Voodoo’s frames – designed by the mountain bike hall of famer Joe Murray, whose credentials are up there with the Gary Fishers and Keith Bontragers of this world – aren’t a regular sight on British trails. But, like all good-but-rare things, their owners swear by them. Our test bike arrived tricked out with a Maverick fork and a range of top quality components from Voodoo specialist Sideways Cycles.
It’s common for manufacturers to play up the use of their framebuilding materials in aerospace industries, as if the use of a particular type of alloy in space shuttle plumbing makes the bike you’re riding somehow more desirable. Voodoo are no exception, as the ‘space technology’ designation on one of the Aizan’s scandium frame tube decals implies. The use of scandium in aluminium alloys increases weld strength and helps reduce corrosion, allowing lighter frames to be built without sacrificing durability. It also builds a strong enough missile nose cone to allow submarine launching beneath the polar ice cap, as the Russian military discovered.
The Aizan’s frame is a lightweight, functional alu design at its best, with unshowy tube diameters and a complete lack of fancy shaping or profiling. All the important stuff is here though, from the open-ended head tube gusset to the ankle-clearing snaky seatstay. There’s a set of brake bosses at the rear but the slotted dropouts on our test bike won’t feature on production models.
Plugged into the front of our test bike was a Maverick fork – with 29er-specific geometry. The braceless Maverick lives up to its name with an upside-down design that puts the fork’s stanchions at the bottom, clamping on to the oversize, front hub axle via builtin quick release levers with safety catches. Huge mud clearance is one of the benefits, but the most noticeable thing is that it just gets on with the job. Our only niggle is that the hub didn’t play nicely with the Hope Mono Mini calliper.
Our test bike came outfitted with a range of upper mid-range kit that worked as flawlessly as we’d expect. The narrow, flat Easton bars seem like an anachronistic touch but work surprisingly well. You could, of course, substitute them – or any other component – for anything you like.
29ers occupy a special niche alongside mountain bike oddities such as singlespeeds and softtails – loved by a small group of aficionados, viewed with a little suspicion and a touch of incomprehension by everyone else. It doesn’t help that a 29er built to fit an averagely proportioned 5ft 11in male looks a bit weird – all gangly rims with a frame that looks too small.
The oddball proportions are forgotten as soon as you jump aboard and turn the pedals. Rather like the first time on a gearless bike or single-sided fork, difference ceases to matter as soon as you discover that everything’s where it should be and it all functions just fine. Better than fine, in fact, because the Aizan is a great example of everything that a big-wheeled bike should be. It’s easy rolling in the rough, those big diameter treads trundling with deceptive ease through choppy trail sections that would have standard wheels bouncing all over the shop. It’s nippier and faster handling than you’d expect, making for reassuringly eager singletrack ducking and diving – the result of carefully tweaked geometry and a wheelbase that’s surprisingly short for such a large-wheeled riding machine.
It’s the combination of wellsorted 29er geometry, a great tubeset and flawless components that makes the Aizan more than just another big-wheeled machine. Voodoo have brought us a bike that’s smoother than an equivalently specced 26in setup, but just as fast out on the trail. For particularly tall riders, or anyone looking for a ride that’s a bit out of the ordinary, that makes it a very tempting – if not exactly the cheap – option.