AX Lightness Vial Ultra First Ride Impression and Long Hill Ride Review

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One day I stumbled across a brand called AX Lightness. I’ve been cycling for more than 5 years and somehow I’ve never heard of them nor realising that they have been providing a lot of light stuff to various big cycling brands. Anyway, long story short, I checked their website out and as soon as I clicked on their “Frameset” section, my eyes were straight away drawn to their Vial Evo D and Ultra frameset. I must say however that there are not much reviews on their frame out there especially on the Ultra.

I was riding Guerciotti Eureka SHM50 which has been an exceptional bike. It has helped me conquering couple of Australia’s toughest sportive: Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain and Peaks Challenge Falls Creek. The only thing that I don’t like from the bike is the weight. It weighs about 8.4kg. As I’ve been planning to conquer mountain sportive around the world, I was on a mission to find the lightest bike possible (or at least 6.8kg if not less). So in the end I took a plunge and purchased the Vial Evo Ultra. It costs AUD$2000 more than the Evo D for a 35g savings. But, as a type of a person who will only own one bike, I better get the top of the range one or otherwise I may regret.

To the day I wrote this article, I’ve been owning it for about 1 week. I’ve been commuting on it daily to work (about 40km in distance) and have finally had the opportunity to take it to a relatively long hill ride (about 5.5 hours with 2096m elevation). This article is my initial impression and review on the bike.


Frame: AX Lightness Vial Ultra
Wheels: Lightweight Meilenstein Clincher
Shifters: Sram Red 22
Crank: FSA K-Force Light with Power2max power meter
Chainring: Fyber Lite 33-48
Brakes: eeCycleworks
Seatpost: Dash Cycle
Saddle: Dash TT 9
Handlebar: Fizik Cyrano 00 Snake
Front derailleur: Sram Red 22
Rear derailleur: Sram Red 22 long cage
Cassette: Shimano M8000 11-40
Bottle cage: Chinese made 8g each
Pedal: Crank Brothers Eggbeater Ti
Tires: Maxxis Refuse 700×23
Stem: MCFK 70mm

Total bike weight: 6260g

I think I can save 500-700gr just by changing tires, cassette and pedals but this should be sufficient for me to even go up the steepest mountain.


I bought the frameset through a company called Star Bike ( I dealt with Christian and we had no issues at all. He has been patiently responding to all of my queries. They provided tracking number once the frame was shipped. I would strongly recommend them if you want to purchase any AX Lightness components.

Also, Star Bike provided free frame painting. The Ultra was originally black and white. You can paint the white section with whatever colour you choose and Star Bike provided this service for free. If you purchase directly from AX, they would have charged you 150 euro for the painting.


My first ride was commuting to work. The very first impression I get was this frame was so stiff. I would say it is as stiff if not stiffer than the Guerciotti. The Guerc I believe has been the stiffest bike I ride to date and the Ultra certainly didn’t disappoint. It does not have any comfort element – not in my book anyway. As a rider who has been riding Trek Madone 7, Specialized Roubaix S-Works, Specialized Tarmac S-Works and Merida Reacto 909, both the Guerc and the Ultra certainly surpasses them in terms of ride harshness. Every little bumps and rattles can be felt through the handlebar and seatpost.

On the positive note however, the Ultra truly propels forward with every single stroke and power you put on it. It just does not deflect at all. Standing or seating down while climbing steep grades, the bike truly feels stiff and helps you conquering these hills. I’ve been riding a noodle bike before and I know how harder it was to climb with it.

In terms of the frame feel, the Ultra does not feel bulky compared to the Guerc. The Guerc is an aero frame so maybe that is why it feels slightly bulkier. The Ultra definitely disappears on the road – until you hit a pothole or riding on a rough tarmac. It shines the most on undulation and steep long climbs. On flat, I must say the Guerc – being an aero frame – feels faster.

On the descend the Ultra is fast. Please read the review below when I took it to the long hill ride. The handling is also fast and slightly twitchy. If you’re not a comfortable descender the Ultra may be too quick for you. It certainly does not feel as stable as the Guerc nor the Madone. Could it be because of the weight? Maybe. But I believe that it may also due to the frame construction. Both Madone and Guerc are aero frame so they have thicker tubes and body while the Ultra looks very thin.

The weight distribution is more centered compared to Guerc. The Guerc puts more weight on the rear wheel. The Ultra is stable enough on flat. Riding hands-free off the handlebar is straight forward.


I had a chance to take it a to a long hill ride (or repeats I must say as where I live, Perth, does not have long hills). It was a 112.3km ride with about 5hrs and 45mins on the saddle and 2096m elevation. Below is the Strava ride:

Please note that I’m not a powerful rider by any means. My 20 min FTP is only 220w.

It was a freezing 3-degree Celcius day and I set out to do a solo ride on my favorite hill repeats in Perth. As of my initial impression on the Ultra, it was so stiff and just didn’t give away comfort whatsoever. Every time the road undulated upwards however, the bike would propel. I could see my average speed was slightly higher (0.1-0.3km/h faster). I was certain that this was because of the weight.

The Gooseberry Hill Rd was a 2km-long stretch with 8% average (according to Strava) with most of the incline consisted of 11-14% then about 200m from the top you had a sustaining 16-18% before dropping down to 12-14%. The very first thing I noticed was how easier it was to ride on the Ultra compared to the Guerc. Even though both were known for their stiffness but certainly on a 2.5kg-heavier-bike the uphill felt tougher.

Strava may not display me breaking any PR on the uphill. In fact, on the Ultra I was 5th faster on my personal time.  But I must say that the first 4 entries were done with a group; and we didn’t do repeats then. Therefore, I pushed a bit more. But if you’re looking at all my solo ride entries for this repeats, I was certainly the fastest on the Ultra.

Every pedal stroke propelled me upward and forward. Seating or standing did not matter. For me personally, I like standing more. I’ve been training myself to be able to stand for 15 minutes on a climb; and with bike like Ultra, it truly helps me keeping up my rhythm.

At the top, as I turned back down, the bike just zoomed down so fast! In fact, I get my Strava PR on the descend! Maybe it was the tailwind but I somehow descended faster on the Ultra even though it’s a lighter bike. As mentioned earlier however, the bike was twitchier than the Guerc. It didn’t feel as stable. I descended at 65km/h and I had to be more focused on the Ultra. I should say I’m a not-too-bad descender; but if you’re not too comfortable with high-speed descending, the Ultra can be too quick for you. Every time the road turned, I must be a bit more careful as the bike descended so fast and twitchy.

As far as Sram Red is concerned, it shifts beautifully. It was so crisp and responsive. As it’s a relatively new bike, I didn’t have any miss-shifts at all.

The eeCycleworks brakes were doing their job very well. The modulation and brake stopping power was very good.

Throughout the ride, my hands were a bit numb at times. I did not wear cycling gloves and certainly the stiffness get the better of my hands. Yet, I managed to complete the 5hr-45min ride with no problem.


All in all, the Ultra is a bike for someone who is looking for speed and stiffness. It is not for someone who is looking for comfort. You also need to be a fairly experienced rider otherwise the handling can be too fast and twitchy. Can I still ride it for hours on the saddle though? Of course. But will you be battered at the end of a long ride? Maybe, maybe not. Even though my hands were a bit numb at times throughout the long ride, it was not such a big deal for me given the performance benefit I get from the bike.

I will bring this bike to the 3rd Peaks Challenge: Gold Coast (235km with 4000m elevation) in August and will write a report on it then. See pictures below:

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Thanks for reading,


Written by

A web solution expert who has passion in website technologies. Tommy has been in the web industry for more than 10 years. He started his career as a PHP developer and has now specialized in ASP.NET, SharePoint and MS CRM. During his career he has also been in many roles: system tester, business analyst, deployment and QA manager, team and practice leader and IT manager.

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