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Viva Bellissimo. Not a review.

January 21, 2013

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…

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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.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. pierre-antoine nansé permalink
    January 21, 2013 5:15 pm

    Red is a really the colour of love!

  2. January 22, 2013 5:21 am

    Nice “not a review” review! One thing I would quibble with is that city bikes don’t need bottle cage mounts. I’ve got ‘em on all my bikes, city and road. While you definitely need water bottles on road bikes, it’s still nice to have it on my city bikes as well. Oh yeah, coffee mug holders are also a good thing!

    • theeverydaycyclist permalink*
      January 22, 2013 8:09 am

      Fair point. A nice to have but not essential. These days I like to use hydration as an excuse for a quick dismount/photo opportunity or coffee stop!

  3. February 6, 2013 11:39 pm

    Sheesh, grivens, help mah boab…I read that with your voice in my head. Lovely bike in the flesh. I may get my Brompton painted in that colour.

  4. Mark Pickett permalink
    March 3, 2013 8:13 pm

    Looks nice! I did check out the Viva range, but didn’t like the un branded componentry. It looked as if they had spent more on the paint, than the whole of the rest of the bike! I’m glad it rides well though. In the end I bought a Norco Spade fixie, special offer from Evans. Not as practical…no mudguards… But a sub 20lb butted cromo bike, with decent components for around £300. It rides beautifully, all I’ve changed is the puncture prone oe tyres for schwalbe durano plus, and added a rear splash guard, I rode it on fixed a while, but it also has a single freewheel about a 67 inch gear. Great either way! Happy riding. :)

  5. Charles permalink
    March 5, 2013 8:17 am

    Huh, well, it’s nearly the same bike as your Resurectio but red and made in Taiwan …

  6. April 11, 2013 1:19 pm

    Just bought the same bike. It seems to be the last one for sale in London. Didn’t come with any fenders bizarrely, but have taken your advice and bought some SKS Longboards for it… Slight aesthetic concern: black fenders with snazzy red frame?… will let you know how it rides, but the test ride had me v excited. Any regrets, blogger?

  7. Tom permalink
    April 22, 2013 4:23 pm

    I’ve got one too, love it, though my rear mudguard split too, after about a year of use Maybe a general issue? Put some Brooks leather grips on it which look excellent IMHO.

    • theeverydaycyclist permalink*
      December 27, 2013 11:15 pm

      The mudguard thing must be a design flaw. They’re aluminium so fatigue can be an issue, especially if a stress riser like a rivet hole is placed close to the mounting point.

      Those Brooks grips are beautiful. When the foam grips wear out I may upgrade.

      I like the look of some Brooks leather bar tape though, especially with the wine cork bar ends!

      • Tom permalink
        December 30, 2013 3:30 pm

        I’ve got Brooks tape on most of my bikes. It ages really well, though the wine cork end plugs are not very strong. The wood tends to drop off after a few months.

      • theeverydaycyclist permalink*
        December 30, 2013 10:04 pm

        Thanks for your insight. Re the wine corks. I suppose it gives you can excuse to drink more wine and provide and ongoing supply of bar end plugs.

        I find that Leffe corks work well too!

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