The ride was smooth and confidence inspiring.

The ride was smooth and confidence inspiring.​

Lowdown: Swift Carbon Ultravox TI

Swift Carbon is one of those brands on the periphery. Cool looking, well designed and sponsoring notable teams (Australia's Drapac UCI pro team in this case) but not that common. You won't likely see one of these frames on your weekend ride. Out of the box, I was intrigued. The components and frame looked great. But how did it fare on the road. Read the full review below to find out.

Weight: 15.3 pounds sans pedalsWheelset weight: 1655 grams
Claimed frame weight: 900 gramsSaddle: Fizik Aliante
Parts: SRAM Red with Force cassette (50/34 + 11-23 gearing)Tires: Michelin Lithium
Cockpit: Zipp Service CourseMSRP: $2900 (frame)
Wheelset: Zipp 30 clincherRating:
4 out of 5 stars
Stat Box


Pluses

Minuses
  • Velvety ride
  • Terrible tires
  • Great steering
  • Unusual sizing
  • Excellent descending
  • Sluggish climbing
  • Interesting component choice
  • Rear wheel braking
  • Looks great
  • Inner tubes valves too short

At 15.3 pounds, this bike is ready to climb.

At 15.3 pounds, this bike is ready to climb.​

Review: Swift Carbon Ultravox TI

The label "Made in China" has definite negative connotation. But it's a bit of unfounded. A lot of things are made in China. And a lot of things are being outsourced so why not embrace it? That is what Swift has done. They've relocated headquarters to China to oversee the manufacturing process of their carbon bike frames. This puts them closer to the factory where they can monitor quality control and make fine adjustments. Company founder Mark Blewett is a former South African pro. His aim is to produce a ride quality (from a carbon bike) similar to the Reynolds Chromo 853 and 753 frames of the 1980's.

This beefy downtube helped maintain stiffness.

This beefy downtube helped maintain stiffness.​

Sizing

Swift's bike frame sizing was a little different than what I am used to. I focus less on the stack (distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the handlebar) but more on reach, which is the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the head tube. I am just under 6 feet tall and like reach to be around 387mm which is typical for a size 56cm bike. While the large Swift is called a 56.5, it has a reach of 394mm, which is substantially longer. The size 54, on the other hand, has a reach of 388mm. So I opted to downsize to the 54. In practice, I found that there was plenty of stack in this size (note in the photos that the seatpost isn't that high), but the reach was actually a bit cramped. Unfortunately, the Zipp seatpost has a plate at the end that makes moving the seat to the rear on the rails a bit limited. I would have liked to stretch out a bit more.

Continue to page 2 for more of our Swift Ultravox TI review »



The bike didn't exactly shoot up climbs, especially with the less-than-stellar stock tires.

The bike didn't exactly shoot up climbs, especially with the less-than-stellar stock tires.​

Frame

The frame featured a huge down tube, massive bottom bracket and chain stays with a somewhat flattened top tube and extremely thin seat stays. It seems that this combination of shapes has become the new formula for offering stiffness with compliance. Cables were neatly routed internally.

Components

The Swift came equipped with a very compelling component set up: mechanical 11-speed SRAM Red drivetrain (albeit with the heavier duty Force cassette, a smart choice), Zipp Service course cockpit and seatpost, Zipp alloy wheels, and a Fizik Aliante saddle. On the surface, the component choices seemed excellent, however, they turned out to be not all perfect. Indeed, It's remarkable how component choices can have a dramatic influence on the overall ride quality and enjoyment of a bike. To this end, there were some component choices that worked and some that did not.

The saddle is better suited to commuting than racing.

The saddle is better suited to commuting than racing.​

The bike came with a gorgeous black and chrome Fizik Aliante saddle, which, in my opinion, is perhaps the best saddle ever - for commuting.

In fact, the first review I did for RoadBikeReview was of this saddle. I loved it. But, because it is so plush and comfortable, it also tends to mask imperfections in how a bike rides. The downside of the Aliante? If you like to move around on the saddle, it may not be right for you. Because you sit "in" the saddle rather than "on" it, it doesn't encourage moving forwards and back. And because of its elevated rear, pushing back on the saddle raises the distance to the pedal, which can lead to knee discomfort. On a road ride (vs a commute), I like to move back and forth. My saddle of choice is now the Fizik Antares, which is flatter and allows the same saddle height no matter if you are forward or backward. I place a lot of emphasis on saddle choice like this because it truly does affect ride quality.

Swapping tires made a big difference in the way the bike rode.

Swapping tires made a big difference in the way the bike rode.​

Tires

The bike comes spec'd with 700x25 Michelin Lithium tires which turned out to be surprisingly slow. I didn't think tires made that much of a difference but when going on a casual ride with a long, gradual uphill, the bike felt really sluggish. In fact, on that ride, I got dropped!

Later, I ran in to a friend and on a flat section of road, we both stopped pedaling to see which bike would coast down quicker. We let off the gas and, wow, he just kept going while my bike felt like it had anchors. By coincidence, VeloNews recently did a tire test and they claim the Michelins require 29% more wattage to roll at 40kmh than the Continental GP4000's my friend was riding. I replaced the tires with Schwalbe Ones (700x25) and the bike felt much faster. The same VeloNews article claims these tires require 21% less effort than the Michelins.

Thumbs up for the Zipp Service Course cockpit.

Thumbs up for the Zipp Service Course cockpit.​

Torx Bolts

The beautifully crafted Zipp Service Course stem required Torx bolts. While I appreciate their better resistance to rounding, wow, what an inconvenience to have to carry a Torx wrench in addition to Allen wrenches. I get the benefit. Setting up the stem should be a one time thing. But it took me a while to dial in the fit. And carrying an additional Torx wrench was a bit of a hassle.

Rear Wheel

The rear Zipp wheel also had some issues with braking. Either it was slightly out of true or the braking surface was uneven. Regardless, there was noticeable pulsing from the rear brake. Also irritating was the fact that the inner tubes were barely long enough for the 30mm deep Zipp rims. Inflating was a bit of a challenge.

Our tester managed to PR one of his go-to descents.

Our tester managed to PR one of his go-to descents.​

So how did it ride?

Despite these issues with component choices, the bike was a joy out on the road. The ride was silent, with no rattle from the internally routed cables. The Zipp cockpit felt great in my hands, and the wheelset was smooth (with the exception of the rear braking). The mechanical SRAM Red was excellent.

The only downside was when I replaced the stock tires, though it felt much faster, the bike still didn't "shoot forward" when climbing. But it did feel very connected and competent. And while going up wasn't stellar, the bike descends with precision. The steering is very accurate but not twitchy, inspiring confidence heading into tight corners. I've stated in many past reviews that I'm a lousy descender, but I felt extraordinarily comfortable on this bike on the downhills. In fact, I set a Strava PR on a steep and technical 1.5 mile descent, despite riding in frigid cold weather.

What really sets this bike apart, though, is it's velvety smooth ride on the flats combined with the amazing feedback through the frame. You can feel every nuance of the road pavement but it doesn't beat you up. There is a remarkable balance between responsiveness and comfort. If I had to choose a bike to do a century tomorrow, this might be it.

The 50/34 chainring combo makes spinning up climbs more manageable.

The 50/34 chainring combo makes spinning up climbs more manageable.​

Bottom Line

This was a really interesting bike to ride. And I was amazed at how component choices could make such a huge difference. Kudos to Swift for creating a bike that has an amazing ride quality. It seems that Mark Blewett has been able to deliver the smooth and plush feel of a traditional steel bike while dialing in some additional road feel - for a lot less weight.

For more info visit swiftcarbon.com.