Well ok it is, well it would be if I was impartial and since I’ve bought the bike and emotionally and financially committed it’s not a review in the objective, magazine sense of the word but notwithstanding and without further ado…
I’ve owned my Viva Bellissimo now for around a month and now feel justly qualified to tell you about it and fill you in on the changes and tweaks I’ve made to the bike so far. I’ll start with the basics.
The frame is made from plain gauge chromoly steel, TIG welded, nice skinny un-manipulated. No hydro forming, tube manipulation or changes in tube diameter threaten to spoil the aesthetic. Angles feel fairly laid back if you come from a road bike background. We’re not talking Dutch bike or Pashley Guv’nor here but it’s relaxed when cruising at normal speeds and sails over road irregularities with little complaint. Mine is the 56cm size as far as I can ascertain, with a similar length top tube. Despite a slightly sloping top tube it’s therefore not a ‘compact’ frame dimensionally.
The frame is beautifully finished with neat TIG welds, cast dropouts and fittings for fenders and a rack. No bottle cage mounts though, this is a city bike and such appurtenances are not required.
The rear dropouts are forward facing horizontal with 120mm spacing, meaning the single, fixed and internal hub gear are all possibilities. The only downside of the forward facing dropout is that the tyre needs to be deflated to remove the rear wheel. A pain if you want to flip the wheel when out on the road or if you are taking the bike in and out of a car a lot. But not a problem in ordinary use. Just remember if your fixing a flat to inflate after fitting the wheel, not before.
The best thing about the frame however lies upon the surface, that lustrous Ferrari red paint, which literally glows when seen in the flesh. This is topped off by Viva’s brushed stainless steel head badge and 3D down tube logos. The Bellissimo model name is written in gold metallic flake script on the top tube, and a discrete Danish flag at the bottom bracket gives away the bikes country of origin (at least where it is designed, the Viva is built in Taiwan).
The red colour scheme continues on the close fitting aluminium Giles Berthoud style fenders giving the bike a wonderfully integrated look. Beneath the guards there’s room for 28mm tyres (provided they’re a modest 28mm that is). More on the fenders later.
Wheels are simply beautiful or beautifully simple, if you will. Unbranded large flange single speed hubs in polished Alu complement 36 plain gauge stainless spokes and high polished logo free double wall rims, the latter in a beautiful retro profile, reminiscent of the Endrick rims that graced many an old English cycle. The rear hub is flip flop with provision for a fixed and lockring on the other side. As standard the bike is set up as 48/18 single speed.
The chain is a beautiful nickel plated KMC jobbie with a tool free joining link for easy maintenance. The chain set is a nicely sculpted polished Alu device with an aluminium chain guard built in.
As standard the bike comes with a comfy Fizik Arione style saddle (made by Velo) atop an unbranded but very nice polished Alu seat post with a fair degree of setback.
Braking is taken care of by a pair or medium drop dual pivot brakes in polished Alu (you’re getting the polished Alu no logos theme, yes?) operated by a minimalist set of levers. The bars are a sweeping arc design in a generous 610mm width, with simple foam grips. The stem is a old school road style quill with a hidden bolt. All in all very classy.
So how does it ride? Smooth, silent and deceptively quick sum it up. The 72″ gear turns over with more ease than it has any right to. The drivetrain is quiet, simple and efficient.
Coming from a quick steering Ridgeback Flight with steep angles and little fork rake, the front end of the bike took a little getting used to; slightly slower to steer at low speed. The trade off is relaxed cruising and a plush ride.
I’ve made a few changes to the bike. Some out of personal choice, some out of necessity. The saddle had been changed for a Velo Orange No.5 in dark brown for reasons of comfort and aesthetics. The wellgo pedals have been swapped for a polished Alu pair of DMR V8s which are the grippiest platforms I’ve ever experienced.
The fenders, though beautiful, caused me some headaches. First off the bulky wraparound stays caused major toe overlap which caught me out from time to time. Then the rear guard cracked in half at the brake bridge due to premature fatigue, which caused me great annoyance. However undaunted I secured a set of SKS Longboards in the 35mm width which look beautiful, overcome the toe overlap issue, provide awesome coverage and are tough as nails, more suitable for the rigours of daily commuting. The new guards necessitated a swap from the stock (and excellent) Kenda Kwest tyres, which are the fattest 28mm tyres you’ll ever see. I opted for a set of 25mm continental gator hard shells, which look awesome and fit nicely under the close fitting fenders. I’ll report back on the effectiveness of the Hardshells after an appropriate length of time.
All in all I’m enraptured with the Viva. It’s purposeful, simple beautiful yet utterly practical for the daily commute. It’s got a timeless look which suggests both utility and speed. Fixies like it, retro folk like it. Roadies like. Women like it. Men like it. People who don’t like bikes like it. I love it.
A closer look at the Viva Bellissimo singlespeed, to the dulcet tones of Lana del Rey.
So this is the first day back on the daily commute since the Christmas break and after a physically and spiritually nurturing few weeks it truly feels good to be back.
I’m pleased to report that the new bike, christened Bella, is now a new old friend and sits pretty in the train carriage opposite as I type.
The joy of riding singlespeed is something that people drone on about at some length so I’ll confine myself to saying that they’re right. Sheldon Brown said that single speed frees up a big chunk of your mind that is either changing gear or worrying about changing gear. He’s right. I feel like a kid again. Cycling is, or should be, a simple experience and this simple, beautiful steel bicycle has plugged me right back in.
2012 has been a big year for me. My dad died in October after a long illness, an event which has changed my life and my outlook forever. He had cancer for over 18 years and finally passed on 31st October, peacefully in a Marie Curie hospice. (Donate to them, they’re angels)
I’ve suffered two months of intense grief and I’m not sure if things are getting better yet or just changing. Life seems that much more precious and fragile and I’m pulling my family close, regretting not doing more sooner.
Riding my bicycle helps. Seizing the day is easier on two wheels.
I’m looking ahead to 2013 with optimism though. My mum has enrolled on a university course at age 76 which is damned impressive and I’m resolved to approach each day of work as an opportunity and a privilege, which I’ve all too often forgotten.
Experiences like this turn everyone into a philosopher so I won’t harp on too much. Just appreciate the people around you. Friends, family, colleagues. Appreciate those everyday privileges and the micro adventures that each day presents.
I hope that this reaches my readers in good health. Happy new year all.
Don’t talk yourself out of contacting an old friend
(Because it’s been too long or they never liked you that much or you’ve gained weight)
If you are having the thought to reach out to someone
It’s because they need to hear from you.
When an old friend won’t reach out to you:
Breathe. Live your life.
They love you.
Christmas has come early at everyday cyclist towers, with this very red, steel single speed beauty. Full details and reaction to follow but it’s a Viva Bellissimo. Cromo frame and fork, polished alu everything, painted steel ‘guards. Flip flop hub, arc bars. Nothing spare. Rides sweetly. Bought for a silly low price of £259!!! A spiritual replacement for Resurrectio?
I’ve been using my Velo Orange Il Postino handlebar for a month or so now so I figured it was high time to share my views on what has turned out to be the bar that I’ve been looking for for a long time.
The Il Postino is Velo Orange’s take on a classic Italian city bike bar, named (by means of a contest on VO’s blog) by one if their fans. It’s that most rare of rare things; a bar with back sweep but without rise or drop.
I’ve tried a number of different bars over the years. Straight bars, riser bars, drops, north road bars and moustache bars but I’ve always had a nagging feeling of ‘not quite right’. Well folks, I’m pleased to report that the Goldilocks feeling is no more: I’ve found my perfect commuting bar.
Il Postino is 57cm wide and made from something or other series aluminium. Whatever it is has produced a nice stiff bar that doesn’t complain when a bit of body English is applied. It’s zero rise with a classic forward then backward sweep, the bar ends at a 25 degree angle.
For me, this width and sweep combination is perfect. The fore then aft sweep means that no stem changes are necessary and the 25 degree angle equates to my natural wrist position. (Dangle your arms down by your sides and you’ll see that the hands come to rest roughly in this position)
The grip area is spacious enough for generously sized grips and controls and the satin finish is very classy, accompanied by the subtle VO logos.
The comfort and control that this bar affords is excellent, with great leverage when climbing out of the saddle, less weight on the wrist and the elbows tucked in, unlike with straight bars.
The retro looks might not be to everyone’s taste but I find that they team well with old or new bikes. If you’re the kind of person who likes to festoon their bars with gadgets and lights there isn’t much real estate due to the double bends, but that’s not an issue for me.
There’s nothing I don’t like about these bars and a lot I love. After a month of daily use, there’s nothing I’d change about their design or finish. Teamed with Velo Orange’s model 5 sprung leather saddle, the bar has transformed my Ridgeback Flight into a fast, comfortable and (IMO) classy town bike, that’s lost none of it’s élan.
I’ve yet to ride long distance on them yet so can’t comment on whether the lack of a secondary hand position is an issue. However I can say that the position that these swept back beauties affords is very comfortable and I don’t find myself ‘searching’ for another hand position like I have in the past with all the other bars I’ve used.
I’d be keen to hear from anyone else using these or similar bars.
An anonymous tip-off the other night drew my attention to the fact that merino t-shirts were on sale at Aldi as part of their ski-wear promotion.
Regular readers will know that I’m not averse to cross pollinating my cycling/living wardrobe with garments intended from other purposes (eg hiking, running, loafing, fighting wars, etc) so I duly hot-footed it down to said budget supermarket and took a look.
The base layers are 100% merino wool in what looks to be 150 weight. A great year round weight I’ve found. The quality looks to be up there with icebreaker and redram. They are machine wash and air dry, Henry Ford black and retail for the princely sum of £15.99. I bought two as presents for myself from other people (if that makes any sense). The only problem now is I will have to wait until after Christmas to give them a full road test.
However my brother has also purchased two shirts and vouches for their comfort and itch free nature.
If I were you I’d get thee to Aldi now and brave the mob of outdoor bargain hunters.