While tags of ‘Made in Italy, Germany or USA’ hold the most prestige, the reality is that so many of the world’s finest bicycles begin their lives in Taiwan. Knowing this, Reid has recently released a range of upper-end bikes with frames made in these desirable and (more expensive) Taiwanese factories.
It’s the small details that are most apparent here, and the finish quality of the Vantage Comp is certainly above that of what Reid had put its name to a few years back. And that's not a surprising fact, as this is also Reid's most premium road bike to date.
In Australia, Reid built its reputation offering astonishingly cheap bicycles consumer direct through its own retail stores or on its website. Over the past couple of years, the Australian brand has worked hard to change the perception of 'cheap' bikes, to 'great value' bikes. It's a direction the Australian brand are succeeding at and the Vantage Comp is clearly aimed at those who see cycling as a sport and lifestyle, and not just those looking to get from point A to B.
At AUD$1,700, the Vantage Comp 1.0 is Reid’s most expensive bike to date, yet continues to offer the consumer-direct brand’s impressive value. With a full carbon frame, Shimano 105 shifting parts and hydraulic disc brake calipers, it's most comparable to bikes over the AU$2500 price point from global brands. So why is the Reid so much cheaper, and what are you giving up? We looked to answer this when testing this new performance road disc-brake model.
What we like: Classy frame with thru-axles, value for money, clever component selections, handling
What we don't: Brake hose rattles in frame, bland graphics, geometry not suited to all
First full carbon frame for Reid
Reid has long offered alloy-framed road bikes, but the Vantage spells its first full carbon frame. Just as a chef will attest to that the raw ingredients don’t make the meal, not all carbon frames are created equal either and it’s how the material is used that often matters most. The Vantage frame offers a number of details that prove Reid has done its homework and chosen an experienced manufacturer.
The frame is far from basic in its construction, with hardly a round tube in sight and seamless joins. Perhaps most notable are the exceptionally thin and bowed seatstays a lack in rim brakes allow for.
More class is seen in the tapered head tube, 12mm thru-axles, room for 28c or large tyres and flat-mount brake mounts – features all found on the very latest and best disc brake road bikes. Showing its intent as a performance road bike, there are no provisions for racks or fenders.
A threaded bottom bracket is a rare sight on a carbon road frame, but we like it.
One feature not seen so often is the threaded bottom bracket. In recent years many carbon manufacturers abandoned this feature in favour of press fit systems designed to offer lower weights, improved frame stiffness and increased frame durability. The reason is that bonding a metal shell into a carbon frame creates a potential weak point, and so just creating a straight hole in the carbon to house bearings became the adopted standard. While so many of this press fit systems work, loose tolerances as the result of cost cutting can quickly lead to terrible creaking under power. By contrast, a traditional threaded bottom bracket like Reid offers may be heavier, but it's more easily user serviceable and a lick of grease will typically silence any creaks that may exist. It’s a small difference that few will appreciate, but we applaud Reid for it.
The internal cable routing isn't without issue.
Internal cable routing is provided front to rear for a clean, seamless look. There’s no denying the aesthetic quality of it, but it does little from a performance advantage, and as we found out, allows the brake cable to rattle inside the frame over larger bumps. Such an issue exists with a number of big-brand bikes too, and some brands cleverly use small rubber grommets to stop the cable from going slack inside the frame. We tried to replicate such a fix with wrapping the rear brake housing in duct-tape at both entry and exit points, it worked, but the slack and subsequent noise would slowly return after a few rides.
Putting the bike in a car revealed another small nuisance, this time with the front fork design, which offers no resting dropout for the front wheel. For this, the 12mm thru-axle is all that supports the front wheel and so it can be a small fiddle to get the wheel lined up with the thru-axle hole when reinstalling it. A bit of patience is all that’s needed, but it’s certainly an aspect that could bother the mechanically ungifted that need to take the wheel off.
Aesthetically you could accuse Reid of being bland in its graphic choice, but it's a safe move that won’t polarize people. The matte blue-tinged grey frame likely won't have people swooning over this bike, but it's a subtle and welcomed change from the usual straight black.
Disc brakes on road
There’s no denying that road bikes are trending towards disc brakes. The automotive and mountain-bike technology offers superior, consistent brake performance in both dry and wet conditions. These brakes don’t cause rim wear and have greatly opened up frame design possibilities without having to bolt a brake caliper in the middle. The biggest advantage to disc brakes on the road isn’t raw power, but rather the finite control (modulation) of the braking point. It’s easier to lock up a wheel with rim brakes, and that’s exactly what disc brakes seek to avoid as your best braking power is reached before the tyre starts to skid.
Reid has equipped a quality braking option to its Advantage Comp in the form of TRP HY/RD disc brake calipers. These are a fairly unique setup in that they connect with a mechanical cabled lever, yet function as a hydraulic system. The hydraulic element is contained at just the caliper, and the system relies on quality and good condition mechanical cables for best results.
As received, the brakes of our test sample felt great with a smooth lever action and consistent braking front to rear. We’ve used these brakes extensively in the past and continue to be impressed with the great power and modulation available.
They offer a smoother, better-controlled braking experience compared to full mechanical setups, and yet allow a wider choice of shift/brake levers than what is currently available in full hydraulic setups.
Our only qualm is one of cosmetics as these brakes are currently not available to suit the new ‘flat mount’ standard the frame offers, and so caliper adaptors are used front and rear.
Wide range gearing takes you places
With the brake calipers allowing it, Reid has equipped the tried-and-trued Shimano 105 11-speed brake lever/shifters. These really are the workhorse of the road cycling world, and borrow the comfortable ergonomics, proven durability and crisp shifting control of Shimano’s Ultegra and Dura-Ace offerings.
Linked to these are ever reliable Shimano 105 derailleurs and a non-series Shimano crankset. It all works flawlessly together, and when adjusted correctly, doesn’t miss a beat.
A key standout is the enormous gear range that is fast becoming a common sight on the latest disc-equipped road bikes. Here, a compact crankset with 50/34T gearing is matched to a wide-range 11-32T 11-speed cassette out back. The compact gearing up front is nothing new, but the extended 32T at rear makes a noticeable difference when grinding up steep slopes and allows you to sit and spin with far greater ease.
Don’t overlook the wheels
Following the frame, the wheels are the most important component of a road bike, and no part makes more of a difference to how a bike rides than the hoops and rubber that let it roll.
While the brands used here may not be desirable, Reid has done extremely well to equip quality wheels that should prove extremely durable. The sealed bearing Novatec hubs offer quality well beyond the price point, as do the disc-specific Alex rims which can be made tubeless-compatible with the purchase of special tape and valves.
The rims offer a fair internal width of 17mm, which sits nicely with the supplied 25mm-width Continental rubber. These GrandSport ‘Race’ tyres are effectively an Asian-made version of the industry benchmark ‘GrandPrix 4000’ that so many experienced road cyclists swear by. With a puncture protective belt beneath the tacky rubber, they’re a dependable and smart choice for Australian roads.
Taking the Vantage to the road
Value for money on paper only gets you so far, but it’s how the bike behaves on the road that matters most. From the first few pedal strokes, it was clear the Vantage Comp has plenty to offer in its racy ride, and in many ways holds pace with its larger, and more expensive competitors.
Rider positioning of this bike is edging toward the performance end of the spectrum and those seeking a comfortable endurance-style bike like a Giant Defy or Specialized Roubaix may find it a tad long and low. Easy adjustments can be made to make it more comfortable, but that’s arguably not this bike’s intent – this bike is designed for the rider seeking that extra speed for when the bunch ride tempo increases or sweeping turns and your pursuit for adrenaline meet. If you’re comparing the Reid to other bikes on the market, think Giant TCR Disc, not Giant Defy Disc.
Built for performance, the Vantage Comp frame is stiff and reacts swiftly to power input. There’s little detectable flex under power from rear wheel to front wheel to handlebar, and so the bike follows the path it’s set on without fuss.
As mentioned earlier, not all carbon frames are equal and so each bike will offer its own ride quality. The Vantage Comp isn’t the smoothest riding bike we’ve tested in recent time and the reactive frame does transmit some shock over rougher surfaces. It’s a feeling that gives a sense of what the wheels beneath are doing, and it’s what you want in a performance bike.
It’s by no means a jarring ride though, and a good test for that is traction with the ground. We found the Vantage to be well planted on rough corners and it’s this quality that boosts confidence to push harder and faster and descents – something the stable handling of this bike rewards well.
Space remains for wider rubber
In reality the choice of tyres will do far more for ride comfort than the frame design, and it’s here the 25c tyres do well to absorb the small impurities of the road. An upgrade to a wider tyre and a lower running pressure will reward those seeking a more comfortable ride again.
There’s little denying the performance attributes of the Vantage, but its 9.13kg weight (without pedals) is perhaps the only reminder that this is a disc-equipped bike under two grand. The disc brakes are most to blame for this higher weight and the central placement of these means the extra mass is well hidden.
Setback seatpost may place the saddle too far rearward for some, it did for us
With a long setback carbon seat post supplied, the seat positioning is fairly rearward. One tester said they’d swap to a straighter seatpost with less setback if the bike were their own. It’s worth keeping in mind that a new seatpost may be needed if you prefer a more forward riding position. Bolted to this seatpost was a wide, well-padded saddle that should prove comfortable for most.
It’s a similar story for the handlebar that extends the overall reach of the bike by a centimeter or two. Many users will never notice this fact, but a shorter reach handlebar is likely to make most users more comfortable without affecting the bike’s nice handling. With the combination of this bar and seatpost, the effective position is a couple of centimetres longer than other similar sized bikes.
The Reid Vantage Comp 1.0 sure has a long list of positives for its impressive price tag. The braking, shifting, build quality, durability and general performance are exceptional for the money.
The rattle from the brake cable is a nuisance, but it can be fixed with a little patience and duct-tape/rubber. Likewise for the fiddly front wheel install, with just patience needed for that one.
What can’t be corrected is whether this type of bike is right for you. An endurance-style bike best serves the majority of riders and the fact is that much of the population may find more riding comfort on another option. In this case, we suggest not to be swayed by the immense value on offer and go with what is going to give you the best riding experience. If that riding experience you seek happens to be one of performance and you have the flexibility to make the most of it, then the Reid is certainly going to reward you for more than a fair price.
-Size tested: Medium
-Bike weight (without pedals): 9.13kg