… “It’s a Polygon”… “A what?!”… “A Polygon”…
That pretty much sums up the majority of conversations I’ve had over the past three weeks whilst testing out Polygon’s Helios C8X.
People like the look of it, and to be quite honest it looks the business. That said the gloss black frame with no obvious markings leads to endless questions about the bike. This could be looked at as a good and bad thing…
Regardless of how good this bike is, Polygon will have to overcome the stigma sometimes attached to non-mainstream brands, and the thought (right or wrong) that cheaper means reduced quality. So ‘good’, in the fact that people can ride this quality bike for a great price, and ‘bad’ because people that see it flashing by them up a hill or along Beach rd, have no idea what it is.
The bike itself is one of Polygon’s C class stable, which differentiates it from A class stock as an ‘endurance’ bike. Don’t let the ‘C’ fool you though; the frame is stiff, responsive and light, and the endurance component really comes from the longer wheelbase, 25mm tyres as standard and a longer head tube. These features are really noticeable and much appreciated after a few hours on rough roads. The first longish ride I did with the Polygon had me realising at the 85k mark that I still felt super fresh, wasn’t fatigued in the shoulders and had good legs (much to the displeasure of my group). I pushed on for the remainder of the ride to really see what this could do.
Over some undulating terrain, it climbs very impressively. A tick over 7kg and with a compact set up (50/34 and 11/28), you are ready to climb any hill anywhere! I really like this set up for the majority of the population. For 95% of people who are riding for fun, the odd Gran Fondo or racing Sunday bunches, you don’t really miss the larger big chain ring, but you certainly appreciate the 11-28 range on the back. Couple these features with the above mentioned endurance specs and you start to get a picture of the type of person this bike is targeting, which is to suggest almost everyone.
The specs are mostly well considered.
Shimano 6870 Ultegra Di2 22 speed groupset is a feature. I hadn’t ridden electronic before, and I have to say at the beginning I wasn’t too sure about it. Initially I felt the electronic shifting was very delicate; one thing I generally don’t associate with riding my bike is ‘delicate’. Aggressive – definitely, clumsy – probably on the odd occasion, but not delicate. Over time I came to love it, mostly when riding through the hills and having to change the front chain rings - its flawless and you have this confidence in shifting that you don’t get with mechanical, albeit without the aggressive feel.
Shimano’s RS81-C24 wheelset comes standard, along with Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tyres. This is why I say the specs are mostly well considered; I would think a more robust tyre would be more suitable for this type of bike. I liken it to a high end road bike rolling Gatorskin’s or something similar… a bit of a contradiction. The seat I’m not a fan of either, but this is certainly a personal preference.
One important thing to consider when buying this bike (or any Polygon) is the online experience.
Positive – saving costs.
Negative – no haggle, no fit, no changes… what you order is what you get.
For me, I would need to get a longer stem, something in the order of 120-130mm, spacers taken out and a new saddle… If this was a shop bought bike, all of that would be figured out and changed as required in the bike fit (if it is a good local bike shop). So when considering a bike from the Polygon range I would keep $300-$400 in reserve for a quality bike fit, and potentially some accessories.
Having said all that, this is a really quality ride. I enjoyed it more and more, and really got a feel of what they were trying to achieve here. Combating the lack of brand awareness will be Polygon’s biggest challenge, as their bikes are clearly good quality and great value. A nice little way of starting to do that is their comparisons to notable similar models from other brands on the website. The battle of the tape with Trek’s 5.9 Domane I found amusing and relevant at the same time.
- Ultegra Di2
- Endurance fit
Things that would make it better
- Investment in some gum walls tyres or blinged-out bar tape to break up the black on black
- Some provisions for personal choices… crank length, stem length, gear ratio etc…