Monday, November 5, 2007

Review: Time VXR Proteam

Not many road frames generate the sort of PRO hip reaction as Time does. The VXR Proteam is Time’s highest-quality frame that doesn’t use the Translink integrated seatmast. It is alleged to weigh roughly 70g more than the VXRS Ulteam, though still under 1kg.

I’ll get to the point: This is one of the stiffest bicycles I have ever ridden. The ovalized top and down tubes do less to impress upon me vertical compliance than torsional stiffness. With a 44cm (c-c) bar, when I stood up, this thing moved in only one direction: forward.

Too much has been made in the media about how Quick Step riders complained that the Specialized Tarmac SL was not as stiff as the VXRS. The VXR and VXRS both employ the Safe+ fork which was the first to use a multiple diameter steerer (1-1/8” and 1-1/2”). I can’t say that the Tarmac isn’t as stiff torsionally—I simply don’t have enough time on it—but I can see how a rider accustomed to the VXRS might conclude anything else was less stiff, especially if the new ride offered more vertical compliance—and there’s no doubt the Tarmac does do that.

Are the asymmetrical chainstays necessary to achieve the drivetrain stiffness I experienced? Maybe, maybe not, but I can say that under very hard efforts, I detected no lash between the front and rear wheels. It’s funny how our measure of stiffness has changed over the years. In the late ‘90s, I deemed a bike stiff if I couldn’t get the front derailleur to rub the chain when sprinting uphill in a 53x19. Now, my concern is lash, which is much, much harder to judge. Honestly, there are times when marketing hype is unnecessary; this bike is simply stiff enough for all mortal cyclists.

There’s something in the VXR’s unyielding character that inspired an unusual degree of aggression in me. My experience might not be yours at all, but I can tell you that in talking with another rider who had lately spent some time on the VXR, he described the same catalyzed aggression—when riding the VXR, he simply wanted to put the hammer down.

Time uses an interesting blend of high modulus carbon fiber and polyamid fiber (the stuff used in Kevlar) that results in a ride with plenty of sensitivity without all that jarring hum straight gauge tubes are known for. Any comfort I experienced came from the vibration damping quality of the tube materials, not from any vertical compliance.

I spend as much time riding in the mountains as possible and I couldn’t wait to try the VXR on a long descent. The margin of error between nervous, responsive but confident and sluggish is slight. A designer has about .5cm of trail to work with, maybe 2cm wheelbase and another .5cm of bottom bracket drop. On paper the 55mm of trail and 27cm high bottom bracket looks responsive, but what I’ve seen on paper has deceived me in the past; there’s no substitute for long, hard rides.

For evaluation, I need a descent that takes more than 5 minutes. In that time I pick up enough speed that I stop thinking about the bike and focus on the road. If the bike handles too quickly, I will avoid the white and yellow lines, while if I can initiate a turn easily but not before I choose, I’ll apex corners more closely. The bottom line is precision of handling and that is what stiffness offers. With the VXR I experienced an unusual degree of precision: Swiss watchmaker addresses gravity.

My test bike was a 57cm—1cm bigger than ideal. It was built with Campy Record, an FSA crank, Fulcrum wheels and weighed in at 16 lbs. without pedals. I was able to achieve a good fit and even better was possible with a cut down fork and 11cm stem. The VXR comes in seven sizes ranging from a 51.5cm top tube in the XXS to a 58cm top tube in the XXL. The size run features some odd jumps in top tube length as well as two different trails. The range works out like this: XXS (65mm), XS and S (64mm) and M, L XL and XXL (55mm). So from the M to the XXL the steering geometry is all the same while the XXS through the S are virtually the same but with a centimeter more trail, which means the small sizes are going to handle quite a bit slower; naturally, the shorter wheelbase will make a difference, but the end result is that the smallest bikes won’t handle the same as the largest.

I’ve ridden bikes used by ProTour teams and thought them decidedly not PRO. I can say that for the average size male, the VXR is a very PRO rig, just the sort of ride to leave you destroyed Saturday afternoon.

In the last 15 years I’ve ridden more forgettable bikes than I could name, or remember. I’ve probably ridden fewer than a dozen bikes I didn’t want to give up. Add this one to the list of unforgettable bikes.

Time Sport

11 comments:

velomonkey said...

Good article as I agree 100% the time bike is one of the few real PRO bikes you can get and it will ride and feel like the real thing. In regards to stiffness and carving out the road, watch the 1989 world championship were LeMond et al descend at 50mph in rain with no helmets on a steel bike. It might seem then that no matter the bike if you need to go faster just to stay in the race then you'll figure out how to do it.

the ATM said...

sidebar question... for a truly PRO pic, is it better to have valve stem pointing down? Also, what about cranks? I've seen horizontal, aligned with chainstay (my personal choice) and aligned with seat tube.

thanks-

Francis said...

the atm:

A "truly PRO pic" would not be concerned with those factors. That etiquette is better left for catalogue-monkeys to debate.

A PRO pic should involve the bike being hammered by a professional cyclist, transported atop a race-vehicle, or cleaned by the team mechanic.

bikesgonewild said...

...gosh, i though the photos were animated cuz the wheels & crankset seem to be going round n' round on my 'puter...

Anonymous said...

sweet ride too bad they dont make one big enough for those of us who want the stiffest bike possible 58tt on a xxl are europeans all midgets?

Anonymous said...

What are some of those other bikes that are so unforgetable?

bikesgonewild said...

...pardon my previous little transgression...
...your highly subjective 'testing' parameters actually made for a well balanced, objective viewpoint...

...i must ask, what wheelbase did the 57 cm run ?...

...and yes, i would also like to know some of the other unforgettable rides...i'll stick my neck out & bet a C-50 is included...pour moi, colnagos, despite my limited exposure, feel well balanced from the get go...

...as an old, slow guy, i'm fortunate to ride a 57 x 57 ti / carbon serotta which floats like a butterfly yet corners like a bee...

Brent said...

Pro is havening the money side facing the camera, having all the labels be readable with out contorting to read them. The bike is positioned as correct as possible given the set up! ( BTW the rear tire label is off center to the valve stem. Some rookie must have installed the tire for no pro wrench would have done that.

Anonymous said...

Great review. I believe Time doesnt get credit it deserves for being leaders in innovation. They have been producing frames with intergrated seat mast, oversized lower headset bearings and asymmetrical chainstays for years. Love your blog. Keep up the great work.

ants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...

Much difference between 2006 vxr and newer vxr Proteam?