Initial Review: Volagi Liscio Disc Brake Road Bike
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…
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.
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.
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.
The downtube is aero shaped, too. Brake line runs internally, shift cables externally with a criss cross halfway down.
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.
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)
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!