Titanium bikes are becoming more and more popular. With this in mind we tested Vaaru's race focused Octane 6-4. Here are our thoughts
There is something about a bare titanium frame that appeals to many. Wherever I rode the Vaaru Octane 6-4 I received envious glares often accompanied by superlative-laden compliments.
When James Beresford set up Vaaru Cycles earlier this year he did so with a manifesto of using top quality design and production, without being held back by cost limitations, to create the best possible titanium bikes. First impressions suggest he succeeded.
In addition to offering a lower spec version of the Octane 6-4, Vaaru also offers the V:8 Di2 which has the same geometry but is Shimano Di2 specific and also has disc brakes.
Aside from the classic shiny unpainted look of the frame, the first things you notice are the smooth finish of the tubes, the neat welding and the subtle engraved Vaaru logos.
The grade five 6AL/4V titanium frame is designed in Chichester and manufactured in Taiwan in a titanium-specific factory. The premium cost associated with creating seamless and double-butted tubes out of 6AL/4V titanium appears to be justified.
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When stamping on the pedals on the flat or up steep climbs the bike felt light and sprightly, as well as stiff without flex. Further, the combination of Vaaru’s own carbon forks and the oval-shaped rear stays gave a comfortable ride without compromising responsiveness.
Unlike many top-end bikes the cables are externally routed. The thickness of the tubes has been optimised to keep the frame as light as possible — making it Di2 compatible would simply add weight, according to Vaaru.
No corners have been cut when it comes to componentry. The Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical groupset worked superbly with the Rotor NoQ chainrings and Rotor 3D+ cranks, even when changing gear under load. Although one-piece carbon bars are not everyone’s cup of tea, the Pro Ltd Stealth Evos look the part and felt comfortable even on poor road surfaces.
It is the wheels where companies often try to save money. Fortunately, the Reynolds Assaults were a fine complement to the titanium frame, providing a fast and smooth ride.
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As soon as I pushed down on the pedals I knew I was going to enjoy riding the Octane 6-4. Titanium frames are known for compliance rather than power transfer, but when I needed a sudden injection of pace the Octane 6-4 was impressively responsive.
The relatively low front end aided descending confidence, largely thanks to the combination of the Reynolds wheels and the Continental 25mm tyres, which at no point gave me any real concern, be it from crosswinds or fear of sliding out.
To test the bike’s straight-line speed I rode a 10-mile time trial. Although it did not feel as fast as some similarly priced aero road bikes, considering that it is not built solely for speed it felt quick and coped well with the undulating course.
By Vaaru’s own admission, its bikes are made without compromises, and as a result the Octane 6-4 is a top-end piece of kit with a price tag of a little over £6,000.
Some may see the lack of electronic gears as a negative and the carbon bars do divide opinion. On the other hand, there is a still a place for top quality mechanical gears — Alberto Contador uses them — and as long as you ensure you get the correct bar and stem, you will have a light, stiff and aero handlebar.
The Octane 6-4 is a race-focused bike that also works well as an all-rounder. If you are looking for a high-end titanium bike with an air of exclusivity, then there is little not to like about this one.
Titanium bikes have retained their popularity. They all look nice but at the same time can be hard to distinguish. Riding the Octane 6-4 you can be confident that not only are you riding an impressive looking bike but also that the frame is made from the highest quality titanium, accompanied by components you don’t see every day. The geometry was not overly aggressive and allowed me to ride comfortably in a forward or more upright position. The Octane 6-4 is a genuine top quality all-rounder that is a pleasure to ride whether climbing peaks or cruising along country lanes. If you are happy to spend £6,000 on a bike that will make you stand out from the crowd, then of course you are spoiled for choice. But if it’s a titanium dream bike that you have your heart set on, then the Octane 6-4 is highly recommended.