Review: Veloheld IconX, a Modern Steel Disc-brake Cyclocross Frameset
The IconX is the newest bike coming out of Dresden-based veloheld over this past fall/winter cyclocross season. Although it is a cross bike and its racing season has finished for the year, we see its potential as more of a multi-purpose bike than just a race bike. It is definitely the kind of bike one can pull out for year round adventure.
Read on for a detailed look at the bike…
Sand, Mud or Snow
Debuted last fall at Eurobike following a season of testing prototypes, the bike has been properly raced throughout the 2013-14 cross season. We’d briefly thrown a leg over a prototype last winter, but looked forward to getting a test bike in to give a proper thrashing this cross season. After the first of three fun ‘cross races organized by Veloheld in Dresden last December, we arranged an extended test to coincide with the last few amateur cyclocross races of the season here in the middle of Europe. This let us race the bike on some familiar courses, and to do some back-to-back laps with our regular bikes in some heavy mud, sand, and snow.
The IconX is sold as a frameset including a carbon fork and can be ordered consumer-direct from the Veloheld website, although semi and complete custom builds are also available. While their biggest market has been Germany and Austria, in recent years Veloheld have begun to expand more out of their German-speaking base. Their website is only in German (at least for now), but thanks to the power of Google Translate, that’s not a problem anymore.
The people who run the company speak English very well and are happy to talk directly with customers who are interested in their bikes either by phone, Skype, or email. They also are fairly active on Facebook with a mix of English and German news. Veloheld routinely ship frames and complete bikes throughout Europe and the occasional frameset to the States. Company founder Carsten Maiwald recommends just giving them a shout if you are interested, to sort out the details and to figure out what it will cost to deliver it to you.
Tech Details & Actual Weights
The TIG welded IconX frame uses a shaped double butted Cromoly tubeset, unique to Veloheld, with an ovalized but not overly flattened toptube for more comfortable shouldering.
The IconX is a low bottom bracket, more American-style cross frame, with 65mm of BB drop. Its slightly sloping toptubes across the full size range are generally short, just under 56cm on our Large test bike. The rear end is a standard 135mm QR with a replaceable hanger. Disc mounts are IS rear and fork Post mount, designed for 160 or 180mm rotors.
Shifter routing is fully-external on the downtube, with internal routing for the full-length rear brake housing (or hydraulic lines.) A 44mm headtube accommodates either the provided flush-mounted straight aluminum steerer carbon fork or most tapered forks. The frame and fork have fender and rack eyelets to broaden its use as an everyday commuter and some subtle black-on-black details, with fluoro highlights.
The frameset itself retails for 750€ (including frame, fork, replaceable hanger, seat clamp, headset, and aluminum bottle cage bolts) and comes with a color-matched Veloheld cycling cap (all prices including tax, but not shipping.)
The bike as tested with a complete Shimano 105 group, 3T components, and custom lightweight wheels from their in-house partner wheel builder Felix of Light Wolf has a retail price of 2300€. But Veloheld says they also do a complete 105 bike just under 2000€.
The bare Large frame weighed 1970g with just its hanger, a bit under their estimate. Our complete test bike weighed 9.6kg (21.16lb) with 185g Eggbeater Triple Ti pedals.
With its very short toptube (for a Large frame) it took some time to settle in with the best position on the bike. I went to a longer 120mm stem, and slid the saddle forward to get my weight again centered over the bike. I had a little difficulty reproducing my fit even though the Large was seemingly the same size as my regular ‘cross bike.
Parts wise, the mix was no nonsense. A 105 group and CX-77 brakes worked great, and I even liked the Concor saddle, at least for up to a few hours at a time.
My first real effort on the bike was in the heavy mud of our regional cyclocross series finale, where the rearward weight balance of the bike helped keep traction and put down power on the slogging climbs. The short wheelbase and relatively low bottom bracket made the bike pretty easy to muscle around the tight sections. The rear balance did make it a bit harder to keep in a straight-line on the slickest sections, but it wasn’t much better on my regular bike in such conditions after I swapped 3/4 of the way through the race. The different position relative to the pedals did mean that I was using some different muscles, but more pertinent to ‘cross, it made the mid-race bike swap a bit confusing to the extreme that I kinda botched a remount on my regular bike when the saddle wasn’t were my race-tired body expected to find it.
The IconX does seems to be pretty versatile, though. I felt comfortable commuting and running errands across the city with a heavy bag, even including some great chances for fresh powder on the shortcuts through the city’s forests that I continually seek out.
At a group road ride over the weekend, I didn’t have a good excuse when a couple of the old timers gave me hard time for not having fenders (the frame and fork have all the eyelets required), but luckily it had been cold enough to keep the streets frozen and dry so I haven’t really needed them. On longer rides on and off road I did feel like I was suffering a bit from the short frame. Even with a long stem my saddle was farther behind the pedals than normal for me, and after 4 hours that meant my legs were sore in new places. Those issues are easily solved by moving up a size, but highlight that the bike is really optimized to be ridden off road where it shines in the technical sections, and is best suited in its short frame size for shorter intense efforts.
Also of note, the straight stays and wide bottom bracket connections make for a decidedly stiff rear end. Power transfer is great for a steel bike. The ride through frozen ruts is precise but can be rough, though thanks to the forgiving nature of steel, high end cross rubber, and a 27.2 seatpost, my back and shoulders never seemed to suffer.
So what conclusions do I make out of all of that? Well, at just over 6 feet (185cm) I am at the top end of Veloheld’s size range for the frame, and I would definitely benefit from the next size up for my types of riding. Another rider I met at my last ‘cross race had picked out a Medium, tested it, then tried out my Large test bike, and also decided to move up to the bigger size. For the short duration of a ‘cross race the shorter reach was fine, but on multi-hour rides on and off road, my biggest recommendation would be to size up or at least pick the frame primarily based on toptube length. Worth mentioning, the front triangle has some pretty thin tubes that make for a fairly light steel frame. I’ve seen dented toptubes on bikes with similar lightweight tubing in the rough-and-tumble of ‘cross racing; and with a steel bike that usually isn’t a problem, but it can be disheartening to some.
All in all it seems like a hard disc-brake frameset to beat: multi-use versatility, reasonably lightweight, a future-proof headtube, and at an affordable price.