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Viking Cross Master review

7 Dec 2018
Verdict:

A British all-rounder with plenty of heritage and gorgeous retro styling

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£849

This review was first published in Issue 50 of BikesEtc magazine

The Cross Master represents one quarter of a four-bike range from the reborn British bike brand Viking.

Combining a small rear frame triangle with a fuss-free Shimano Sora groupset and Tektro mechanical disc brakes, it should offer enough punch to excite, without being intimidating.

Viking’s website also guarantees ‘grin factor’…

Buy the Viking Cross Master from Insync Bikes

Frameset

The Cross Master’s frameset is made from Reynolds 853 chromoly steel alloy, butted for strength at the key tube junctions, its walls kept as narrow as possible at points of less stress in order to keep the weight of the frame to a minimum.

Overall, however, it’s fighting a losing battle, as the combined bulk of the bike is north of 11kg, partly due to some fairly weighty components.

The key feature of the frameset, besides its material, is the compact rear triangle, which promotes more efficient development of power.

The seatstays flare around the 37c tyre, giving the impression that there’s clearance here for at least a few millimetres wider, if serious mud-plugging is on the cards, or just extra comfort on the road.

There are mudguard and rack mounts at both the top of the chainstays and the on the carbon forks. The bike’s steering geometry is an often unseen mix of relaxed seat angle and racy steering head, the latter measuring in at an easy-going 71.4°.

The front and rear mech cables (plus outers) are carried internally through the down tube, while the brake cables run along the fork leg and down tube, again wearing weatherproof outers.

Groupset

Shimano’s lower-rung nine-speed Sora groupset is used for the groupset, with the only part of the drive train not to employ the dependable Japanese equipment is the chain – a reliable and good value KMC item.

The compact 50/34 chainset is worked by a Sora front mech, while the 11-28 cassette is operated by a Sora rear derailleur, and Sora shifters ensure positive engagement of ratios.

The braking set-up is a mechanical disc arrangement from Tektro – it’s positive enough at the front end, but the rear brake’s operation was a little lacking in immediacy at the rear.

Bad news if you like skids, good news if you’re not a fan of locking up the rear on descents, we guess.

Finishing kit

Viking dispenses with any veneer when it comes to the finishing kit. While many firms create their own-brand alloy components to give an impression of cohesion to the build, Viking has used unbranded alloy components for the shallow-drop 440mm handlebars, 90mm stem and 27.2mm diameter seatpost.

And they all do the job perfectly well. A WTB SL8 saddle tops the seatpost, providing support if not the greatest amount of flex.

Wheels

Wrapped around unbranded 32-spoke alloy rims, which are held to the frame by Joytech hubs, is a set of WTB Riddler tyres, in 37mm diameter.

They’re designed for speed more than offroad grip, and as such perform pretty well on the tarmac.

On drier trails, they also allow you to hold on to enough speed to rip through turns, but the shallow tread isn’t going to be the best for all-year use, especially in wet off-road conditions or mud – swap for cyclocross tyres in winter, perhaps. 

The ride

There’s something about the rounded tube profiles of a steel bike that just make it look… well, like a bike.

The Viking is no exception, handsomely presented and wearing a simple two-colour paint job that’s bang on the retro trend. Can it carry this panache into its ride, though?  

On the road

As you might expect of a bike with such a rangy wheelbase, the Cross Master’s first foray on to the tarmac is one that’s exemplified by stability.

The combination of steel frameset and 37c tyres aids in the comfort stakes, with any vibes from the road surface being ably isolated.

It might seem a small detail, but the 27.2mm alloy seatpost is also playing its part in ensuring all the contact points are as settled as possible.

The disc brakes, while not hydraulic, do have enough power to haul up the Cross Master on the road, although the front is noticeably stronger than the rear.

The reach to the bar will favour those long in the body and arms, even in the size 54 bike we tested.

When it comes to getting power to the ground, the Viking’s small rear frame triangle eliminates losses in this department, and makes it possible to make rapid progress on the road.

On loser surfaces, we were thankful for the little chainring, which gives a smallest gear of 34-29, making it possible to make progress over some steep bridleway inclines.

Longer climbs, especially on tarmac, are a different story, though – the bike’s 11.08kg bulk making itself felt on steeper roads, even with the smaller of the two chainrings engaged.

Stick to commuting and light off-road work, however, and the Viking is a very capable riding companion. 

Handling

On paper, the relaxed steering head angle would have you think this is a bike that will take you around a corner in confidence.

Given that the head tube measures 800mm, you’re a long way from the crown of the fork, which does lend the ride a decidedly more sedate nature.

A 90mm alloy stem does offer quick control over the front end. Stability is further enhanced when cornering by a very long bottom bracket drop, placing your centre of gravity low on the bike for added confidence.

It’s away from the Queen’s Highway where this is most effective, the shallow tread at the shoulders of the 37mm WTB tyres doing their best to bite on tracks and bridleways as you’re encouraged to corner harder as time on the bike progresses.

Progress on the road need not be tentative, however – the shallow tread doesn’t deform in such a way as to rob you of confidence in town centre traffic.

But away from the UK’s summer heatwave and into the storms that followed, slides from the rear will be provoked if you attempt to throw the Cross Master into a corner, no matter what type of terrain you’re riding on.

In brief, the Viking is a capable go-everywhere bike, but is slightly held back on the road by its weight, and on anything more than dry bike paths and bridleways by its tyres.

It’s stylish, comfortable, dependable and stable, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll benefit greatly from owning one.

RATINGS

Frame: Well-built steel frame, but could be a tad lighter. 7/10 
Components: Dependable Sora and unbranded finishing kit. 7/10 
Wheels: Solid all-rounders with plenty of spokes. 8/10 
The ride: Makes rapid progress on road and bridleways. 8/10 

  

Buy the Viking Cross Master from Insync Bikes

Geometry

                                     
Top Tube (TT) 597mm
Seat Tube (ST) 540mm
Stack (S) 604mm
Reach (R) 428mm
Chainstays (C) 425mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.4 degrees
Seat Angle (SA) 74.1 degrees
Wheelbase (WB) 1070mm
BB drop (BB) 82mm

Spec

Viking Cross Master
Frame Reynolds 853 chromoly steel, carbon fork
Groupset Shimano Sora
Brakes Tektro Mira mechanical discs
Chainset Shimano Sora, 50/34
Cassette Shimano, 11-28
Bars Unbranded, shallow-drop, alloy
Stem Unbranded, alloy
Seatpost Unbranded, alloy, 27.2mm
Wheels Unbranded, alloy, WTB Riddler, 700 x 37 tyres
Saddle WTB SL8
Weight 11.08kg (54cm)
Contact insyncbikes.com

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