As we all know, when it comes to bicycle frame materials, carbon, aluminum, titanium and steel make up the majority of modern frames. Each has its unique characteristics, but they’re all also well known. When we get the opportunity to test something outside that realm, we’re always intrigued. Take the Vaast magnesium bike. A magnesium bike?!
Magnesium has excellent fatigue strength, and it also has a weight that’s 33 percent less than aluminum and 50 percent less than titanium by volume while being significantly stronger than both. So, why hasn’t the cycling industry adopted this readily available metal that checks all the boxes? It turns out that it requires some very specialized processes and measures to manufacture.
For one, magnesium is relatively susceptible to corrosion, which means it has to be coated and treated for regular use. It is also very reactive if somehow it catches fire and is then combined with water. Let’s just say that it will be an experience you won’t soon forget. Those issues aside, magnesium is not entirely new to the cycling industry, as there have been a few frames, wheels and other small parts over the years made with it.
Vaast (in partnership with magnesium producer Allite) has designed a full line of bicycles that utilize what they call “super magnesium.” Essentially, Allite has a proprietary blend that they claim delivers all the benefits of magnesium structurally while effectively eliminating any adverse side effects.
To produce the A/1, Vaast is leveraging the benefits of their proprietary AE81 super magnesium with a contemporary all-road design. One of the first things you notice when looking at the A/1 frame is the asymmetric chainstays. The drive-side chainstay drops pretty significantly from the bottom bracket, nearly 50mm. This leaves room for more tire clearance and chainring size options. The non-drive side is pretty much a straight shot back to the axle for a 42.5cm length. This leaves room for 42mm tires on 700c and 50mm tires when paired with a 650b wheel.
Our medium test bike has a reach of 38cm and a stack of 56.3cm. The 102.3cm wheelbase leans long, and the bottom bracket drop is 68mm, which is a bit high but helpful if you opt to roll on 650b wheels. We’re happy to see that the A/1 uses the T47 standard bottom bracket. This is a nice touch and allows for a wide range of compatibility without the annoyances of the press-fit and small bearings.
The welds and tube shapes remind us of an aluminum bike with a large-diameter downtube and head tube. The top tube is oval-shaped and tapers slightly as it joins the seat tube. This is all paired with a full carbon fork that is fender and rack compatible. All the hoses and cables are routed internally from the head tube back with a slight exposure as they externally navigate under the bottom bracket before entering the chainstays. Vaast claims the frame weight is just under 1300 grams.
Vaast currently offers five build options for the A/1, starting at $1899. We opted for the SRAM Apex 1x option with 700c WTB ST i23 tubeless-ready wheels mounted with fast-rolling 37mm WTB Riddler tires. Along with the
Apex 1x-specific rear derailleur is an 11-42t 11-speed cassette paired to a Praxis Alba M30 crank with 42t Praxis chainring.
Vaast specs self-branded aluminum components that include their Allroad Pro aluminum handlebar and stem and 27.2mm aluminum seatpost, which is topped with a WTB Silverado saddle. Overall, the build is good for the price point.
Let’s get this out of the way, magnesium is not some sort of material that will magically combust and leave you sitting on a pile of molten metal. The truth is, it just takes more specialized measures to manufacture, and the cycling industry hasn’t made the investment until now. With a row of bikes lined up, most would look at the A/1 and assume it’s an aluminum frame.
The real difference is in the ride quality. Sure, the bike has fairly large 37mm tires, but there is a subtle compliance feeling that mutes vibrations. This is impressive because there is little in design from the looks of the chainstays, leaving the material itself responsible. The rear of the bike feels short, but at a longish 102.3cm long, the bike doesn’t feel short. It’s very stable and fairs well on dirt roads at high speed.
The wide 23mm rims paired with 37mm tires balance volume and efficiency for roads of all kinds. When on the tarmac, we felt the weight of the large tires and entry-level hoops, but in reality, they weren’t holding us back. As we transitioned to dirt and the local fire roads, the stock component choices were just what we needed, but you might step down to a 40t chainring if steep climbs are your thing.
The frame feels stiff and responsive to rider input, but in saddle compliance and vibration reduction are much better than an alloy frame. The geometry works pretty well, but with our 700c wheel setup, the bottom bracket is high and had us positioned high as well. It was not a deal-breaker, and it was nice to maintain speed on tighter corners since we could pedal a bit longer without the risk of a pedal strike.
So why choose a Vaast with the less common magnesium construction? Honestly, why not? In our opinion, if you’re in the market for either a sub-$2500 bike or an aluminum bike, then the A/1 rates as a good consideration. It’s light for the price point, and with its aerospace legacy, it brings good bragging rights at the coffee shop!
Vaast says, “The frames are treated with a proprietary plasma electrolytic oxidation (PEO) coating that produces a hard, dense finish optimized to provide corrosion protection, wear resistance, improved hardness, strain tolerance, and improved fatigue performance inside and out.” Or, in layman’s terms, just go ride it like any other all-road bike.
The design is simple, and while the all-black finish didn’t win any aesthetic awards, Vaast does offer color options on specific models. We think that the rubber gasket surrounding the rear brake hose and shift cable is hideous, and it’s just too bulky, and ours never fit well into the frame. That aside, the fit and finish of our $2100 bike were really good. All said and done, Vaast has done their research, and we are excited to hopefully see more companies look outside the current standard for more sustainable materials.
Light, strong and affordable
Vaast A/1 Price: $2199
Vaast A/1 Weight: 21.31 pounds
Vaast A/1 Sizes: XS, S, M (tested), L, XL