PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : Killer V’s Attack: New Brand, New Bike, New Test!

tech n spec
Killer V’s Attack: New Brand, New Bike, New Test!
I’ve been dealing with Velo Vie co-founder Dan Barnes for a long time. Way back before there was a PezCycling, I remember going to a shop that Dan owned and having him pull a part off his own bike to get me on the road because he didn’t think I should have to wait on a manufacturer to fix a clear defect - and he didn’t sell me the bike he fixed!

It’s that type of desire to get people on the road that made me smile when I learned that Dan was partnering with Homayoon Farsi, a local cyclist and not exactly cash starved veteran of internet business and service, to bring both a good bike and a new customer service model to cycling. Of course the transaction and service side is interesting, but we’ll leave that for the folks at Entrepreneur to write about and we’ll concentrate instead on the new 300…

The thumbnail at the top gives you the biggie vie.

Arguably the best, and inarguably at least several of the best bikes today are tube set based. In carbon fiber, that carries brands like Colnago, Scott, Look, Time and custom bikes from Parlee, Crumpton, Calfee and Serotta (sure a couple of these also use molds). That’s not a bad list, and all use tubes and lugs or a version of tube and joint tech that illustrates why anyone making a blanket statement about monocoque bikes always being better is pretty much full of crap as things stand today. Monocoque does provide its advantages, but some companies just don’t take advantage as much as others.

The Velo Vie Vitesse 300 is built with tube to tube tech similar to that found with the Scott CR1 and that’s damn good company to keep in the performance game. The tubes are mitered and bonded together, then hand wrapped with carbon and finished. The results for the 300 are pretty nice. The joints are nice and tidy and Velo Vie use a 12k (aka big-fat checker) weave that would require extra effort and horrible lighting to not be identified as carbon from up close or 100 feet away…

The tube set is also on the large diameter side of things and is firmly in the “OS” range, as are lots of the performance based tube sets these days. Of some note is that the 300 doesn’t let the tubes taper much as you get toward the front end of the bike.

When I asked Dan what he was going for with the 300, his goal was pretty plain.

“Although we build with all three current industry standards, lugged, monocoque and tube to tube, for this bike we chose tube to tube construction... The primary ride characteristic [that Dan wanted] was stiffness, stiffness, stiffness. It was all about power transfer. I was even willing to give up ride comfort… Thank goodness for good engineers, who were able to retain the stiffness I needed, while improving overall ride comfort!”

Working with the engineers, Velo Vie went through several designs and 14 prototypes. That’s another value behind tube to tube construction in that a proto can come without a temp mold and can be built up to basically a fully functioning unit, ready for testing. A molded bike tends to need a sacrifice (either in butt-loads of cash and time creating multiple molds, or in function of the prototypes made in molds that won’t stand full pressure / heat). One of Velo Vie’s early prototypes is actually serving as the daily rider for one of their employee’s and there’s no reason it shouldn’t keep doing the job indefinitely.

Something not lost on Dan or the engineers is part of the reason you’ll not see a lot of tube size taper-down. Some publications (PEZ included) have shown the standard “ look at the Big-Bottom-Bracket" picture and implied that a huge BB is where the stiffness is. That’s not completely accurate.

A manufacturer can still make a sloppy bike, even with a big BB, if they make the mistake of trying to go too light or too thin and allowing flex a bit further away from the BB.

Virtually none of the flex you feel down low is the bottom bracket. While the bb is generally a reinforced, damn solid hunk of material, and a bigger one can mean a bigger tube will fit with it, it’s the tubes around it that are giving way when you feel your bike flexing…

The chain stays are also a little better off not getting too small or tapering too much toward the rear drop. Good solid stuff from Velo Vie here, as these start chunky…

And stay porkish out till they mate with the ludicrous pimp carbon hubs on the Bontrager’s XXXlites…

The trend of larger dropouts shaped to mate with larger diameter stays makes for a unit that is just plain better at resisting the heaps of twist force at the rear wheel…

While the chain stays try their best not to move, the seat stays for some bikes get a bit of wiggle in an attempt at a little rear compliance. Velo Vie make no such folly and keep things pretty straight in the chain stays (though they did seem to find a use for what may have been a few thousand left over Madone seat tubes).

They roll a bit different split tail design that also adds a little funk to the trunk…

Pretty much the whole of the back end has a lean toward just keeping things stiff though, and in the case of the 300 it does work out pretty well, as the booty and pretty much the whole rest of the bike do one thing pretty well and that’s holding itself straight.

The fork choice was also something that Velo Vie put some time in to. I got to see several versions in just the few times I stopped in, and the choice was a really good match for the frame. Simple in design and as simple in function as it is in looks.

The fork has just enough give to mate well with the 72 degree head angle to be the one place where there seems to be a bit of compliance without allowing to for any slop that would make the bike bend it’s head when cornering.

Ride The Damn Thing Already!

When I asked Dan who had the biggest input in the design of the 300, he basically made no bones… “call it the ultimate self indulgence” was what I got back, and knowing what Dan has liked in bikes over the past several years, I knew this one was going to have a major push (off a cliff) in the direction of performance (as if the “stiffness, stiffness, stiffness answer were not a clue). The 300 is a crit and attackers dream and doesn’t really make an attempt to be a friendly, super smooth, all day out with friends bike.

Say bike rides were like labor negotiations…

There’s A: The modern way “go meet and discuss things and if things go bad, you grab a picket sign that you can comfortably hold all day (that can also be swung at someone in a pinch).

Then there’s B: The old school way “go yell at each other and if it goes bad (or sometimes even if it goes good) you grab an axe handle and hit people in the face with it (in a pinch it can also be used, well, to hit people in the face again…). The 300 would be the axe handle in scenario B…

If you’re willing to give up some scoot for super smooth comfort, this along with the Cervelo soloist Carbon and a few others are probably not what you’re looking for… If however you’re choosing a tool to go out and pound, this one’s a treat.

That the treat can be had for $1699 (frame/ fork/ headset) is a really nice bonus.

That your $1699 also buys a frame that tips the scales in the mid high 900 gram range is no small bonus–bonus. In fact it’s here where this frame should find a home with a serious race crowd that are more (and rightfully concerned with cost in the very real case where things can go wrong…

The stiffness to weight ratio is very high. The stiffness to weight to price ratio with the 300 is among the best in cycling.

The geometry in small and medium and the ride that comes with it is pretty stable. Bikes that are both very light and very stiff can also be a little skittery when running tires at standard pressures…

We did with this bike what we do with pretty much all testers and tossed on house wheels (always with same tires and pressures) and bars and of course the same saddle I use for everything…

The light weight (and a good light weight set of wheels) makes quick work of turning into a corner and transitioning from corner to corner. The slightly relaxed head angle and fork rake add some welcome stability that is missing in a lot of the superlight/stiff bikes around.

Of course fit has a lot to do with my feeling of stability on this bike and yours might be a bit different sensation, but the 5 sizes should see the majority of the cycling public finding a happy place. Hopefully 7 sizes and slightly smaller gaps between will be some place in the near future for the 300.

While I can’t tell you what this bike will be like in larger sizes, I have a pretty good idea of the character of the 300 in the middle of things size wise as there are VERY few top end bikes that I’ve not had a leg over (relativity in comparison is something we don’t lack at PEZ). With that, I don’t want to make the 300 sound like it will rattle your teeth, as it’s a better ride than any of the old oversized aluminum available and several of the alu Carbon combo bikes (not that many of these still exist…). The ride comfort is absolutely as good as several bikes with this type of focus.

As performance oriented machines go, this will go toe to toe with most anyone, and when you toss in the dollar savings, the toes on several top brands might wiggle back a little.

Good for us then!

If it takes new brands to bring the price of performance down a bit, so be it. This one is a lot of people’s answer to “what do I buy if I want top notch race performance?”. For others it will be the answer to “what do I buy if I want top notch race performance but won’t want to throw myself off a bridge if I bin the thing ?”. That you save some solid cash with this bike is a good thing…

After all, why just settle for kicking your friends in the teeth when you can toss in a little buyer’s remorse to their whoopin? Given you saved several hundred versus what they’re on will be lost on some, as paying more is a bit of a status thing. But I know a few guys that would hate to get powdered by a frame and fork costing half or less what they paid...

If you’re in the market, you can grab a frame alone, or build a bike up complete at Velo Vie’s Web store.
• Price: US$1699.00 - frame fork headset

Have Fun,

Charles Manantan

Note: if you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

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