Carbon fiber remains the bike industry's "it" material. But when properly utilized, titanium can yield a subtle and sublime ride.
With the popularity and improvements in carbon fiber, not many companies are crafting new titanium models. That’s a shame because, when this metal is shaped and formed well, it can make for a supple and distinctive ride.
GT launched the throwback Edge Ti last year, a bike that surprised many of our testers who had all but given up on titanium, and Competitive Cyclist is reviving the Merlin mark with the launch of the XLM2, which is being hand built by the guys at Form Cycles in Sedona. And of course there are titanium stalwarts like Eriksen and Moots—the latter’s Vamoots RSL remains, in our opinion, the benchmark for a high-performance titanium road bike.
To this backdrop, Volagi unveiled their Viaje Ti at Interbike in September, and we were lucky enough to get one of the unusual bikes in time for the bike test. You may remember the small, Norcal operation as the company that Specialized sued over trade secret infringement a couple of years ago. After those legal issues were settled, Volagi launched their premier bicycle, the Liscio, to a solid reception. Last year they released their second model, the Viaje, a steel bike that we liked well enough but that, at over 22 pounds for a size medium, many testers found too heavy.
The new titanium Viaje looks to keep the soft and supple ride of the original while trimming out excess weight. Our size 55, complete with carbon fork and the company’s own Ignite SL wheel set, weighed 18.3 pounds. That’s no featherweight, but it does put the bike more in the realm of other similar models. And on the road the bike felt even more sprightly than that weight suggests.
Weight aside, the truly unique characteristic of the Viaje is the way the top tube bypasses the seat tube to meld straight into the seat stays. By separating these two big tubes on the bicycle, the saddle is allowed to flex vertically for compliance, in a similar, albeit analogue manner to the Trek Domane. This creates a bike that tames the chatter of rough roads and silences even big hits like cattle grates and potholes. With clearance for large-volume road tires—there’s plenty of space for cross size knobbies, for instance—this is an awesome adventure bike that is just at home on dirt fire roads as it is pavement. It should also slot in nicely to the burgeoning gravel racing scene.
Volagi raised some eyebrows when they equipped their first bikes with disc brakes. But now, as both Shimano and SRAM release road disc brakes and dozens of manufacturers jump on the trend, the company looks prescient, not kooky. Our testers came equipped with the excellent TRP HY/RD brakes, which connect mechanical levers to hydraulic calipers. It’s different than the other two big players in the market, but it makes a lot of sense and we feel it’s the most refined system in the market.
In some ways, the Viaje feels a bit eccentric because it’s so different from everything else out there. It’s not carbon, its geometry is easygoing and more oriented to adventure riding than racing, and it just looks unusual. But as more companies rush to release gravel and endurance bikes with disc brakes and lots of tire clearance, Volagi’s titanium entry starts to look like an excellent design that was simply ahead of its time.