First introduced to the world in 2005, Vassago Cycles has always had a bit of a cult following. Known for their steel 29er frames with quirky names and Wet Cat geometry, single speeders and riders looking for something different that wouldn’t break the bank became quick fans. The brand continued to grow through 2010 with low price points and solid bikes, though leading into 2011 Vassago was shifting to online sales and due to personal issues, Kris Fowler, the original owner closed the doors in 2011.
At that point the future of the brand was in question, if no one had stepped up Vassago was in line to become a major online retailer’s house brand. Fortunately for Vassago, Tom Ament couldn’t let that happen. A brand like Vassago as a house brand? Not on his watch. As a racer for Vassago and their main prototype tester who also possessed a degree in engineering and strong business background, it was an easy choice. In a little less than a year, Vassago was up and running and better than ever.
Rider owned and focused on quality and affordability, we got a chance to chat with Tom about the future of Vassago. More after the break.
One of the biggest sticking points for Tom when it came time to take the reigns was to retain the rider owned spirit of Vassago that inspired the loyal followers in the first place. That, and the focus on quality bikes at an affordable price was equally important. The goal of Vassago is to provide bikes worthy of your hard earned dollars but also still being able to afford your rent. In addition to the Jabberwocky and Bandersnatch which are still made overseas, Tom has expanded the line to included the Black Label Series – bikes made right here in the US of A. Surprisingly affordable bikes, in both steel and titanium.
Now based out of Phoenix, AZ, Vassago has a fairly small facility with offices and a warehouse, though it is growing fast. Tom hopes to take the relatively small Vassago to the point that it could be considered a medium sized brand that is sold only through bike shops. Currently there are a few established dealers, though frames can still be purchased directly through Vassago’s website. Vassago will be making a big push to get the bikes out to dealers as bikes and availability ramp up.
After the launch of a new website this past December, the next big announcements for Vassago were the introduction of the Verhauen and redesign of the OptimusTi. As the first bikes of the Black Label series, the steel Verhauen and obviously titanium OptimusTi were a big step for the brand offering handmade quality at an unbeatable price point. Production of the OX Platinum Verhauen was sourced through Zen Bicycle Fabrication out of Portland while the OptimusTi production was kept local in Vassago’s own manufacturing facility in Phoenix.
Stepping away from the Wet Cat geometry, the Verhauen features the refined and more nimble FastCat geometry along with size specific tubing for the ride you expect from a steel hardtail. Built with a stainless steel insert in the seat tube to prevent rusty seatposts, a 44mm headtube for 80-100mm travel straight or tapered forks (or suspension corrected rigid), and Paragon’s sliding dropouts, every detail on the Verhauen is US made. Even the water bottle bosses and powdercoat were sourced from the US to keep it local. Thanks to the Paragon sliders, the Verhauen can be run single speed, 142×12 rear thru axle or standard quick release for compatibility with just about any wheelset you currently own, with the ability to upgrade down the road.
A 73mm threaded bottom bracket should keep things quiet and riders happy, and the bike offers clearance for 2×10 drivetrains with a 31.8 front derailleur clamp. Tire clearance is specified as 2.3+ through the S-bend seat stays which obviously depends on the specific tire and conditions. Weight for the frame is claimed at 4.6lbs for a medium (2087g), with standard ISO disc mount dropouts, hardware, and BB cable guide. The best part? The beautiful translucent finished frames are available now and retail for an incredible $1049-$1149. If you get on it right away, they are actually on sale for $999 – though no word on how long it will last.
Essentially the titanium version of the Verhauen, the new OptimusTi brings US manufacturing and FastCat geometry to the titanium Vassago. Also built with size specific tubing, the OptimusTi is hand built in Phoenix from 3AL/2.5V tubing with S-bend, ovalized, oversized chainstays and a curved down tube for fork clearance and features sliding dropouts for the same drivetrain options as the Verhauen. OptimusTi is also built around an 80-100 fork, with a 30.9 seatpost and 34.9 front derailleur clamp. Improvements over the original include a 44mm headtube for running tapered forks, and the curved stays for better tire/heel clearance. Pricing for the OptimusTi frame runs $1899-2099 depending on the options. Both the Verhauen and OptimusTi will be offered with a Whisky Rigid carbon fork option with a 15mm thru axle.
If those options are still too pricey, Vassago is happy to still offer the $499 Jabberwocky, and the $549 Bandersnatch, which offer the original WetCat geometry in single speed and geared steel frame options. The Bandersnatch has been revised for 2013 and now includes a 44mm head tube, curved rear stays, and postmount disc tabs in the rear triangle.
With the new FastCat geometry, the frame sizes and angles stay the same with the big difference at the rear of the bike. FastCat offers the option to run dramatically shorter chainstay length at 434mm compared to 450mm of the original – though with the sliders you can push the effective chainstay length out to 456mm. There is also 2mm less BB drop on the Verhauen and 5mm less on the OptimusTI.
As Vassago’s latest project, the Fisticuff monster cross bike will be back in a few months. Built on a cross platform but with trail bike tubesets, drop bar geometry, a straight blade fork, and huge tire clearance, the Fisticuff will be a true monster. What you do with it is up to you.
Looks like there also may be a Ti version of the monster crosser available, with prototypes already rolling around.
After talking with Tom, it was clear that he is a guy who really loves bikes and was in the right place at the right time to keep Vassago alive. The new bikes look killer and offer some serious bang for the buck. We should have a Verhauen in for review in the near future, so stay tuned for first impressions.