Viking’s retro steel road bike is comfortable and stable
The Viking name has been around for 110 years, with the brand now focussing on urban cycling and commuting – activities for which the Viking Road Master seems well adapted.
At the heart of the Viking Road Master is a frameset with a modern sloping geometry and dropped seat stays made of un-lugged Reynolds 853 DZB steel. It has other modern touches, like internal cable routing, while still retaining a retro look, enhanced by the dark green metallic paintwork and white Viking logos.
853 is one of Reynolds’s newer steel formulations, introduced in the 1990s, with high strength and impact resistance and is butted, to reduce the wall thickness in the centre of the tubes, hence their weight, while being thicker at the ends for increased strength at the joints.
Comfort is augmented by a carbon fork. There are mounts for mudguards or a rack on the seat stays, although none on the fork, so the Viking Road Master is a bike that could be adapted for light touring or commuting duties.
The Viking Road Master is fitted with a full Shimano Tiagra groupset. Although you only get ten gears, these step up from 11 to 32 teeth, so there’s plenty of range, when coupled to the 52/36 semi-compact chainset (there are a number of differences between the spec tested and that shown on the web site, which lists a 50/34 compact rather than a semi-compact).
Brakes are Tiagra too. With their cartridge brake pads, they work adequately on the Mach4 box section alloy rims, rather than providing exceptional performance. You need to brake long and cautiously when approaching stops.
The Veetireco Rainrunner 25mm tyres provide a comfortable ride. There’s a mix of file tread at the sides and an embossed crown that provides plenty of grip in the dry. I didn’t get the chance to try their wet grip over this dry summer.
The Viking Road Master came to us with dual sided SPD/rat-trap pedals. They’re a good option for touring and commuting, allowing you to use two bolt cleated shoes that are easier to walk in than three-bolt road-going shoes. You can also ride in ordinary shoes if you need to.
But I found that pedalling through corners while using the SPD side, it was quite easy to ground the ends of the downward facing rat-trap pedal surface.
Riding the Viking Road Master
The Viking Road Master’s retro looks are backed up by a retro ride feel too. It’s not a bike that feels in any way awkward to ride. It just feels very stable and the steel frame soaks up road imperfections and gives a smooth ride over a variety of surfaces.
We measured the wheelbase of the size 51cm frame at 104cm, giving a very stable, confidence inspiring ride. But the Viking Road Master doesn’t feel like a slouch, nevertheless, and I found that I could keep up a steady pace over a variety of terrain through he Chilterns an out into the flatter lands towards Oxford. Combined with the wide range cassette, the semi-compact chainset gave plenty of upper range, but also enough lower ratios to get back over the Chiltern ridge on the way home.
Braking is adequate for longer descents as well as steeper terrain. But it’s no match for the stopping power of disc brakes or even for better quality cartridge pads on more sophisticated rims. I’d have approached braking warily if I’d had to ride in the wet.
If you want a steel framed bike at around the £1000 mark, the Viking Road Master has plenty to recommend it. But it’s worth noting that for around the same price, there’s a lot of competition, with big name brands offering alloy, steel or carbon framesets, some with 11-speed 105 rather than 10-speed Tiagra.
There are some excellently engineered machines out there that we’ve tested, many lighter and some with disc rather than rim brakes but the Viking does a solid job against its competition.
The Viking Road Master is a retro steel framed bike that’s easy to live with. There are modern twists though, like the internal cable routing. It provides a stable, fast ride, but is a bit heavier than many alternatives at this price point and would benefit from better braking.