Pitched as an entry-level performance bike with aerodynamic features, the Helios A5.0 looks fast, racy and itching for speed – at least, it does until you stumble upon its triple chainset. So with this confused personality, how does the Helios fare?
We tested the Polygon Helios A5.0 against two other direct-buy road bikes; be sure to read our group test summary, including our analysis of build quality.
Frame and equipment: Top-quality build all-round, but an odd gearing choice
Polygon is a rapidly growing Indonesian-based bike manufacturer that produces for a handful of well-known brands. So it’s not too surprising that the Helios frame is feature-packed and plays host to many of the latest aluminium manipulation techniques.
Each tube is sharply shaped to maximise frame stiffness without increasing weight. An example of this is the semi-aero seat tube, which tapers heavily to a thinner, more compliant size at the seatpost.
The front fork is certainly something stolen from a far higher-priced bike. It's super light, stiff, aero and yet still comfortable
At just 8.86kg, the A5.0 is weight competitive with many carbon bikes costing twice as much, and it achieves this in ways that aren’t easy to spot. The all carbon front fork with its tapered steerer tube is one aspect, casually disguising some of the bike’s weight loss. Likely borrowed from one of Polygon’s full-carbon race bikes, this fork is no doubt a high-end item with its straight lines and aero blades.
Shimano 105 is arguably the best value groupset from the component giant and does the job here without hesitation. Helping to achieve the low price, Polygon has used a slightly lower grade brake-set, but there’s little perceivable difference compared with the 105.
Three rings on the front may seem great, but it's simply not needed for general road riding
As noted before, the choice of a triple crankset is an odd one in a market where compact cranks are the norm. While some people may love the huge range offered by the triple, there’s little need for 30 gears when 20 is proven.
Prior to the everyday availability of compact cranks, triple ring cranks were common on recreational-level bikes as they offered a wider gearing spread. But today the triple is seen to add weight, large amounts of unnecessary gear overlap and an often finickier setup.
A requirement of a triple crank is a longer cage rear derailleur to cope with the varying chain slack. This longer rear derailleur would be better used in conjunction with a wide-range rear cassette – similar to that of SRAM’s Apex group – therefore providing much of the additional gearing spread a triple offers, without the added weight and complexity.
The Schwalbe Durano tyres are one of our favourites
Tyres are often overlooked on budget bikes, yet Polygon has picked the Schwalbe Durano tyres – one of our favourite training tyres, offering dependable puncture resistance without sacrificing grip and speed.
Shimano’s R501 wheelset is a popular choice with Shimano 105-equipped bikes: these wheels aren’t particularly light, but they provide a decent ride quality and easy serviceability. An additional bonus is Shimano’s brilliant quick-release skewers which put shame to more basic models.
The R501 30 model on the A5.0 means the rim has a depth of 30mm, something that is claimed to offer marginally better aerodynamics than a shallower wheel. We reckon this benefit is rather limited for most people, but the additional strength and stiffness provided by the deeper rim is something everyone can appreciate.
Finishing off the build are Polygon’s own Entity brand components. They serve purpose admirably well, although we didn’t get along with the handlebar shape.
No pedals are included, so be sure to factor that into the bike’s price.
Ride and handling: Stable, smooth and proof that red is fastest
The Polygon’s fast looks extend to its ride quality once on the road – it delivers a performance feel with a comfortable, upright riding position.
A whole bunch of 10mm carbon headset spacers allows for easy fine-tuning of handlebar height
The Helios’ position is easily fine-tuned with a large stack of headset spacers beneath the stem allowing for a specific handlebar height. Even at full height, the Helios rides with a balanced attitude, where other bikes can feel top-heavy and skittish.
Accelerating is met with a sense of immediate reaction and without frame flex, but the deeper 30mm wheels do take some effort to get up to speed.
Even with just 23mm wide tyres, the A5.0’s ride quality is notably smooth and controlled. We felt comfortable riding through bumpy road sections seated and never felt that the bike was bouncing beneath us.
As mentioned above, we’re not overly fond of the handlebar’s shape, which forces a big change in position to go from tops to drops. This may cause discomfort for less flexible riders, and it quickly changes the handling of the bike: going into the drops makes for a far twitchier ride with a lot more weight over the front wheel.
With five frame sizes on offer, we were able to get an exact fit. However, if you’re on either side of the height bell-curve, there’s a good chance the A5.0 won't be for you.
A pre-set torque wrench isn't massively expensive, but is a great addition
Buying online certainly isn’t for every buyer, but Bicyclesonline.com.au is clearly trying to make it as easy as possible. Every bike is checked locally and reboxed before being shipped, and the web-based assembly videos make the build as straightforward as possible. We’re impressed by the inclusion of a pre-set torque wrench with all the necessary bits to complete the build.
In the end, the Helios A5.0 combines a great frame with stellar components at factory-direct pricing. We struggle to overlook the triple crankset as it keeps us constantly shifting in search of the right gear – but if you can get beyond this, it’s a great buy.
Be sure to read our full direct-buy shootout to find out more of the Polygon’s build quality and your other options at this price-point.