The Razik Vortex brings something entirely new to frame construction. There's no escaping the fact that it's jaw-droppingly weird looking – the front triangle of the frame's tubes aren't tubes at all, they've been replaced by a spidery lattice that looks like a prop from a Tim Burton film.
This futuristic construction is 'IsoTruss', an open structure that combines carbon and Kevlar fibres with resin to produce tubular trusses, boasting a strength to weight ratio of up to 12 times that of steel. It may look insubstantial, but just grasping the top tube in your hand you get some sense of how tough this stuff is – it's utterly unyielding.
It's also very light – Razik claims 850g for the frame (plus 330g for the carbon fork) and our test bike weighed just a hair over the UCI's 6.8kg minimum weight without pedals, none too shabby for a build that uses some good quality, but relatively affordable components. Ok, we'll grant that the lovely FSA carbon bars are quite expensive and the Stan's NoTubes wheels are very light for alloy clinchers, but it's impressive all the same.
Video: Matthew Allen shares his thoughts after a first ride on the Vortex
Rarely has a bike attracted as much comment at BikeRadar towers as the Razik, with the most asked question being "why?" It's a valid question, but we prefer to ask "why not?" Well, our knees can think of one reason: the bumpy top tube is bloody painful if you catch yourself on it, so if you tend at all towards the knock-kneed when putting the power down we'd recommend giving the Razik a miss.
It's also the only bike we've ever ridden that required the rider to clean mud off the front of their neck after wet rides, a consequence of the frame's completely open tubes, which allow water and muck from the front tyre a largely unhindered trajectory through the downtube and top tube. Speaking of rain, the frame's 'lug' sections are blanked off, but the 'lips' where the IsoTruss sections start at the bottom bracket create areas where water can pool, another reason to save the Vortex for dry days.
Stan’s NoTubes Alpha 340 Team wheels are light and lively performers
All this would be moot if the unorthodox construction offered something exceptional in terms of ride quality, wouldn't it? Well, perhaps. We were immediately struck by how well the Razik climbs. It's not just the low total weight or the nice wheels, either – the chassis is very stiff laterally, rewarding the effort you put in with snappy, efficient ascending. Our test bike had decidedly racy gearing too, so we spent a lot of time out of the saddle testing our legs.
The downside to the frame's stiffness is that there just isn't enough give, at least not under our lighter testers. Hitting a small pothole on a descent sends a shockwave straight through bike and rider, and on the flat we experienced a lot of fatiguing high frequency vibration through the bars, an indication that the fork's damping characteristics aren't brilliant either.
The Vortex is proof that the IsoTruss concept works, and building a bike this stiff and light is no mean feat. As it stands though, the design needs some refinement. It's a head-turning machine, but for five grand we expect a more rounded riding experience.