Van Dessel Hellafaster

THE STORY
Hailing from New Jersey, Van Dessel is run by former professional Edwin Bull and carries his mother’s maiden name. With roots in Belgium, Edwin began the company in 2000 with a line of Shimano Nexus-equipped sport/city bikes, and has since moved on to a more traditional line of ‘cross, road, track and TT designs. The carbon Rivet, the successful Gin and Trombones ‘cross bike, and this month’s feature bike, the Hellafaster, appear at more events than a company Van Dessel’s size should warrant, but that is the allure of the brand. It also helps that Van Dessel puts a lot into racing sponsorship, including the Tokyo Joe’s/Van Dessel ‘cross team, a regional Van Dessel Factory team, the Iraqi Junior National team, Colavita’s U-19 team, the Georgetown University Cycling team, and the recently announced Juice Plus women’s road team.

With its affordable $2499 sticker price, semi-aero aluminum frame and Shimano Ultegra ensemble, the Hellafaster fits into a working-person’s race-bike budget. We put close to a thousand miles on the Van Dessel, and after it was passed around to RBA’s test riders, we learned exactly what the Hellafaster buzz was all about.

The versatile Hellafaster is a great choice for the budget-minded racer.
THE FRAME
The Hellafaster is a constructed with 7005 triple-butted aluminum and features an integrated carbon seatpost and an aero, oversized downtube. Asymmetric chainstays and concave seatstays complete the package. The aero frame was designed to be effective in crits and, with a little tweaking, run a solid time trial (multi-position seatposts are available for 73 to79-degree seat angle adjustment). The frame has character, for sure. The white logos on the pure aluminum frame, combined with the wind-cheating design, give the Hellafaster an allure that is frankly nice to see and a potent reminder that this sport we all love is filled with creative people with a passion to design and manufacture bikes with some personality.

THE BUILD
Our Hellafaster was built around a Shimano Ultegra group, using FSA SLK cranks, a Ritchey WCS handlebar and 4-Axis stem, and Van Dessel’s aero-carbon seatpost and custom-branded Ti-rail carbon saddle. The Hellafaster rolls on Easton Tempest II wheels and Michelin Pro Race tires. Those who want to pick and choose their own components can pick up a Hellafaster frame, fork, headset and seatpost for $799.

THE NUMBERS
Our 58-centimeter test bike featured a 57.5-centimeter toptube, 73-degree headtube and seat tube angle, 40.5-centimeter chainstays and a 99.7-centimeter wheelbase. The Hellafaster is available in 50, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60 centimeter sizes.
As a note of interest, 2008 models will feature a dual-diameter head tube, mated to a carbon fork with a tapered steerer. The upper headset will use standard 1-1/8 inch cups, bearings and stems, while the larger-diameter lower race will use the new 1.5-inch standard. Reportedly, the Hellafaster’s price will swell $200, while shedding 200 grams off its weight.

Aero tubes grace the Hellafaster.
THE RIDE
Being familiar with the current crop of carbon bikes from around the globe, it was a fresh experience to throw our legs over the aluminum-framed Hellafaster. After miles and miles on the bike, we were struck by the feel of the aluminum aero frame and carbon fork. You can sense the road beneath you, and yet the sturdy frame mutes enough of the road chatter to keep us pedaling smoothly in most situations. In spite if its 17.5-pound weight, the Hellafaster did go fast when asked, although this, and its tall-geared, 12-25 cogset made steep climbs the least-enjoyable aspect of our testing.

When we approached Van Dessel about the heftier-than-carbon weight issue, Edwin defended: ‘I am no weight weenie, but I usually point out that my stock, 60-centimeter Hellafaster with upgraded full carbon fork, SRAM Red, and race wheels (Easton Carbon Tempest II deep dish) weighs in at 15.4 pounds.’
We are pretty sure that Edwin’s suggested upgrades will put the Hellafaster well beyond the ‘affordable racer’category for most RBA readers, but the point is that, in stock form, the Van Dessel delivers a lot of performance. It is fun to ride, surprisingly adept out of the saddle, sure-feeling on descents, and maneuvers sharply in a pace-line. Once you turn the bike downhill or face a headwind on the way home, the Hellafaster’s aero frame and efficient power transfer should make up for any time lost on non-category climbs.

THE VERDICT
We like the Hellafaster for its personality and for its flexibility. In talking with Van Dessel, it was clear that this is a bike for an aspiring racer or club rider who has a sub-$2500 budget and needs a bike that can perform in crits, in a time trial, and also on a road-specific course. We ran carbon aero wheels with tubulars on the Hellafaster for a seven-hour suffer-fest and finished in relatively good shape-that’s a versatile bike. We aren’t all able to buy separate bikes for each new discipline that comes to our local riding area. The Hellafaster will happily adapt to almost any venue as long as its master is willing to give it a go.

Price: $2499
Weight: 17.5 pounds
Info: www.vandesselsports.com