Saturday, April 18, 2015

Review: Velo Build R-016 Frame - DIY Bike Build from China




Carbon is a great material for building bicycle frames and forks. It's strength-to-weight ratio is awesome, which is why all top-level pro bikes are made from it. The problems arise, for all of the rest of us who actually have to pay for the things we ride ourselves, in that manufacturers get away with charging ridiculous amounts for us to mimic our heroes, and then, in shaving as much weight off as possible, the frames are built only to specifically resist the stresses they encounter in normal cycling use. If the frame is stressed in a way that's not normally expected of a bicycle, the material is quite fragile and can crack.

It's happened to me a couple of times, and to a few of my friends. If you're lucky, the crack will not be in a place that undermines the structural integrity of the frame, and you can get it repaired. Either way it's a shock when you've put your hard-earned pennies into having the best bike you can afford, only to find that the most expensive part has just failed. If you're extremely lucky, the manufacturer will accept responsibility and replace the frame, but that hasn't been my experience. I know guys who swear they'll never buy carbon again. I have chosen to take another route.


On the recommendation of a friend, I decided to give the China-based "no-name" frame manufacturers a go. I think we're all aware that 90% of carbon manufacture comes out of China these days. Many of the top bicycle brands have their entire ranges built there. It used to carry a certain stigma, but not any more. The growth of China as a major manufacturing force has meant that they undoubtedly have more experience at building quality products from new-age materials than any other nation.

You'll find many offerings online through eBay and countless online-order sites, some only available in wholesale quantities, while others like Velo Build can customize one single frame from their catalogue for a fraction of the cost of a branded frame. Because of the recommendation, and some online reviews, I decided the risk was worth taking. If it didn't work out, at least I'd only have spent a couple of hundred dollars rather than several thousand. And since buying from a "reputable" international brand counts for nothing in my experience, what the hell!



My selection was for their latest light-weight climbing beast - boasting a weight of 850 grams , DI2-ready, and able to withstand heavier riders, the VB-R-016 sounded just the ticket. I set up an order and was immediately in touch with Chris at Velo Build who (in excellent English) helped me make a choice. Onced ordered, it arrived within 5 days in Singapore, nicely packed and well protected in a strong carton.

My choice was for the UD (uni-directional) carbon finish, which doesn't have the typical weave look of most carbon products, this with a matt lacquer on a 54cm frame with BB30 bottom bracket It all came, with forks and headset included, for US$429 plus a bit more for the shipping.


Since I was retiring my 10-year old cracked frame, I simply moved the Dura Ace groupset and Soul wheels to the new frame, so the only other new elements in the assembly were the 100mm carbon stem, a 31.6mm carbon seatpost, and a set of my now-favourite cranks, the Rotor 3D+.

Having originally entertained the idea of getting the frame custom painted, I wasn't too sure how the whole thing would look in such a bare state, but the matt UD carbon looks great, and with the added touch of some black Easton bar tape, the bike really has a "stealth" look, which is nicely highlighted with the lime green cable housing.



THE RIDE

"I f*****g love this bike" were my exact words upon arriving back at the bike shop to cut the steerer after my first real outing on the bike. It still inspires that kind of emotive outburst from me after more than a month of intimacy.

Even with the relatively heavy wheels and components, it's noticeably lightweight. The over-sized bottom bracket really doesn't flex even a fraction, so all of the power you put into the pedals is transferred to forward momentum. It really feels like a quality article.



On the downhills it inspires confidence. The geometry of the front end feels very stable in a way that I didn't expect, and I still find myself a little surprised by how freely it plummets down hills. It's not particularly aero - it's a climber - but it rolls beautifully. Maybe due to an exceptional balance of weight or something. Of course, the uphill is assisted by it's light weight, and perhaps by the new 3D+ crankset which may be even more impressive than the older version I also have. This coupled with the 50/34 Q Rings is really the business on the terrain that I ride most frequently - always either up or down.

As far as comfort goes, it does seem to iron out the worst of the road vibration at the back end, but then I'm comparing it to the other bike I ride on these roads, which is a super-stiff racer and completely unforgiving, so pretty much anything is a sofa by comparison. I don't think it could be called comfortable exactly, but it works for me. I'm running 25mm tyres on it which is just about maxing out the clearance, but then I don't see myself using anything bigger.


Out of the saddle it feels very strong and responsive with an overall distribution of weight that works for me at least, so it gives me a lot of confidence in most riding situations.

So the only thing that can detract from my current state of bliss, is some kind of weakness in the structure that may present itself. I'm watching carefully. For now though, it's the best climbing bike I've ever owned, and the fact that I paid a fraction of the price of the same article with a brand name on it, only makes the ride that little bit sweeter.




32 comments:

  1. You mention 25mm is the max tire, are you experiencing any tire rub?

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    1. No. I just added a shot of the clearance. The lighting's poor, but I think you can see that even with the 25mm inflated to 100psi there's still fairly good clearance.

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    2. Thanks for the reply. I see the photo and it definitely clears the seat tube, but what about the chain stays?

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    3. Exactly the same clearance at the chainstays

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  2. how tall are you? i'm trying to decide on the same frame in a 52 or 55

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    1. I'm 182cm and the 55 is only just big enough. I'm using a 100mm stem but could probably increase it to a 120mm - my ideal reach (tip of saddle to centre of bars) would be 554 and this is only around 540. However it feels good so far. I have the bars set up a bit higher than usual but I'm liking it.

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    2. thanks for the reply. I'm 180cm and I was leaning towards the 55cm . this helps a lot.

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  3. A very good and informative article indeed. It helps me a lot to enhance my knowledge.

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  4. Useful info. I think I'm going to pull the trigger and get one based on this post.

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  5. So, I too amlooking at this bike and had a question about bike size. The sizes offered are as follows-- 50/52/55/58. From what I can see, however, the seat tube lengtths for each are as follows -- 48/50/53/55. Did you get the largest frame size, i.e. a 58 which actually shows a seat tube height of 55? I ask these questions because I am 184 cm tall.

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    1. Sorry for the delay - I missed this one. I got the 55 with the 53cm top tube and I'm 182, so you may want the 58.

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  6. Hi there, any problem with toe overlap?

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    1. If I were to turn the wheel sufficiently to pass the line of the pedal it would clip the front of my shoe, but since I'm not doing trials or anything weird on it, and I'm hopeless at track-stands anyway, I never need that much wheel-turn. I have used smaller frames with much more overlap in the past because I like the feel of smaller frames. It's never been a problem for my personal riding style

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    2. A good in addition to beneficial write-up. I preferred the item. Appreciate it intended for placing in this article with us.

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  7. Hi there,

    I built the up the R055 (a cervelo copy for sure) and also am enjoying the bike. I did have a couple of issues though. I could never put 25 mm tires on the fork that this bike came with as they will not clear at sides or even top of fork. Also had an an issue with the seat tube being too large in diameter for the 29.2 seat post and could not tighten it sufficiently. Eventually I cracked the frame slightly where the seat clamp sits but have since shimmed the seat post to have a snug fit. I did send pictures of the issue to Chris and he sent me a new frame with a better fitting seat tube diameter. No longer was seat tube rounded at the outside back, but rather, it was squared off like a Cervelo seat tube. This may also strengthen the tube itself in the clamping area. In any case I am still riding the frame with slight crack as it seems inconsequential, and riding it hard with no issues. How is your frame performing at this juncture?

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    1. Great to hear about your experiences with Velo Build. Gives me even more confidence in them. At this point I've put 7000km into the frame, and it's still my all-time favourite. Zero issues with it. There's not masses of wheel-clearance running 25s, and you couldn't really run anything bigger, but that suits me.

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  8. This approach put together with all the 50/34 Queen Much more actually is the market relating to the landscape which i operate normally - frequently whether " up " or possibly off.

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  9. As well as seem to club apart all the most extreme for the avenue vibration inside the lower back terminate, then We're judging the software to other sorts of push bike Document operate relating to all of these rds, that is a super-stiff racer and additionally utterly unforgiving, for that reason largely just about anything is mostly a settee by comparison.

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  10. How much did you paid for the shipping fee?

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    1. Don't remember exactly Danny. I think it was around $80. Easy enough to find out on their orders page

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  11. Hi Cafe Rider.
    I own this frame since 2 years now and I love it.
    But I've noticed that in fast curves (downhilling at more than 50Km/h) the rear end is not rigid enough, it make the steering very imprecise and makes me feel afraid.
    Did you noticed something like that.
    Perhaps it's not from the rear but I did change my wheels for Dura-ace and the fork seems to be rigid enought.

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    1. Can't say I've noticed any such rear-end instability. The kind of technical downhills I do a lot it handles very well. Maybe begs the question - what were you riding before? - as it must have been very solid. Possibly the weight distribution is very different, especially with these very skinny seat stays.

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    2. Hi, I´ve owned a similar frame (Flyxii FR316) for 2 years now, and I am completely satisfied with the performance, especially on the climbs. Not too stiff, but very comfy for hours of riding, and equipped with Di2 Ultegra + light weight Token C22 wheels it´s very competitive. Weight is under 7,5 kilos...

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  12. Thanks for sharing this great post. It’s very enlightening. I absolutely love to read informative stuff. Looking forward to find out more and acquire further knowledge from here! Cheers! carbon cycling wheels

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    1. Thanks Joffery - nice to be appreciated :)

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  13. Great post. I am looking for the information about this bike. Your post have many useful information to me. It helps me to become confidently to buy this bike. Thanks so much !

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  14. <a href="http://www.carbonspeedcycle.com//>carbon cycling wheels</a> this post is very usefull.i reaily enjoyed.

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  15. Nice review of bikes. Thanks for sharing this review. It helps me to know about this bike.

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  16. I'm trying to build a carbon bike as well.
    I would like to ask you a few questions regarding the components as I am a novice

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  17. So, i'm also from Singapore. Where this sport is being spoilt by the people who spread the really toxic "More Expensive, Better" quote. I'm looking to buy a Carbon Bike frame replica. Do you have any advice as to where i can get one?

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  18. Hi, do you know of any shops in Singapore that'll be willing to put together a complete bike (for a fee of course, and maybe I'll get the rest of the parts from them as well)? I don't have the knowledge or the tools to DIY, but I'd like to save a bit by avoiding the big brands. Thanks!

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