The R+1 Alto from UK brand Vielo is one of the most beautiful bikes I ever had the pleasure of riding. Its comfort levels are quite simply stunning for such a performance-orientated bike, while the handling is impeccably smooth and direct. The biggest shocker for me, though, is just how well the 1x gearing works on the road.
While 2020 was a bit rubbish for a host of reasons, when it comes to the amount of high-quality bikes I've had the chance to ride, it's been an absolute corker (and I, erm, did it all for you). And just before I signed off for the year, I found I'd saved the best for last!
Vielo hasn't just fettled the humble road bike design purely for the sake of it, or just for a bit of quirkiness. They've looked at the latest components available – especially gearing systems – and created a frameset that exploits their performance.
Efficient; that's probably the best way to describe the Vielo. The R+1 isn't all about speed, but that doesn't stop it delivering a high-performance ride.
On paper its 7.7kg overall weight may not sound exceptional, but the way it responds to your commands and power input makes it feel a kilo lighter out on the road. Even when hitting a steep ascent, it feels much lighter than it should, which in fact makes climbing a lot of fun.
This is also down to the stiffness levels. The R+1's lack of an inner chainring means Vielo has been able to make the bottom bracket shell wider without affecting the Q-factor (the distance between the pedal faces). This wider shell allows for much larger tube cross-sections to mate up with it, which brings incredible stiffness.
This was highlighted on one of my recent rides when I was in amongst the traffic on an A-road which had built up behind a tractor.
I was holding my own in the middle of the lane fluctuating between 25-30mph using the car in front as a bit of a windbreak. He'd let the gap between him and the car in front stretch out to about eight car lengths and, when he accelerated to close the gap, I got out of the saddle, dropped a couple of cogs and hammered the pedals.
The transformation of the R+1 from this smooth machine that was just absorbing the miles into some sort of sprinting animal was unbelievable. I was back in the slipstream in a matter of seconds, and sat there just tapping out the miles again.
Performance is one thing, but if the bike is going to batter you into fatigue you won't benefit much in the long term. Vielo has designed in such high comfort levels with the R+1 that is never really going to be an issue.
The R+1 has a very compliant frame which removes much of the road buzz, and on rides over 100 miles I finished feeling surprisingly fresh. Muscle fatigue from all of the pedalling, yes, but much less so in the wrists, lower back and neck.
Again on paper, the front end of the Vielo looks quite slack with a head angle of just 71.25°, but the geometry as a package creates a bike that's much faster and more direct than you'd expect.
In the bends and on the descents, it reminds me very much of the Mason Definition, a bike that (on paper) shouldn't behave like a race bike in the corners, yet the balance of angles, tube lengths and frameset materials all work together to give huge confidence when the going gets technical. That is exactly how the R+1 behaves.
The handling isn't the fastest I've ever dealt with, but it is wonderfully composed and very smooth. It errs on the side of neutrality, which makes it very easy to ride fast even if you aren't the most confident of descenders.
Feedback levels through the frame and fork are excellent, so you know exactly what the tyres are up to beneath you; if you want to push the bike hard through the corners it gives you all of the information you need. The slightest break of traction is felt instantly, and the well-mannered handling lets you get yourself out of trouble.
I'll admit, I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. Many gravel and cyclo-cross bikes now come with 1x setups, which is great for the varying terrain off-road, but when I've ridden them on tarmac sections for a significant amount of time, I just find the majority too gappy between the ratios.
The bike we have here uses SRAM's Force eTap AXS groupset, although Vielo supply a chainring in a size of your choice (from 38t to 50t) plus a second chainring in a different size to swap to as needed.
This one is fitted with a 48t chainring (which is what SRAM specs as the outer ring on its Force eTap chainset) paired to a 12-spd 10-36t cassette from the Force eTap AXS Wide set up, with corresponding rear mech.
For the routes I covered in testing I found this absolutely fine, only having to get out of the saddle on the steep ones, but I didn't find it any more onerous than a compact double.
It feels a lot more efficient than the overlap of ratios from switching between large and small chainrings, and the fact the larger jumps between the sprockets come at the lower end means that cadence isn't affected on the faster sections.
Let's talk gear inches! That's the distance the bike covers with one revolution of the pedals in each gear combination. With the 30mm tyres fitted to our test bike, the Vielo covers 128.9in on the 48t x 10t, and 35.7in with 48t x 36t.
A compact 50/34t chainset and 11-28t cassette gives 122.2in and 32.5in in its largest and smallest gears, while a semi-compact 52/36T with the same cassette gives 127in and 34.6in respectively. Not much in it.
If you swapped the Alto's 48t chainring to a 44t, you could achieve the same gear inch for the lowest gear as the 50/34t, 11-28t setup, while having a slightly lower top end at just 118.1in.
If you haven't used eTap AXS before then I'll explain briefly how it works. The whole system is completely wireless, hence why we have the Alto frame that has no entry ports for any wires or cables on the down tube, giving a very clean look indeed.
If you go for a wired electronic groupset or a mechanical one, you get the frame with ports.
Using SRAM's app, the rear (and front if you're using one) mech are paired with the shifters, and after that it's as simple pressing the button on the right-hand shifter to drop down the cassette, and the left-hand shifter to go up. The gear changes are fast and very crisp, with no detectable lag even under load.
If you're using a 2x system, pressing both together shifts the front mech. It's so simple, and is becoming one of my favourite electronic systems to use.
Vielo's chainring is brilliantly stiff, matching well with the Force carbon crank arms, and uses alternate narrow/wide teeth to keep the chain in place. I rode the R+1 on plenty of rough roads and had no worries about the chain coming off.
As you'd no doubt expect, the hydraulic brake calipers and disc rotors are also from the SRAM catalogue. The Paceline rotor is 160mm up front and 140mm on the rear, and that's all the power you'll need on a bike as fast as this.
Performance-wise I can't fault the power and modulation of this setup, and when a car cut across my lane from the left midway through a roundabout while I was travelling at over 30mph I called on all of it to avoid what was going to be a very nasty collision.
I scrubbed off speed very quickly without locking either wheel, and the R+1 remained beautifully under control.
You can buy the Vielo as a frameset only, or choose from a selection of builds with what I must admit use some well thought-out components, most notably the latest Zipp 303S wheels that so impressed Matt back in May. They are pretty light at 1,550g, and with a rim depth of 45mm you're getting a decent aero advantage as the speed picks up.
The 23mm internal width of the hookless rim (27mm external) also balances up nicely with wider tyres like the 30mm Schwalbe Pro One we have fitted here. It's very grippy in both the wet and dry, and offers very little in the way of rolling resistance.
The seatpost and integrated handlebar and stem are all Vielo items. Starting at the rear, the post is full carbon fibre, and I was surprised at how big the diameter is considering how comfortable the ride is. Many brands go for narrower posts to promote a bit of flex.
It's not fully round, having a flat rear section, and to keep the clean theme going on it does away with a seatclamp and uses an expanding wedge design instead. It's internally adjusted by way of a hex bolt under the top tube.
The tolerances are tight, but I still suffered a bit of slippage to start with – although I was riding a sample clamp that has been modified for mass production. A bit of carbon paste rectified it, although I did have to tighten the bolt up a little more forcefully than felt right (I was mid-ride and didn't have a torque wrench on me). Vielo tells us that it is confident that this won't be an issue on the production version.
Perched atop the post is a Fabric Scoop Race Shallow saddle with titanium rails. I got on well with the shape and the level of padding is just right for all sorts of surfaces.
I really like Vielo's handlebar/stem combination. The top of the carbon fibre bar (with alloy stem section) is slightly flattened, adding to the comfort, and the slight curve towards you at the hoods is a nice touch.
The drop isn't massive so the less flexible can still use them, and if you like a bit of sprinting action, you'll be impressed with the stiffness levels. The 6° flare also aids control when in the drops, giving you a slightly wider stance.
Just like the frame, the bar/stem fully integrate the hydraulic hoses, guiding them from the levers and down into the head tube before they continue their journey through the frame and fork to the calipers.
The R+1 comes in a few guises. The lighter Alto version we have here has a claimed frame weight of 880g, while the Strato model tips the scales at 1,100g.
As you can see from the pictures, the R+1 isn't exactly a conventional road bike. I've already mentioned the extra-wide bottom bracket, but removing the front mech allows for some other distinctive design ideas too.
The tube shapes maximise aero efficiency with Kamm tail profiles, and the lack of a mounting point for a front mech means the seat tube can curve closer to the rear wheel, shielding it from the wind.
It's the seatstays though that are the most striking. We've seen plenty of brands create a smaller rear triangle for aero benefits, and Vielo claims this shape is very aero. They've also been able to create some flex here too for comfort.
The hourglass-shaped tapered head tube brings plenty of stiffness to the front end, and that's matched by the qualities of the fork. On the descents, I corner hard and I'm a very late braker too – two things that are going to highlight any flex in the fork legs. I had no issues whatsoever here.
This is a performance road bike, so don't go expecting mudguard mounts or anything, but Vielo has included three mounting points for a bottle cage and the tyre clearance is a 32mm recommended maximum – although Vielo has managed up to 36mm. That's going to depend on your rim/tyre combo, though.
Overall quality of the frame and fork is exceptional. Removing the seatpost and shining a light down into the frame shows impressive levels of finish, and the paint is some of the deepest I've seen.
The R+1 is available in five sizes from XS through to XL, of which we have the medium. The numbers are a 555mm effective top tube length and 142.5mm head tube, which give a stack figure of 544mm and a reach of 401mm. The head angle is 71.25° paired to a seat angle of 74.25°.
The 1x system allows Vielo to keep the chainstays quite short at 400mm, which with everything else equates to a wheelbase of 1,011mm. This brings stability, but not so much it takes away the nimbleness and fun ride characteristics.
This R+1 Alto SRAM Force eTap model is £6,999, which – while not exactly cheap – gets you a lot of bike. None of the finishing kit has been scrimped on at all, and these aren't mass-produced framesets either.
The frameset option, which includes the frame, fork, bar/stem, headset, seatpost, SRAM Force crank arm, Vielo chainring and thru-axles comes in at £4,499.
An obvious comparison is the 3T Strada, although the original 1x only option seems to be losing out in popularity to the 2x Due model, judging by the online deals you can get.
When we reviewed the 3T Strada a couple of years back, the frameset on its own was £3,700 and it's gone up a touch since. You aren't getting extras like the integrated bar/stem, carbon cranks arms and chainring like you are with the Vielo though. I also think the R+1 is more versatile as a road bike, due to its design and geometry.
Ignoring the 1x thing for a moment and looking at bikes with similar riding styles to the R+1 and comparative builds, the R+1 still stands its ground.
One of the most competitively priced brands out there is Canyon. It makes a huge volume of bikes and sells them direct to the consumer, both of which bring the price down. Back in the spring, I reviewed the Canyon Endurace CF SLX Disc 8.0 eTap. A very nice bike it is too.
It comes with a full Force eTap AXS groupset including power meter, an integrated carbon bar/stem and deep-section carbon wheels. At the time it was £5,099, but has now risen to £5,949! It's still a lot of bike for the money, but while the R+1 is more expensive still, it wins out on overall comfort and stiffness levels.
I was lucky enough to review Specialized's latest S-Works Tarmac SL7 earlier this year too. The Dura Ace build I had was ridiculously light at 6.8kg – nearly a kilo lighter than the R+1 – but that's not really what the Vielo is all about.
Frame wise the S-Works drops 80g over the R+1 Alto, and while the Spesh is very much a race bike, I see a lot of similarities in the way they ride. An S-Works Tarmac SLC frameset will set you back £4,250, not including the chainset or the aero handlebar.
On the whole, it's hard to make direct comparisons with other bikes on the market, as the Vielo is sort of blazing its own path.
If the whole 1x thing is your biggest stumbling block about the R+1, then dismiss it. I certainly have. Thanks to the likes of SRAM with their 12spd groupsets and Campag with their 13-spd Ekar, 1x is now a viable solution on the road, and in a lot of ways a whole lot simpler.
Regardless of how many gears the Vielo has, it's one very stunning bike. The way it rides has created one of the best experiences I've had in lycra, and the build quality is exceptional.
The R+1 is one of those bikes that just feels spot on. Every little detail and design cue just makes sense, and it all comes together to create one hell of an experience.
Stunning frameset for both performance and looks that embraces the very latest components
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vielo R+1 Alto SRAM Force e-Tap AXS
Size tested: 56
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAME: Full Carbon Fibre 880gm (all internal hose routing)
FORK: Full Carbon Fibre (internal hose routing)
COLOUR: Mustard Yellow / Anthracite. Anthracite / Mustard Yellow
HANDLEBAR: Vielo Carbon Bar-Stem unit. Bar width 40cm, 42cm, 44cm
STEM: Vielo Carbon Bar-Stem unit. Stem length 90, 100, 110, 120mm
HEADSET: Vielo by Token
WHEELS: Zipp 303s
TYRES: Schwalbe Pro-One 700x30c tubeless
CRANKSET: SRAM Force crank arm with Vielo CNC machined chain ring
CHAIN: SRAM 12 speed
REAR MECH: SRAM Force e-tap wide for 10-36
CASSETTE: SRAM Force wide 10-36
SHIFTERS: SRAM Force e-tap AXS shifters / levers
ROTORS: SRAM Paceline 140 rear, 160 front
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Vielo says: "1x is no fad. It the logical next step. Lose the second chainring and you gain a beautiful symmetry. Nothing is offset, with a perfectly balanced downtube, bottom bracket and chainstay contributing to 30% greater lateral stiffness. Tube shapes are designed to maximise aero efficiency, and with less cabling (especially in the Alto version) streamlining is optimal and clutter minimal."
The R+1 is a fast road bike which, thanks to well balanced geometry, isn't limited purely to those with racing aspirations.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The R+1 Alto range is headed by the SRAM Red eTap option with DT Swiss wheels for £8,999. This model is next and sits above the Campag Ekar build (£5,499), Shimano GRX Di2 (£5,399) and the GRX Mechanical for £3,899.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The level of manufacturing detail is very impressive, and the paintwork has a deep lustre to it. It's just as beautiful to look at as it is to ride.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both the frame and fork are made from carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry of the R+1 is very much performance orientated without being fully race focused. It's a welcome balance that allows anyone to ride it hard and fast, while retaining higher levels of comfort thanks to a slightly more relaxed position. Full geometry charts can be found on Vielo's website.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The size medium we have here has a stack height of 543.9mm and a reach of 401.1mm, which I would say is pretty typical for a bike of this size and style.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The frame delivers excellent comfort levels regardless of the road quality.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness is impressive, especially around the bottom bracket when you go to sprint or climb.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Due to the stiffness mentioned above, the full amount of your power goes directly to the rear wheel.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? On the fun side of neutral, and very smooth.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The slightly relaxed front end means the handling doesn't become twitchy or fidgety. The whole bike is very balanced and gives excellent levels of feedback, which gives you plenty of confidence to ride hard through the bends.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The frameset does such a good job on the comfort front that you could actually get away with some stiff components without sacrificing longterm plushness. The Fabric saddle offers plenty of padding too, and I got on really well with its shape.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
SRAM's Force crankset is one of the stiffest out there. There isn't much flex from the bar/stem combo either.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Force eTap groupset offers some very well thought out ratios, especially thanks to the 12-spd cassette.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
SRAM's Force eTap groupset is an absolute joy to use, and the wide-range cassette works well with the Vielo 1x chainring.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
A very impressive set of wheels whose design and weight pairs nicely with the performance of the R+1.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
The Schwalbe Pro One tyre is one of the fastest and grippiest out there.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The controls work very well indeed. I really like the Vielo integrated bar/stem combo for its shape and comfort.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There aren't many 1x only bikes out there other than 3T's Strada, and when you take into account all the extras of the Vielo frameset they look pretty similar. The R+1 is competitive against other top end framesets and bikes such as those mentioned in the review.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Quite literally one of the best bikes I have ever ridden, and I can barely fault it. I suppose it just comes down whether you can get your head around dropping that inner chainring.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!