I've mentioned Volagi Cycles in a few recent stories. We met this fine group of people out at Interbike. Once I got back to Colorado, I developed quite an online crush on their bikes--particularly the Viaje bike. I downright fell in LOVE with the Viaje upon demo-ing it for the Greenland Gravel Grinder. However, the focus of this article is more from an industry perspective. Here is a hard-hitting interview between myself and Brian P. Bonham (of Volagi). Hopefully it gives you a little Cotati, CA Volagi past combined with the Ogden, UT present.
[303Cycling:] Brian, Give me a one paragraph history of Volagi.
[Brian:] Here is my sappy, romanticized version of what Volagi is all about: Volagi is pushing yourself farther than you ever thought possible. Pushing past your mental boundaries to find your physical limits. That discovery, that moment of personal triumph that makes you want to do it all again is what we live for at Volagi.
What we’re really all about: In 2010, two veterans in the cycling industry came up with the idea to create the best possible performance bicycle for the endurance cyclist. They realized that a big chunk of the market wasn’t racing bikes but were still being sold “race” style bikes. We figure that these riders fit more into the “endurance” category than the “racer” category. If you want a bike for the Tour de France, there are a lot of options out there for you, but that is not us. We build bikes for people who love riding—period. We chose to incorporate comfort aspects into our bikes with the Longbow Flex Stays, but maintain control and performance with disc brakes and road bike geometry.
[303Cycling:] Please clarify the pronunciation of "Volagi" as I nearly got into a fist fight over the weekend arguing this point with someone. Kidding. I don't fight with my fi-hi-hi-hisssstss. I used the bike.
[Brian:] To avoid any future altercations with your cycling peers, you can tell them Volagi is pronounced “vol∙ah∙gee”, and is a Latin derivative meaning “the will to go”.
[303Cycling:] Break down, if you will, all the hubbub between you guys and Specialized for our readers that don't follow things obsessively like myself.
[Brian:] So here are the unbiased, nuts and bolts of the Volagi vs. Specialized extravaganza:
Both co-founders of Volagi, Robert Choi and Barley Forsman, left their jobs designing and developing accessories at Specialized in 2009. After leaving the company, they began designing and engineering a new endurance style bicycle, the “Liscio”, with extended seat stays dubbed, “Long Bow Seat Stay Technology”. The Liscio, which is now the flagship bicycle in the Volagi product line, was not designed, engineered, or created at Specialized, or with any Specialized equipment or know-how.
Specialized begged to differ, claiming that the idea for the Liscio belonged to them, that Robert and Barley developed the idea while working at Specialized, and in starting their own company which was based on stolen intellectual property, they had violated a non-compete clause in their contracts. Specialized sued, most claims were tossed out, and a jury ruled that Volagi award Specialized a whopping $1.00.
Here is where I could get all emotional and talk smack about a big company picking on the little guys, but I’ll let people form their own opinions about the whole thing. Can’t we just all get along?
[303Cycling:] Yes. Yes we can. Okay, so Volagi recently moved to Ogden Utah. What gives? And are you changing all the pretty silver labels to now say made in Ogden, UT instead of Cotati, CA?
[Brian:] First off, what’s this cold, white stuff falling from the sky? And layering your cycling kit in October? What’s that all about?
Actually, it’s a really cool idea hatched up by the City of Ogden and State of Utah. There’s an old train depot in Ogden that’s been here since they drove the golden spike in the ground connecting the transcontinental RR from East to West. The City and State see this unused real estate as an opportunity for economic development, and by offering incentives to cycling and outdoor companies to relocate to the area, they hope to rebrand Ogden as the heart of the Outdoor Products and Recreation industry in the United States. Tons of new job opportunities are sprouting up in the area. QBP, TRP/Tektro, ENVE Composites, and other cycling companies have made the move, as well as Ski moguls like Solomon, Marker, and Atomic. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of it.
I guess if we had to trade in the redwoods, vineyards, and coastline of Sonoma County for some new digs, Ogden’s Wasatch Range, blue ribbon trout rivers, and unrivaled ski terrain isn’t a horrible swap. It’s no Boulder… but the 801 has some pretty epic opportunities for cyclists that are on par with what the 303 has to offer. [Editor's note: Brian and I have been heckling each other's area code's since Interbike. Ours is clearly better, but he's trying.]
[303Cycling:] Brian, I proposed a moving scenario before the move (see below). How close was my prediction to the actual move? What was the hardest part? Did you lose any bikes off the top of the moving van?
Complete camera black-out, gradually fading to blurry images and finally to bright warehouse lights. Everyone is running around in skinny jeans, shouting things in Italian at each other and shoving bike parts and computer keyboards in boxes. The music is the frantic climax from Rossini's Barber of Seville, a la' the classic movie Breaking Away. Amidst all the chaos, suddenly the wine gets spilled. Music stops. You all look around and see what you've become. Ashamed, you carefully pick up the bottle and hug your nearest Volagi brother and/or sister. The music resumes. Another bottle is opened and shared and finally you all manage to come together. The last box is taped (camera close-up on this one). The last shot is the back of the moving truck slamming down and locking just as the Barber of Seville finishes. Black out.
[Brian:] The hardest part was probably navigating a 26’ Penske truck with my Subaru in tow across three States. Aside from that, the move has gone smoothly. We spent a whole weekend packing and unpacking and setting up the new facility so as to have the phone lines and work benches up and running on Monday. We didn’t want the move to negatively affect business, so it kind of had to be an all or nothing, pack up and move at five o’clock on Friday, then drive straight through the night sort of thing. So in a sense your prediction was pretty accurate—a lot of shouting amidst flurry of boxes and packing tape set to a soundtrack of an Italian opera’s crescendo.
[303Cycling:] What is the riding like in Ogden, UT?
[Brian:] The roads around Ogden are surprisingly very conducive to cycling and the City is making efforts to continually improve the cycling infrastructure. You can torture yourself on the kickers in the foothills, climb the roads around the ski resorts, or grind gravel on the trails around the salt flats. Of course, the mountain biking on the Wasatch range is unreal. Something like 300+ miles of rideable trails and singletrack from an interconnecting network of awesomeness in the local mountains. After riding at 6000 ft elevation, I think we all can’t wait to visit CA and spank our buddies on a club ride at sea level.
[303Cycling:] You sent me the Viaje XL Shimano 105 to demo for my Greenland Gravel Grinder race. I was more than pleased. Tell our readers about Volagi's segue into the gravel world.
[Brian:] I’m glad you mentioned this! Congrats on your podium finish! [Editor's note: there were only 9 other women and we didn't really do a "podium". But I did get a free beer from Ben Welnak, so that counts, right?] Anyway, yes we are newcomers in the world of gravel. I guess most companies are new to it as the trend of gravel-specific bikes takes off. One thing I’ve noticed about bikes branded as “gravel bikes”, is that they’re really just cyclocross and/or touring bikes with knobby tires. The beauty of theViaje is that its geometry is still road at heart. We wanted to make a “road bike with possibilities”, gravel grinding being one of them. So while you can tackle singletrack and rip up the dirt trails around your house, you can still ride the Viaje on the weekend club ride and have a super fast, super smooth bike.
[303Cycling:] Okay, last question, Brian. Is there anything else you want the CO cycling scene to know about Volagi?
[Brian:] Yes! For the folks in the 303 and beyond, we’re not too far of a drive from Colorado. Come see us! And hopefully we can make the trip out there to ride with you guys soon!
Thanks to Brian and the entire Volagi crew for lending me this awesome bike. I really don't want to return it and am wondering just how long I can keep it until it gets awkward. Also, thanks to Big Ring Cycles in Golden for handling the logistics of the demo build and shipping process. I am truly hooked on gravel. In fact, I've been perusing the Dirty Kanza website quite a bit over the last few weeks. Registration opens (and will most likely sell out) on Saturday, January 11th...