The Polygon Helios 800x has an awful lot going for it: a quality carbon frame, a great mix of components, a race pedigree and, at AUD$3,299, an affordable price. It also looks the goods.
Ride & handling: Comfortable and racy
One of our first thoughts when riding the Helios was that it was a very comfortable frame but it still had a bit of zing. Perhaps not the rock solid zing you get from a ten-grand race bike with deep-dish carbon wheels but a good amount of power transfer nevertheless.
It isn’t the stiffest frame on the market, but stiffness isn’t everything. The fact that this frame is used by the Pure Tasmania Pro cycling team and the UCI Continental team Polygon Sweet Nice indicates that it’s no slouch.
We found the Helios to be comfortable on a range of surfaces. At the local criterium track we kept pace with all but the fastest riders, even managing to hang onto the wheels of some pro riders for a few laps. When the road went up there was no sign of sluggishness.
Sure, there are definitely lighter frames around and ones that are designed more for climbing but they may not build up into the ‘do anything’ bike that the Helios is. More expensive wheels would make a difference, but we do commend Polygon for speccing this bike with Schwalbe’s Ultremo tyres. These are one of the best sets of rubber going around and where some manufacturers go for the cheap option, Polygon have gone for quality.
Frame: Stylish machine, not an off-the-shelf Taiwanese clone
No taper on the forks
We had preconceptions that this bike might not be that interesting, but these were changed when we unpacked the box. The frame has clearly been designed by someone who takes some kind of joy from their work. At the front end it gives a big nod to current trends with a ‘triangular’ down tube that flares out at the bottom to accommodate a large bottom bracket. The curved top tube has a similar shape
The fork, meanwhile, is nice and fat, which helps channel the wind into that down tube apex. The legs don't taper down to the dropouts much – it reminds us of the forks you used to see on team ONCE bikes – and the rake is slightly shorter than usual, which makes cornering a breeze, particularly at speed.
At the back end some consideration has been given to comfort, and also elegance. The seat tube is thick and square at the bottom bracket but becomes narrower and round towards the top. This adds comfort, by allowing use of a skinny 27.2mm seatpost, and also gives the bike a stylish look – something that's accentuated by the upward sweep of the chainstays where they join the dropouts.
The seatstays are straight but don’t give much time to the super-thin designs on a lot of current bikes. The colour is what you might call ‘high sheen’ and matches the Shimano Ultegra groupset and Ritchey carbon parts perfectly. Our only complaint about the look of this bike is that the font used for the brand name looks a little dated, but at least it isn’t emblazoned all over the frame.
While the previous generation Helios frame was a Toray T700 monocoque the latest version uses tube-to-tube construction and a blend of three different Mitsubishi Rayon Pyrofil carbon fibres – TR50S (24 tensile strength), MR60 (30 tensile strength) and HR40 (40 tensile strength). The HR40 is positioned in places where extra strength and stiffness is required, and the TR50S in places where there's an opportunity to shave some weight. This has resulted in the smallest frame (50cm) weight dropping from 1,020g to 930g and the largest (58cm, tested here) from 1,200g to 1,050g.
Confirmation, if any were needed, that Polygon are a serious, go-ahead type of company is shown by the fact that next year, this model will undergo more modifications. A combination of monocoque and tube-to-tube construction is expected to bring the 50cm frame down to around 700g and the 58cm to 900g.
How do I buy one?
Polygon bikes can be bought in Australia online from www.bicyclesonline.com.au (traditional retailers don't stock them, although you can see them in Polygon's Sydney showroom). With the purchase you get a 14-day trial period and a 12-month warranty. The Helios 800x costs $3,299, which is good value for what you get.
Our test bike arrived pretty much built out of the factory. We had to cut away some zip-ties, attach the bar to the stem, pump up the tyres, plug in the Shimano Di2 and it was ready to ride within 20 minutes of it coming through the door.
If you have difficulty finding a bike which fits, you may wish to note that this year’s model is available in custom sizes. The tube-to-tube construction means no expensive monocoque moulds need to be constructed, so you can get a custom frame for not much more than the stock model.