Initial Review: Volagi Liscio Disc Brake Road Bike

Volagi Liscio disc brake road bike review and ride at Mt Rushmore SD

Since seeing the production versions ready Sea Otter, we’ve been awaiting our test bike from Volagi (Voe-LAH-Jee). Since hitting our office, two different riders have put a bit over 150 miles on the Ultegra-equipped Liscio, most recently on Highway 16a near Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

The Volagi Liscio is probably best known for being one of the first disc-brake specific road bikes, but there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a really great bike! Designed for long ride comfort, its frame uses long seatstays that split around the seat tube and connect further up in the top tube, providing a good bit of vertical compliance. Climbing through the Black Hills and descending the winding, corkscrewing, s-curving downhill treat toward the monument, the Liscio proved all that cush doesn’t come at the expense of performance.

The Volagi Liscio’s got a lot going for it. Make the jump for frame details and more first impressions…

Volagi Liscio disc brake road bike review and weight

The Liscio is available in several trims and a frameset (frame, fork, wheels, post) but all use the same basic frame. It’s a monocoque carbon frame with nano-carbon particles in the resin and smooth wall construction. All Liscio frames are a blend of 30t and 24t carbon, even though their website initially stated that only the Dura Ace model had the 30t. They decided that making one frame would be less expensive than two different models, and decided that all bikes would benefit from the higher end carbon.

Our test bike is the 57cm Ultegra build with alloy FSA stem and handlebar, Carbon FSA SL-K compact crankset and Volagi’s own VE7 Ignite EL carbon-rimmed wheels. Actual weight w/o pedals: 17lbs 5oz. MSRP for this model is $3,595.00.

Volagi Liscio disc brake road bike review

There’s no denying the curvy good looks.

Maybe it’s me, but the Liscio (which means ‘smooth’ in Italian) has a the visual flair of the boot-shaped country. The lines are nice accentuated by the paint scheme. On a group ride, it received plenty of compliments.

The fork is their own design. It’s tapered 1-1/8″ to 1-3/8″ with aero shaped legs. Both it and the seatstay bridge have holes for mounting traditional brakes. The top tube has mounting holes for cable stops should you regress to calipers. The headtube is tall, putting the rider in a more upright position. The handlebars have a very shallow drop, too, keeping the rider more comfortable.

The brakes both use internal cable runs with mechanical Avid calipers. Front rotor is 160mm, rear is 140mm. Hub spacing is 130mm on the rear. Internally mounted rear brakes keep a very clean aesthetic. Near both are mounts for pannier racks, which is a nice touch that adds versatility to match the frame’s long distance design. In fact, cofounders Robert Choi and Barley Forsman are avid distance cyclists and made the bike to fit their riding style.

Braking performance was solid, on par with quality calipers, but somehow felt better on long descents.

Volagi Liscio disc brake road bike review

The top tube’s gentle arc continues through the ovalized “Longbow Flex” seatstays, but part of it shoots straight back to reinforce the top of the seat tube. The stays don’t touch the seat tube at all, providing “5.5mm/kN” of flex. Translation: It’s damn comfortable over the rough stuff.

The seat tube maintains the seatpost’s aero shape most of the way down, rounding off around the front derailleur mount.

Volagi Liscio disc brake aerodynamic endurance road bike review

The downtube is aero shaped, too. Brake line runs internally, shift cables externally with a criss cross halfway down.

Volagi Liscio disc brake road bike review

The BB30 bottom bracket area is fairly stout. The downtube makes full use of the width and the chainstays are thick and tall as they exit. The result is a pedaling platform that’s stiff enough for most riders, particularly those that like to ride long distance. Sprinters might want a bit more, but this bike’s not really targeted at them.

Ignore the decal, these are the “SL” version of their E7 Ignite wheels. The UD Hi-Mod carbon fiber rims were designed specifically for disc brake use, meaning there’s no braking surface required. Volagi made the most of it with the rim profile, and they made it wide: 25mm outer width and 30mm depth. This let them mate it with a 25C Continental Ultra Race tire.

HOW’S IT RIDE?

With all the talk about long distance, endurance riding you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a bike that’ll struggle on those fast paced group rides. You’d be wrong…I managed to hang onto one for as long as my legs would allow. It’ll put the power where you want it, and some initial creaking when standing to hammer was fixed by tightening the crankset. Under loads of standing and stomping there’s a bit of chain rub on the front derailleur cage, but not obscenely more than with racier bikes. I took it through some tight downhill corners and parking lot “emergency” turns to test it out, and the Liscio went where it was pointed with nary a complaint.

That stuff’s just for kicks and grins, though.

Under real world conditions – just riding for fun or with a few friends – the Volagi has really shone. It gobbles up rough roads, pavement cracks and bridge transitions like they’ve been milled smooth. While the fork doesn’t claim to have any specific damping characteristics, between it and the wide rim and tire, I’m actually OK with the alloy FSA bar. Normally alloy bars vibrate my hands to pieces, but I haven’t had any issues thus far.

On a group ride I hit 48+ mph on a downhill and ran out of gearing. The Liscio was ultra stable. As in, I probably could have taken my hands off the bar and eaten a gel.

My best ride on it so far has been the roads around Mt. Rushmore. The climbs could kill you, but the descents took me to heaven. Seriously – Best. Road descents. Ever. I’ll post video when I get back to civilization. The roads were mostly smooth, but a couple of dips, bumps or bridge transitions could have shooken a twitchier bike off course. Not the Liscio. And on rougher pavement, it’s perfectly content to soak up the crud while you remain comfortably seated and pedaling along. It’s not that you feel disconnected – far from it – just free from harsh bumps or road vibes. The bike shone while descending high speed corners. It tracked confidently, smoothly and predictably. Any mishaps would have been user error.

So far, I’m pretty enthralled with it. I am on the fence as to whether I could use the larger (60) size – I’m 6’2″ – but the bike does have a long-ish top tube, and a jump from 57 to 60 is pretty big. Look for a longer term review in a few months.

ANY ISSUES?

Aside from the fixed BB creaking, the stock Volagi saddle didn’t meet with my approval. I’ve swapped it for the new Bontrager Team Issue road saddle and am much happier. I also had to tighten the seatpost clamp slightly more than recommended to keep it from creaking or slipping, but only at Choi’s suggestion. He said they’ve changed the mold slightly to improve the interface and that it shouldn’t be an issue anymore. (we got a really, really early production bike in for testing)

CHRIS’ COMMENTS

Editor’s note: We had another local rider spend a week on the Volagi. Separately, he’d contacted Volagi about demoing a bike and they put us in touch. Here’s his unedited review:

The Volagi Liscio was designed with one thing in mind: riding long distances comfortably. To ride long distances means the rider must be able to ride safely under changing road conditions and to be able to stay in the saddle for hours without undue discomfort. To this end, a couple of major innovations were incorporated into the design: disk brakes for all-weather stopping power, and a light, aerodynamic fatigue-reducing full-carbon frame. I recently rode the Volagi on several short and long group and solo rides, and came away with a very favorable impression.

Disk brakes on a road bike are long overdue. They stay free of road gunk, maintain power in wet conditions, and eliminate the risk of overheated rims producing blowouts. The lack of rim heating from heavy brake usage allows Volagi to achieve the current holy grail of cycling: carbon clincher rims. Carbon heats up and can delaminate when regular caliper brakes are used, but there is no risk of that with disk brakes, so you can enjoy the weight and performance characteristics of carbon wheels without fear of ruining them on long descents. I found the Avid BB-7 mechanical brakes to be very well modulated, with stopping power roughly equal to that of calipers. The weight difference is negligible when compared to the advantages of carbon rims and all-weather braking confidence.

The frame design is among the first things you notice when you first see the bicycle. Volagi has split the seat stays and brought them past the seat tube to join the top tube in front of the seat cluster, effectively taking bumps and vibration from the rear wheel and dissipating it into the frame, rather than into the rider’s seat. The test bike I rode was 57cm, smaller than the 59 or 60 I usually ride, so I had to extend the seat post out to near its maximum in order to get my legs properly angled. The seat tube angle combined with the extended length gave the bike a very springy, almost boingy feel when going over rolling bumps. The seat stays are also bowed convexly, meaning that the top tube is angled down to meet it, further lowering the seat cluster (and lengthening the seat post above it). This also yields a step-over that makes the bike easy to mount. The bike eats up rough roads, encouraging the rider to hold his line and roll over the bumps. The bike retains good road feel while minimizing deleterious vibration effects, and feels quite stiff when you need to rise up out of the saddle and stomp. I felt no wobbles or shimmies on descents.

One of the most important features is that the bike looks fabulous. Everybody I rode with commented favorably on its appearance, which features shiny cherry-red paint offset by exposed black carbon fibers, with neat white blazes inside the fork and chain stays. The pleasing curves and artful color combinations look sharp without being overly flashy. Surprisingly, any discomfort I felt from the bike being too small faded with each ride, to the point where I could ride 60 miles and still want more. I heartily commend this well-thought-out bicycle!

Comments

Ben - 07/07/11 - 7:42pm

For those of us who need a do everything bike, I love the direction of the bike. I test rode one at the Seattle bike show. My reservation is the 130mm rear wheel spacing. It’s nearly proprietary. Just about every rear disc wheel available is 135mm and this will be the case for the new CX standard. You can buy the wheels from Volagi or a very small number of suppliers but wheel selection is a big deal and it seems unlikely 130mm road disc wheel popularity will change.

efrain - 07/07/11 - 8:48pm

Whats the widest tires you can put on the bike?
Why are the cables crossed on the bike?

Tommy Nickels - 07/07/11 - 9:15pm

I want disc brakes to be legal for road racing so badly!!!

tripelt - 07/07/11 - 9:19pm

The cable cross is to allow a smoother path for the front derailleur housing, the right shifter goes to the left side of the bike and left the right. Smoother bends allow for better shifting and should make the housing rub less on the headtube. You can do this on any bike but it appears they may have angled the barrel adjusters to further accommodate it.

Aa - 07/08/11 - 4:26am

If you go away from 130mm to 135mm, may as well go to 142×12 (same overall width and chainline). Road bikes can get a lighter bolt-on axle. Same with the front going to 15mm. It should be possible to make it as light as QR, if you take the overall system and the added stiffness that through axles provide into account.

Aa - 07/08/11 - 4:29am

… that, and they should borrow design bits of “Shadow” rear derailleurs geometry from mountain bikes. Tucked in and straight cable routing.

Aa - 07/08/11 - 4:31am

…and hydro brakes. :) Those are getting to be close in weight to Vs or calipers.

Samuel J. Greear - 07/08/11 - 5:04am

I like the longbow concept, would like to take this rig for a spin sometime. All in all this is a pretty intriguing bike and I appreciate the direction it has taken, it seems like maybe it falls a bit short of being a real road swiss-army-knife, though. It seems like it lacks fender mounts? and clearance for a little extra tire looks like it could be problematic.

Rear hub spacing should have been 135, as other comments have said.

I rode from Rapid City, SD to Custer, SD on Hwy 16 this last Tuesday — hills indeed!

Shred - 07/08/11 - 5:09am

Hmm, would have loved to see all the cables routed internally. Seems a bit odd to do the brakes and not the gears.

I’m very interested in this as my next bike, but being in the UK means no test rides.

Matthew Sundt - 07/08/11 - 4:02pm

I say. I say. First. I love the longbow and split seat stay afore the seat tube concept that diminishes the pounding and vibration we all endure with the traditional seat tube and seat stays. My greatest delimna is the long ride on my aluminum frame. By mile 80 my neck and upper back commence to scream. I would venture a guess that I could ride this frame for 100+ before the neck problems set in, if at all – the frame should be subject to pain, not me. Secondly, I am totally on board with the disc brakes. Now howzabout a bike frame that will accommodate my 89cm from BB to top of seat, 60cm from seat nose to handlebar, and 6cm saddle to stem drop. When can I put in my order?

Matthew Sundt

Devian Gilbert - 07/08/11 - 10:57pm

28c tyres fit fine with Liscio
I’ve been using a set for about 3 weeks now. Currently at 80psi(r) 75psi(f)
Liscio has internal fender mounts on the fork, and mounts on the rear dropout
Fender mounts are located inboard on the fork, on the rear drop out, and behind the massive BB shell.

The bike truly is an inspiring ride. Last year I rode Banff to Butte, Mt along The Divide in 7 days on a 29er. Not saying Liscio is a 29er, and surely not to dumb down the group ride Hot Rod of a bike that it really is. At 42 years old with a solid 20 years of riding, Liscio blows my mind. I find my average speeds increasing, and pushing the limits of traction to silly proportions; each ride ends with a grin.

Neil M - 07/10/11 - 1:14am

Took a Liscio out for a four hour ride today. Good platform for enthusiasts looking for a durable daily rider that easily covers long distances. The ride quality is more forgiving of creative line choices through bad patches of asphalt and lets you focus on keeping it together in heavy traffic. Regarding the BB creaking, I didn’t notice any creaking on either of the frames I tried. In general, the Bikerumor reviews are spot on.

Note that Shimano Linear Response brake levers won’t give the same level of punch as SRAM Rival levers with a more conventional response curve.

Dexter - 07/10/11 - 6:20am

Novatec has 130mm rear disc hubs

Chris Elder - 07/11/11 - 11:20pm

I typically have some issues with a sore neck when I ride, so in response I tend to use a short stem and ride fairly upright. In testing the Volagi, to ride a smaller frame than my long legs would have preferred, I fully extended the seat post. Even with flipping the head stem up, I was in a more stretched out, horizontal, “racerly” position than I would have chosen. I didn’t realize until I went back to my normal bike, but counterintuitively, my neck pain disappeared on the Volagi. I can only attribute this to the shock absorption qualities of the frame and wheels/tires. Similarly, I didn’t suffer nearly as much from the tingly hands I often get from leaning forward to duck the wind in my usual upright position.

Brian - 07/14/11 - 6:31pm

I was fortunate enough to ride a selection of Volagi models this weekend and was suitably impressed. The ride was eerily smooth over even potholes and expansion joints, yet at the same time handling was lively and direct. I spent most of my time (about two hours) on the SRAM Rival-equipped base model, but also rode the Dura-Ace and Ultegra versions for short stints. My own bike has the Rival gruppo, so I preferred it’s simple shifting versus the Shimano bikes. Handling on the other two seemed better, more direct – the Dura-Ace model had the optional carbon wheels, and the Ultegra had different. lighter alloy rims than the Rival model. FYI, as far as I know, the carbon wheels are a $900 option, making the base price of the Ultegra version with carbon wheels $4,4495.00. I found the seats on all three to be very comfortable, I never noticed them. The Ultegra version I rode was a production bike and had a very attractive clear gloss over the black which added a lot of depth to the finish. The disk brakes took some getting used to, in a good way – they are very powerful!

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.