The Viking Roma has a decent enough frame and proves that even budget Shimano STI levers shift well, but it comes with too many component foibles for our liking. The reach to the levers is too long, the braking is poor and it has much higher gears than we’d recommend.
The Roma seems to be permanently discounted to £300 or so, in the same way a lot of Halfords’ bikes are. Its sky blue frame is liberally emblazoned with the Viking moniker, as are the saddle and rims too. At its heart is a decent enough frame, with bulky, utilitarian welds. Wheels have Quando hubs and semi-deep rims. But it falls down in quite a significant way.
A bike at this price is aimed at novice riders who aren’t likely to be experienced at pushing big gears. Though compact chainsets have become more popular, the Roma has gone completely the other way; its combination of a 12-23T cassette and 42/52T chainset provides the sort of gear range a hardman pro rider would have competed on decades ago. It made even our experienced testers – more used to a compact with its 34T ring and 26T sprocket – struggle up climbs that they normally tackle with ease.
Braking was poor. At the cheaper end of the market there are often compromises with the brakes, but these budget brakes were hard to set up, difficult to keep centred and the braking performance was extremely disappointing. We really would recommend fitting softer compound cartridge brake blocks immediately. The tyres are another piece of a somewhat mismatched jigsaw. They’re marked 23mm but to the naked eye they looked narrow, and in fact are actually nearer 20mm wide – contributing to the firm ride. We recommend going the other way, fitting wider 25mm tyres for a plusher, more forgiving ride.
The handlebar too is an odd choice, having an unusually long forward reach to the levers. Combined with the 12cm stem, this put quite a strain across our back and shoulders – especially when we had to grip the brakes as hard as possible on descents.
On the plus side, the handling is fine. The frame and wheels are stiff enough to reward out-of-saddle efforts and the steering is trouble-free, even with the over-long reach. The high spot, though, is probably the Shimano shifting, with pretty slick rear gear changes, although the front does require a little bit more effort to get the chain onto the large ring.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus