Viva Bellissimo. Not a review.

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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Starting out

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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.

You could do a lot worse than living your life by this, or similar.

J-Bo.net

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.
They’ll be back.

Each new age and life stage will bring its own losses
But also its new opportunities
Focus on the opportunities.

Politics are just a stream of unpleasant noises emanating from T.V.s
Don’t be fooled
Most of us want the same good things.

It’s okay to care about how you look.
You should care.
An interest in fashion is not superficial.
It’s an easy way to feel happy every day.

Good jobs will pay you to take days off
Don’t be someone who turns these down
Be someone…

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