Vaast R/1 road bike review: Magnesium tubing offers a distinctly cushy ride

Story Highlights

  • What it is:Vaast’s dedicated road riding adaptation of Allite “Super Magnesium” frame materials.
  • Frame features:Innovative magnesium TIG-welded construction, semi-aero tube shaping with matching aero carbon seatpost, full carbon fork, partially internal cable routing, T47 threaded bottom bracket shell, hidden wedge-type seatpost binder.
  • Weight:1,250 g (claimed, unpainted medium frame only without hardware); 420 g (fork only, claimed, uncut); 8.94 kg (19.71 lb), as tested, medium size, without pedals or accessories.
  • Price:US$2,300 / AU$TBC / £2,300 / €2,900.
  • Highs:Remarkably damped ride quality, appropriately quick handling, competitively stiff chassis.
  • Lows:Muted ride quality borders on dead, some questionable spec choices, disappointing assembly quality.

Vaast is continuing to build its collection of magnesium-framed bikes, with its latest addition being the R/1. As compared to Vaast’s existing drop-bar model – the versatile A/1 all-roader – the R/1 is a more purpose-built steed intended solely for paved surfaces. As is often the case with road bikes, speed is the focus here, with a semi-aero welded magnesium frame, full-carbon fork, and a variety of performance-minded build kits with aero wheelsets. 

It looks good on paper, it looks good in person, it’s a solid value, and previous experience with the A/1 has proven magnesium’s worthiness as a higher-end frame material. So why am I not more excited about this thing?

All-in on magnesium

I’m not sure if this is strictly an American colloquialism, but “one-trick pony” comes to mind when I think of Vaast. To be clear, I don’t intend for that to be a disparagement, but there are few other bike brands in recent memory that have hinged so much of their identity on a single attribute.

Much as Niner banked everything on 29″ mountain bike wheels early on, Vaast is betting the farm on magnesium. In fact, the brand’s entire existence is predicated on the stuff, as the public-facing construct of parent company Allite Inc., the manufacturer of Vaast’s so-called “Super Magnesium” alloys. Allite is targeting a range of applications for its magnesium products, including aerospace, consumer electronics, marine, and even construction, and whether you want your magnesium for forgings, castings, machining, welding, or extruding, Allite can apparently fill that order.

The magnesium material is truly impressive, offering an incredibly well-damped ride.

But why magnesium in the first place? Looking strictly in terms of material properties, it’s about one-third lower-density than aluminum while also boasting higher strength. And while it’s technically more flexible than aluminum by volume, it’s stiffer than aluminum by weight – and either way, the difference isn’t so great that it can’t be compensated by slightly increasing tubing diameters. It also generally damps vibrations more effectively than aluminum, which can yield a smoother ride.

That’s all well and good, but isn’t a magnesium bike basically going to melt if it gets wet, or even worse, catch on fire like I’ve seen on TikTok??? 

In short, no. Allite claims its proprietary alloys and electrolytic surface treatments make the stuff far less prone to corrosion than people like to think, and from a sustainability standpoint, magnesium can supposedly be recycled about as easily as aluminum and is less energy-intensive to produce than many other metals. It’s also worth reminding folks that the lion’s share of mountain bike suspension forks have been made of cast magnesium for ages (and subject to a lot more regular abuse), and it’s not like these things are spontaneously combusting everywhere.

The seat tube sports a cutout lower section. Seatstays are only modestly dropped.

Vaast uses several different varieties of Super Magnesium for the R/1, depending on the type of forming and joining required. But by and large, it doesn’t look all that different from a conventional TIG-welded and aluminum frame. Vaast uses truncated airfoil tubing for the seat tube and down tube, and while the hydroformed asymmetrical chainstays do without the A/1’s dropped format and machined semi-yoke, they’re still elaborately shaped from end to end (presumably to boost structural rigidity and tire/drivetrain clearance). 

The down tube and seat tube are prominently flared at the T47 oversized and threaded bottom bracket shell, and the down tube is also flared up at the head tube to increase front triangle torsional rigidity. The seatstays are more simply shaped, with nominally round profiles and a single bend down toward the dropouts. Those dropouts are socket-style so as to increase the weld area with the adjoining stays, and the rear flat-mount brake tabs are cleverly incorporated into the non-driveside dropout in a single piece to help maintain good alignment during the welding process.

Up top, the modestly sloping top tube is laterally ovalized from end to end and sports a subtle curve, and the matching aero-profile carbon fiber seatpost is held in place with an internal wedge-style binder.

Flat-backed airfoil tube shapes are used in the head tube, down tube, and seat tube of the Vaast R/1.

Vaast has resisted the trend of fully internal cable routing, instead going with a more conventional semi-internal setup. There’s a single large port located on the upper side of the down tube, just behind the head tube, and various plastic covers are used to accommodate both mechanical and electronic drivetrains.

Officially, the R/1 will clear 700×30 mm tires front and rear. If you make use of the built-in fender mounts, though, that figure drops a bit to 28 mm.

Claimed weight for a medium frame (roughly equivalent to a 54 cm) is 1,250 g without paint or hardware; the matching full-carbon fork adds another 420 g.

The down tube and seat tube are both flared down by the T47 oversized and threaded bottom bracket shell.

Vaast offers the R/1 in three different build kits, starting at US$2,300 / AU$TBC / £2,300 / €2,900 with a Shimano 105 mechanical drivetrain, a Praxis Alba aluminum crank, and Alex aluminum wheels. There’s also a mid-range model with a Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset, a Praxis Zayante Carbon crankset, and slightly more aero Alex aluminum wheels for US3,200. Sitting atop the range, the flagship model comes equipped with a complete SRAM Force eTap AXS wireless electronic groupset and Vaast-branded 45 mm-deep carbon clinchers for US$5,000. Each is offered in six different sizes, but unfortunately just one color option each.

Vaast sent to me for this review the base-level model, which tipped the scales at 8.94 kg (19.71 lb) without pedals or accessories.

Road report

How things sound on paper is one thing, of course; it’s how the bike actually performs on the road that really matters, and the Vaast R/1 is a great example of how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. 

If an aluminum bike was built with these sorts of proportions, you’d rightfully expect those big frame tubes (and that aero-profile seatpost) to deliver a punishing ride that’s only tolerable for maybe a couple of hours. However, what’s most remarkable about the R/1 is how weirdly smooth it is.

Magnesium is a more flexible material than aluminum, so the tubes are generally larger in diameter.

Remember what I said about magnesium damping vibrations better than aluminum? That’s not just hype; it actually seems to work. Even with skinny road tires pumped up to around 85 psi (more on this in a bit), the R/1 positively glides over even chip-sealed tarmac. Higher-frequency vibrations are just absolutely obliterated, and what’s left is this odd sense of almost floating across the road. It’s arguably too well-damped, in fact, almost to the point of feeling numb and isolating. 

That said, those bigger tubes feel exactly how you think they would when it comes to putting the power down. It’s very solid down at the bottom bracket, and confidently precise up front in terms of handling. It’s not otherworldly rigid, mind you, and in my opinion, it can’t match better carbon fiber frames in that respect. I’d liken it to how a more racing-oriented aluminum bike feels in terms of efficiency, only you don’t get the buzziness that usually goes with it. Works for me.

Unfortunately, damping only gets you so far, and those puffed-up tubing profiles definitely reveal their limitations on rougher roads. Whereas more compliant bikes can sometimes feel like there’s no end to how much they can flex over bumps, the Vaast absolutely punishes your laziness if you don’t bother to unweight on medium-to-large impacts, sending jolts up your wrists and through the saddle harsh enough that you’re unlikely to forget next time. 

Handling-wise, the R/1 is also as you’d expect. The 56 mm trail dimension on my medium-sized tester is appropriately quick, easily darting back and forth across the road as much as you’d like when carving swoopy descents or flicking around potholes. The compact 410 mm-long chainstays keep the back end from feeling like you’re dragging an anchor behind you, too, and while there’s definitely some toe overlap owing to the relatively short front center, it’s hardly unusual for the segment. 

More critically, the slightly-lower-than-average bottom bracket drop keeps things feeling pretty planted at speed, and while the stack and reach figures aren’t especially aggressive, they don’t come close to delving into endurance bike territory, either. Despite Vaast’s tiny market presence, I find it pretty impressive the company even bothers with two different fork rakes across the six sizes; many just make do with one.

As well as Vaast seemed to nail the fundamentals with the R/1, though, it’s hard to overlook some of the missteps.

This cable routing is better than what Vaast uses on the A/1, but it’s not very good.

The old mechanic in me adores the partially external cable routing, but someone forgot to sweat the details. I have no issues with the entry point atop the down tube, and it’s worlds better than the clumsy side-entry rubber grommet Vaast uses on the A/1. But because of the way it pushes the derailleur housings and rear brake hose upward, it’s impossible for your knees not to hit them on each and every pedal stroke if you dare ride out of the saddle. It’s maddening.

The welds are also inconsistent, looking picture-perfect in some areas, but oddly lumpy and uneven in others. Perhaps there’s a functional reason behind this (I’m certainly no expert in this field), but it’s off-putting regardless, particularly when one of those eyesores is sitting right on the driveside of the head tube.

And then there’s the paint. The blue used on this particular model is deep and lustrous, but something about the tint just reminds me of bikes sold in big-box stores. There were also some paint defects here and there, and while painted-to-match stems often lend a premium look to nicer bikes, it somehow looks cheap here. The frame deserves better.

I can’t decide if the painted-to-match aluminum stem lends a premium look or makes the bike look cheap. And don’t @me with the headset spacers. This isn’t my bike, so I wasn’t about to lop off a bunch of steerer tube.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Vaast doesn’t use size-specific tubing on its bikes, so while this medium sample offered up a truly lovely ride quality, that may or may not be the same for larger or smaller sizes. For example, the medium A/1 I tested a while back rode great, but the extra-small one we tested at last year’s Field Test most definitely did not. YMMV.

Spec notes

I often see smaller brands going one of two ways when it comes to value: either they somehow manage to offer a lot more than mainstream labels (presumably by accepting much smaller-than-typical profit margins), or their tiny size only reveals their lack of buying power. Vaast, on the other hand, seems to be just about average.

At least in the US, a Trek Emonda ALR 5 is exactly the same price as the Vaast, but comes with a proper Shimano 105 crankset instead of the Praxis one used here, and a real Shimano chain instead of the Vaast’s KMC, along with nicer wheels and what I’d argue to be nicer finishing kit. On paper, it’s a win for the Trek, but the Vaast’s magnesium frame shouldn’t be ignored here. Prior experience with the Emonda ALR (and most other aluminum frames in this range I’ve ridden in the past) has demonstrated that it just doesn’t ride nearly as well as what Vaast has been able to do with that fancy Super Magnesium stuff, so it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

Vaast swaps the Shimano 105 crank for a Praxis Alba. It’s a bit heavier and doesn’t shift quite as well, but replacement chainrings should be easier to find (and cheaper, too).

That all said, the mixed Shimano/Praxis/KMC drivetrain on the Vaast still works well. Front shifts aren’t quite as incredible as a Shimano setup, but they’re still very good, and rear shifts are still superb. The whole drivetrain runs admirably quietly, too. 

The brakes were unfortunately a little disappointing. They gripped just fine, but they had a vague engagement point and the cheaper steel alloy used on the lower-level Shimano RT54 rotors (Trek uses nicer RT70s on the Emonda) are only approved for resin pads. 

Far and away, my biggest complaint on the Vaast is the wheelset and tires. I normally don’t have any issue with seeing Alexrims wheels on a lower-end bike; the company makes perfectly reasonable stuff. However, the 17 mm internal width is just too narrow – yes, even for a dedicated road bike – and built as they are with their straight 14-gauge spokes, they’re noticeably heavy. 


Making matters worse are the Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tires to which they’re paired. The tires themselves are perfectly ok for the price point, but when mounted on these rims, they barely measure 24 mm across. I swapped them for Continental GP5000s pretty much immediately, which measured exactly the 25 mm printed on the hot stamp. 

Seriously, what decade are we in again? HED came out with the first-generation Ardennes fifteen years ago now. But hey, at least Vaast included ultralight butyl inner tubes. On the plus side, Vaast says the smaller tires were dictated by “supply chain changes”, and will only be limited to the first “couple of hundred units”. However, while that’s great news bikes will eventually be delivered with 28s (which may still be undersized on those rims, anyway), a couple of hundred early buyers will end up with inferior rubber.

The bar shape was perfectly fine, too, and the carbon seatposts uses the same single-bolt head design as Ritchey’s nicer stuff – which is to say that it’s easy to adjust, holds tight, and looks nice. I can’t say I’m a fan of the Prologo Scratch saddle mounted to it, though. Prologo makes great stuff overall, but that Scratch is one of the oldest shapes in its range, with a scooped and rounded profile that needlessly puts a lot of pressure on soft tissue. 

It came off quicker than the tires.

About that assembly quality

Vaast only sells consumer-direct, and as is always the case with that sort of business model, it’s critical for customer satisfaction (and safety, in some situations) that the bikes arrive fully tuned and requiring as little assembly as possible so as to minimize the chance of user error. 

Unfortunately, I can’t say my test sample was built all that well.

Not ok.

Both derailleurs were poorly adjusted, with the rear low-limit screw sufficiently off that it would have shifted into the spokes. It was a similar situation at the other end with a front derailleur that consistently shoved the chain off the outer chainring. Moreover, the front derailleur cable was visibly mangled straight out of the box – a clear indication a technician initially installed the cable incorrectly, but didn’t bother to take the time to replace it.

The rear brake hose also rattled inside the down tube, perhaps because there wasn’t a foam sleeve installed. I didn’t check, although I also shouldn’t have to (nor should you), and it shouldn’t rattle regardless.

What else? The rear brake was well out of alignment, and the front rotor was slightly bent. Down below, some paint was already chipped off of the bottom bracket shell from how the cups were installed (more an endemic issue with T47, so not exactly Vaast’s fault), and finally, up top, the handlebar tape was rather unprofessionally installed.

As much as T47 offers some real benefits, tool engagement isn’t one of them. My test bike already had chips in the paint from when the cups were installed at the factory.

I asked Vaast about all of this (and I was sent the statement below in response) and naturally, the company made it sound like my sample was an outlier. But again, problems like this are something anyone looking at a consumer-direct bike have to consider.  

“We have worked with our assembler to deliver a higher level of assembly for all our Vaast product, and our dealers have noticed this with the bikes going together without much adjustment needed. In the case there are any assembly issues in a direct-to-consumer sale, we will work with the consumer and local shop to resolve the issue.

“Vaast has integrated the Beeline Connect platform [a mobile service provider – Ed.] to provide nationwide assembly with over 400 in-store pickup locations and 50 mobile bicycle shops offering home delivery. Riders can also schedule post-sales service directly from the Vaast website with our dealer network, seeing in real time when is the next available service appointment.”

Ok, fine. But while it’s nice to see Vaast has apparently planned for the possibility of post-sales assembly support, I’d much rather that support not be needed in the first place. 

Rolling the dice

Ok, so given all of this, where does that leave me with the Vaast R/1? 

I love continued development and advancements on any material front, and I love how Vaast has resurrected magnesium into such a viable frame alternative. It’s relatively inexpensive, it offers a truly different (and excellent) feel, and it’s comparatively easy to manufacture, and so on. Yes, there are flaws, but from where I sit, they should be easily surmountable with running changes moving forward.

Vaast’s previous magnesium bike offerings seemed a little half-baked in some ways, but this R/1 comes across as noticeably more mature. Still, there’s room for improvement.

For me, the frame isn’t the main issue, but rather some of the stuff surrounding it. Perhaps some of the spec problems are related to lingering supply chain problems, particularly given Vaast’s size (what isn’t these days?). But still, I would have liked to see some more progressive decisions made here overall. 

For my money, I wish Vaast offered the R/1 as a bare frameset. That seems to me like it’d present a really intriguing (and relatively low-cost) alternative to aluminum frames, while still delivering something unique and a little special. For example, could you imagine this frame with something like a Hunt Alloy SL wheelset, a complete Shimano 105 groupset, and some smarter finishing kit picks? 

That’d be a hell of a bike. But as is, this one feels a touch underdone.

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