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SwiftCarbon RaceVox Disc review

22 Nov 2019

Page 1 of 2SwiftCarbon RaceVox Disc review

Verdict:

Superbly balanced descender with all-round race-bike pedigree for relatively little money

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Highly adept descender • Balanced handling • Punches well above its price point
Against 
The wheels are fine but no more than that • Slightly lacking in comfort

Little known fact: in the run up to launching Cyclist in 2012 we spent months deliberating our name. ‘Cadence’ was one of the options, until our lawyers discovered Disney had a trademarked character called ‘DJ Cadence’, which you will no doubt have seen in such movies as We Wish You A Merry Walrus.

We argued that there was no conflict of interest between a bicycle magazine and a cartoon penguin. ‘You do not f*** with Disney,’ replied the lawyers. So Cyclist it was.

Apparently it’s a similar situation with SwiftCarbon, which has added the ‘Carbon’ bit to appease Suzuki over its Suzuki Swift (a car, not a DJ’ing flightless seabird). So what’s in a name?

Rather a lot if you’re a bike company I’d reckon, because Swift has quite deliberately stuck with the ‘Vox’ moniker, with the RaceVox joining the Ultravox and Hypervox in the company’s stable.

Rides as sweet

The RaceVox is very much part of a family underpinned by one very basic, yet so easy to get wrong, tenet: geometry. All the Vox bikes have near-identikit geometry: the same head and seat angles, trail, BB height, head tube height, wheelbase and stack and reach. And that goes for the disc and non-disc variants (which all Vox models have).

Good idea or bad idea? From my experience on Swift bikes, it’s absolutely a good idea. Not to say differences in geometry between a brand’s bikes are a bad thing – it’s entirely necessary based on intended riding – but when I first tested a Swift Ultravox back in 2013, I was taken by the poise and balance of the bike at speed.

 

Poise in terms of a low-slung rider position – the head tube, as it is with the RaceVox, is 147mm for a medium – and balance in terms of fork trail, wheelbase and bottom bracket height.

We’re only talking millimetres, but Swift’s take on those last three measurements is a fairly long 60.5mm trail and 997mm wheelbase, but a low 70mm bottom bracket drop, where many other manufacturers prefer 68mm.

Longer wheelbases and trail, and lower BBs (therefore a lower centre of gravity) tend to mean more stability and predictable handling at speed. It’s why land-speed bikes (see our feature this issue) are so long and slack.

The RaceVox’s geometry is by no means revolutionary, and indeed these measurements aren’t going to imbue the bike with crit racer-levels of quick handling. In fact, they give the RaceVox a pretty sedate feel initially. It cruises nicely, pushes on well enough but isn’t shouting at you to let you know you’re riding it.

Were it not for its quite exceptional spangly paint, and some interesting tube shapes, you could almost look down and forget what bike you were riding. But, like a sports car that can also deal with a trip to the shops, the RaceVox comes alive when the speedo dial spikes up.

 

Fit for a pro

‘This is every inch the race bike’ is a terribly overused phrase, but I can’t think of a better one to describe the RaceVox. I’m no professional, but I can only imagine a pro wants a bike that is predictable if not forgettable when in the bunch, but punchy, fast and planted when in the breakaway.

The pro cyclist might also forgo a modicum of comfort if it comes at the expense of those things. In this the RaceVox succeeds, right down to the comfort.

This isn’t a heavy bike but it feels robust, and on one test ride soaked up several kilometres of jarring cobbles and some other truly awful roads with little complaint.

Yet I wouldn’t write home about the comfort. It’s just fine, despite the dropped seatstays and nattily designed seatpost, which has a hole that aims to aid flex but I would say is no springier than a normal post.

But, credit where it’s due, I spent a longer than average amount of time on this bike, as it joined me on a couple of Big Rides as well as the usual test loops, and I always felt happy to see it every morning. It’s no bruiser. It is, however, an absolute hitter on the descents.

 

Long, sweeping, downward roads are where the RaceVox belongs. Simply put, the faster it goes, the more stable it becomes and the more acute the handling.

As mentioned, vertical compliance isn’t top of its skill sheet, but there is just the right level of lateral flex to help wheels track the road and cope with the differing forces through front and rear.

This in turn provides a stupendous amount of grip, but also enough feedback to feel where the edges of that grip lie, and hence how much to lean and how hard to push the bike. I could really feel when the tyres had ‘dug in’ and the bike was enjoying its happiest arcs.

Swift admits that this bike only ‘borrows’ from the CFD design of its time-trial sibling, so is not overtly aero, but on the flat the RaceVox felt like it was scything through the air as opposed to barging through it.

No doubt the Metron one-piece cockpit and very slender head tube help. However, despite all this, there is room for improvement, and I think that improvement can be found in the wheels.

 

New hoops

At 58mm front and 62mm rear, the Reynolds AR wheels are fast, but they’re on the heavier side – a claimed 1,760g – and are quite narrow internally at just 19mm. A different wheelset could easily see the RaceVox shed 200g, be just as aero but also offer more comfort and grip, with tyres coming up wider on wider rims.

In the wheels’ defence they are stiff and translate power well, and given that Swift officially says the RaceVox can fit 30mm tyres (and unofficially says 32mm), perhaps wider rubber is all that’s needed.

I would hazard to say speccing the Reynolds helps keep the price of the bike down – the wheels retail at £1,100 – but even so the frameset’s many merits see the bike crying out for better wheels.

So all this leaves the bike where? Well, as it stands, its six grand tag offers superb value for money in the context of top-tier bike prices given its level of performance. Yet there is more to unlock in the RaceVox than just a well-priced all-rounder. The heart of this bike is just that good.

 

Spec

Frame SwiftCarbon RaceVox Disc
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Disc
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Disc
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Disc
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Disc
Bars FSA Metron 5 integrated cockpit 
Stem FSA Metron 5 integrated cockpit
Seatpost SwiftCarbon
Saddle Fizik Antares R1 Versus Evo
Wheels Reynolds AR Disc, Vittoria Corsa 2.0 25mm tyres
Weight 7.6kg
Contact swiftcarbon.com
Price: 
£6,290

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Page 1 of 2SwiftCarbon RaceVox Disc review