First Impression: Viva Kilo
By Karen Brooks
I hadn’t been familiar with the Viva brand until a representative contacted us. The company was started in Copenhagen by a former member of the Danish national cycling team. From the look of the bikes, one could definitely guess the Copenhagen connection, if not the racing pedigree.
Viva is also the name of the younger one of my dogs. She approves.
Most of Viva’s bikes are in the style of a Dutch (or Danish) city bike. I chose the Kilo model, which instead of the typical 700c wheels, has 26-inch wheels with big Schwalbe Fat Frank tires, good for our local potholes. I dearly wished for the white, step-through frame for maximum style points, but alas, not all the options shown on the website are available in the U.S. The basic black allows my domestic partner to ride it without looking too girly, at least once he takes off the flowery Basil saddlebags I like to use.
This is a bike that lends itself to casual cruising, so I’ve installed the handlebar mount for a Soundmatters speaker I’m also testing. It’s perfect for pedaling casually to work while listening to the radio—the one thing I miss when I ride rather than drive. Naturally, a bike this civilized comes with a bell, a two-tone one at that, as well as a rack, fenders, and kickstand.
The brakes are an interesting departure from my recent rides: a Sturmey-Archer drum brake in front and a Shimano Nexus rollerbrake/ 7-speed internal gear hub. They are a softer than the disc brakes I’m used to, for sure, but better than many mid-range cantilever or caliper rim brakes. They match well with the general vibe of the bike.
I generally try out any of my Bicycle Times test bikes on my 12.5-mile (each way) commute at least once, even when they are such beasts as the Ahearne Cycle Truck, because it’s a good way to quickly reveal any shortcomings. (Our web editor Adam made fun of me on one such occasion.) But I’ve found myself riding the Viva to work more than once, because the enjoyment factor outweighs the, er, weight and relative slowness of this bike compared to my lighter, drop-handlebar, 700c-wheeled daily commuter. Of course, it’s also great for trips to the store and other close destinations.
As you can see from the mud splatters, I haven’t taken it easy on this bike. There was a city ride after our company retreat that involved some railroad ballast, some muddy rides in the local park with the dogs, and other “inappropriate bicycle” moments. But the components seem to be holding up fine—no rattling, no slipping out of line, no adjustments needed to shifting or brakes. At about $1,300, this is an expensive ride, no doubt, but it seems that aside from the “Designed in Denmark” premium, durability makes it worth it.
Keep an eye out in a future issue of Bicycle Times for our long-term review. Subscribe today!
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