My first experience with SwiftCarbon was when I heard about owner Mark Blewett and his story and wanted to share it with you here. In short, he is a South African ex-pro working in China who began SwiftCarbon in 2008 using open moulds.

Eventually Mark paired up with others who had the expertise to do their own designs. For many years they were basically a two-man show, but now with some investment into the company they’re reaching all corners of the globe.

SwiftCarbon isn’t apologetic about making its frames in China nor does the company try to hide it. In fact they’re quite proud of where they’re based and maintain that the factory and quality of their products are top notch.

SwiftCarbon never hit Australian shores until Jonathan Cantwell reached a deal with Drapac to leave the WorldTour and join the squad. Jono, looking for the next step in his career, brought SwiftCarbon on as the bike sponsor for Drapac and also overseas the importation of the bikes to Australia.

It’s an enormous job being a father, a pro cyclist, building a concept store (with his own two hands) in Melbourne, and distributing SwiftCarbon. But judging by Jono’s energy and enthusiasm, if anyone is up to the task, he is.

TDU Stage 2

There’s no doubt in my mind that SwiftCarbon will be successful in Australia, partially because of the brand’s strategic partnership with Drapac Pro Cycling — an Australian team which has been around for more than 10 years and which has heaps of street cred. Drapac have now upped the stakes to the Pro-Continental ranks and have an up-and-coming story to tell.

All of this adds to a brand’s appeal which — let’s be honest — is a big selling factor for a bike that not many people have heard of. The other team that’s riding SwiftCarbon is the UK-based NFTO Pro Cycling Continental squad.

Before the ride

I’ve wanted to review an Ultravox TI for a while now but it wasn’t until Jono finished a hectic training and race schedule that we finally got make it happen. The Ultravox that I tested in this review was the black one shown in the photos below. I find the blue model — Jono’s training bike, as seen in the feature image — to be absolutely striking but it’s the nude black Ultravox that is built to a higher spec — SRAM Red, Zipp handlebars, stem and seatpost, and Easton EA90 SL wheels.

The Ultravox RS-1 used to be SwiftCarbon’s flagship model but the company has now introduced its second generation, the Ultravox TI. Don’t get confused by the “TI” in the name — it refers to “Team Issue” rather than titanium.

The Ultravox TI is a full carbon frame with a blend of Toray and Mitsubishi high modulus carbon fibre in a monocoque configuration. With the black model that I rode, the frame had no paint and featured a titanium hanger, which allows a weight of around 900 grams.

The Ultravox may not appeal to traditionalists with its box-shaped tubing, PF30 bottom bracket shell, overbuilt headtube, and confident “made in China” label. But if you want to ride something different to most other bikes on the road, this is a good option. It will certainly be conversation-starter.

swift-geometry2

SwiftCarbon designed the Ultravox with a fairly slack headtube angle (72.6° on the medium frame size tested here) compared to many other bikes in the same category. This makes the bike steer relatively slowly (with more input required to make the bike turn). Combined with an over-built headtube this translates to a feeling of stability on the corners and descents.

You can read more on the geometry of bike handling here.

After the ride

With all the bikes I’m able to test ride for only a short period, I take note of my very first impressions when riding those opening kilometers. I’ll ride around my favourite 100km loop which is arguably the “longest” 100km you’ll find in Melbourne. I’ll then take it out one more time to see if those first impressions are what I’m still feeling.

When I took my first few pedal strokes the first thought that came to mind was “whoa … this is smooth.” Every time I got off and on the bike during my first ride that feeling was the same. On day two my impressions hadn’t changed. That’s not to say that the bike isn’t “responsive” or fast, but the overwhelming impression for me was that of comfort.

If I were to compare the Ultravox to the way another bike rides, it would most definitely be the Trek Madone 7 Series. And that’s a compliment.

The SRAM Red works a treat, and the Easton EA90 SL wheels were a big part of what made this bike so comfortable to ride. I had to double-check to see if the tyres were 25mm or 23mm as it had such a plush ride. If you look at the asymmetric design of the seatstays, they give the bike a good amount of vibration dampening while keeping the bike’s stiffness with lateral flex.

As far as handling goes, and as mentioned above, the slack headtube angle gives the bike a feeling of stability (slow steering) compared to a lot of other bikes in this range.

Final thoughts and summary

The SwiftCarbon Ultravox is a bike with an up-and-coming brand story paired with a similar story being told by Drapac. As we saw in the Tour Down Under, the Ultravox has what it takes to compete at the highest level of pro cycling and now has local dealer support here in Australia.

My first impressions and overwhelming thoughts on the feel of the bike were “comfort” and “stability” after two test rides. This doesn’t mean that it rides like a touring bike — quite the opposite. For those who are looking for a bike that can be ridden or raced for hours on end, the Ultra-Vox TI is definitely worth your consideration.

What do the criteria below mean and how did we arrive at the final score? Click here to read up on our review metrics system and how it works.

WRAP-UP

Race ready comfort
If you want a bike that is race ready and something you can ride for hours on end, the Ultravox TI is a bike to be considered. It's boxy tube shapes and unique color options make it a bike that will stand out from the crowd. With local support and almost endless customisation options available, there's a bike that will suit your price and preferences. Weight: 6.8kg Price: $7749 AUD (black model shown)
GOOD STUFF
  • Comfortable and smooth ride
  • Handles well (slow steering which makes it stable)
  • Interesting color options
  • Good value for money
BAD STUFF
  • For those of you who want the distinction of "Made in Italy", this isn't for you.

CTECH RATING

8.4

Form
8.0
Function
8.0
Marketing claims
9.0
Serviceability
8.0
Appeal
9.0

USER RATING
1 Review

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Not enough user ratings to show averages




8
Shawn Chung - 20.02.2014
Form
8.0
Function
8.0
Marketing claims
9.0
Serviceability
8.0
Appeal
7.0
Rating: Not the sexiest-looking frame on the market, and the brand's not that well-known. But the Ultravox's performance matches Swift's marketing claims. Review: Disclosure: I'm a friend of the Swift Carbon distributor in my country but I'm not paid to advocate the Ultravox TI - I bought the 2013 model in August 2013 and I've done 3,500km on it (as of 1st Feb 2014). In June 2013 I did a 500km/2 day ride using my mid-tier aero bike and came off the bike with quite a bit of seat pain and saddle sores. My local bike shop happens to be a Swift Carbon distributor and the owner persuaded me to try out his personal bike (2013 model with SRAM Red and Swift Carbon 35mm carbon clinchers), which I took on a 50km hill climb. I was pretty surprised at the difference in ride quality, especially compared to my mid-tier aero bike (which has thick rear stays) - the thin seat stays of the Ultravox TI provides a much more compliant ride over rough roads, but I was also surprised when I was off the seat and climbing a short 13% gradient, I could feel the bike surge forward with every downstroke as the BB area is pretty darn stiff. I'm a geek who does a lot of research on any product I buy and there's quite a bit of coverage on Swift Carbon on other cycling sites, including reviews of the U-Vox and a factory tour. One reviewer even replied to a comment that "This frame rides brilliantly. You could tell me that it's made of Blu-Tac and it wouldn't change that fact." I also knew that it was a Made in China bike, but I was reassured that Swift Carbon built the bike in their own factory. Most major brands contract out their work; Specialized, for example, contracts Merida in Taiwan to build the Tarmac SL4. Now there is nothing wrong with this as most frames are built to a brand's specification and quality control, but I take some comfort for the fact that Swift Carbon's GHQ (and CEO) is based at Xiamen as well, and that they also produce frames and wheels for other brands. So I bought one. As I already own an aero frame (2012 Boardman Pro Carbon), I decided to tune my aero bike for speed and sub-100km distances and configure my Ultravox TI for long distance and hillclimbing. I went with an Ultegra U6800 groupset (a great improvement over the U6700) but reused my old SRAM Red compact crank to take advantage of the U-Vox's PF30 BB. Wheels are DA9000 C24 clinchers with 25mm tires, which is reasonably priced, reasonably light, quite durable and comfortable. Cockpit is Ritchey alu. Seat is a San Marco Mantra. In December I did another 500km/2 day ride and got off the bike without any seat bone pain whatsoever! No regrets about the Ultravox TI at all. In fact, I will be doing a 1,000km/4 day charity ride at the end of February, and the bike is the least of my worries!