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Vaast A/1 review

9 Jun 2021
Verdict:

Good all-rounder, and you couldn’t ask for too much more from a bike that costs under £2,5k. Photography: Mike Massaro

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Low cost • Versatile • Amenable ride feel
Against 
A tad weighty, • A few practical niggles (hopefully some since rectified)

Anyone remember Kirk? No, not the captain of the Enterprise, those wacky road bikes from the late 1980s. The magnesium frames, with their striking, girder-like I-beam construction were the brainchild of one Frank Kirk, an aeronautical engineer from Chelmsford.

Magnesium, you will remember from school, is the material that burns like crazy when you stick it in a Bunsen burner. Kirk was convinced it was also the material of the future for bicycles, with a strength-to-weight ratio far higher than both aluminium and steel. His party piece to demonstrate this was to lay one of his frames in the road and drive over it with a Land Rover.

If you’ve never heard of Kirk it’s probably because the brand didn’t last, despite being raced at the Tour de France in the early 1990s with the Dutch TVM team. But the beneficial properties of magnesium as a frame material live on – a fact not lost on fledgling US brand Vaast.

 

How green is your bike?

Magnesium is, by volume, 75% lighter than steel, 50% lighter than titanium and 33% lighter than aluminium. And, says Vaast, it’s far stronger too. It’s also 100% recyclable, and eco-friendliness is a big part of the Vaast story, the company motto being, ‘Sustain the planet, sustain the ride.’

‘Magnesium is the ninth most abundant element on Earth and completely recyclable,’ says brand and marketing manager Keith Knapp. ‘Plus it’s forged at a lower temperature so uses significantly less energy in manufacturing.’ 

Buy the Vaast A/1 now

It sends a powerful message to anyone who cares for our future, especially versus carbon – a dirty word, environmentally speaking.

Vaast’s frames, says product manager Steven Fairchild, are made from Allite Super Mag (AE81), a proprietary patented formula specifically for creating tubes.

One flaw of magnesium as a structural material is that it corrodes easily, so Fairchild says Vaast uses a plasma electrolytic oxidation process to impregnate tubes with a ceramic treatment to make them less susceptible to corrosion.

Of that I’m glad, because no sooner had I taken the A/1 off-road than I noticed the chain’s closeness to the underside of the right-hand dropped chainstay not only resulted in a clatter over uneven ground, but it also scuffed a chunk of paint off, leaving the base material exposed.

I told Fairchild and he reassured me that this issue has been addressed. My test bike was an early model and a rolling update has already rectified the chain slap and also added 2x drivetrain compatibility (from 1x-only).

 

Rough and smooth

While I’m talking niggles, two other things irked me straight out of the box. First was how the chunky rear dropout prevents the thru-axle lever from making complete turns. The repositionable lever means it’s hardly a deal-breaker, but it’s a faff to go half a turn at a time. Second was how unsightly the cable entry port into the down tube is – something for Vaast to consider when the time comes for a frame update.

Buy the Vaast A/1 now

Beyond that it proved to be very likeable and offered excellent versatility, especially given this complete bike costs under £2.5k.

The A/1 has a spring in its step, literally. Whenever I rode with any gusto I got a sense of springiness from the frame, reminiscent of titanium or a high-end custom steel build. It doesn’t feel detrimental, like excessive flex, but is merely a characteristic of the magnesium frame that allows it to disperse vibrations well.

 

The geometry is pegged at those seeking a slightly more relaxed and amenable ride feel. Handling is far from sluggish but it’s a noticeable notch back from the racier end of the spectrum. That will help inspire confidence in less experienced riders on rutted tracks, plus potentially keep things more stable when laden.

In terms of the spec, Sram’s Rival shifting and braking both performed flawlessly. Vaast has chosen to up-spec the chainset to a carbon Praxis Zyante, worth £300 alone, which feels like a nice bonus.

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I have no complaints with the Stans NoTubes Grail S1 wheels either, as they were both light and stiff, plus fitting and inflating tubeless tyres on these rims is a cinch.

Buy the Vaast A/1 now

Vaast says its bikes are for those seeking something beyond that which has a finish line, and I couldn’t put it better. It’s certainly versatile enough for anything from the commute to a day-long adventure and more. It’s a tad weighty at 9.12kg for a size 54cm, but I think I can forgive that when I remember the price.

Pick of the kit

7Mesh Cypress Hybrid Vest, £130, 7mesh.com

What makes a good gilet? It should be lightweight, close-fitting, silent and not flappy, such that it is almost unnoticeable – except for the feeling of additional protection from a chilly breeze or even an unexpected rain shower. And it should take up minimal room in a jersey pocket.

The 7Mesh Cypress Hybrid, made from four-way stretch GoreTex Infinium and weighing just 92g, does all those things well, plus its construction and fabric exude quality. As an extra bonus, two side zips allow for jersey access or additional ventilation.

Buy the 7Mesh Cypress Hybrid vest now from Sigma Sports

Alternatively…

Get wide, boy

For the same price as our test bike (£2,469) you can eschew the 700c wheels with 38mm tyres and opt instead for 650b wheels with 47mm tyres and head further from the trodden path.

Buy the Vaast A/1 now

Rather go Shimano?

Again for same price you can switch from a Sram Rival groupset to a Shimano GRX setup – and you still get the carbon Praxis Zyante chainset.

Buy the Vaast A/1 now

Spec

Frame Vaast A/1
Groupset Sram Rival
Brakes Sram Rival
Chainset Praxis Zyante Carbon
Cassette Sram Rival
Bars All-Road Pro alloy
Stem All-Road Pro alloy
Seatpost Vaast carbon
Saddle WTB Silverado 142 saddle
Wheels Stans NoTubes Grail S1, Maxxis Rambler 38mm tyres 
Weight 9.12kg (medium/54cm)
Contact vaastbikes.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£2,469