Polygon Bend RV - CyclingTips
Polygon Bikes is an Indonesian brand of bikes that is part of a larger manufacturing concern called Insera Sena. Located in East Java, Insera Sena’s facility has grown considerably since it was founded in 1989, to the point where it is now equipped to take care of every step of manufacturing for steel, alloy and carbon bikes with an overall capacity of up to 750,000 units per annum.
With such an enormous scope for manufacturing, it’s not really surprising that there is an extensive range of bikes in Polygon’s catalogue to satisfy a variety of markets and pricepoints. The company’s greatest strengths lie within MTB thanks to its strong commitment to international racing, however the Polygon has worked with road racing teams (including an Australian NRS team) in the past to help with its product development and promotion.
Among the dozen models in Polygon’s current road catalogue there is a new addition in the form of an entry-level gravel bike dubbed the Bend RV. This bike is equipped with Shimano’s 11-speed 105 groupset and hydraulic disc brakes and has an asking price of AUD$1,599 (~US$1,320).
I recently spent a few weeks riding the Bend RV, courtesy of Polygon’s Australian retailer, Bicycles Online, and discovered that it has a lot to offer riders that are curious about gravel grinding and adventure riding.
BEFORE THE RIDE
Polygon has extensive experience with manufacturing alloy frames to the point where it has a couple of exclusive formulations at its disposal. In the case of the Bend RV, the frame features Polygon’s so-called “ALX Advance Endurance 6061 Aluminium” that it claims is lighter and more durable than alloys used by their competitors.
This ALX alloy is used throughout Polygon’s MTB range, including some of its downhill and enduro bikes, so the company clearly has faith in the strength and durability of this formulation. Polygon goes to the trouble of internally butting the main tubes of the Bend RV to further refine the final product.
The geometry of the Bend RV is clearly off-road-oriented with a generous wheelbase (>1,000mm), long chainstays (435mm) and a high bottom bracket (65mm drop) while the fork has 45mm of rake and a tall axle-to-crown measurement (to provide clearance for large tyres) that increases the stack of the bike. It is the latter that moderates the fit of the bike, though riders looking for an aggressive position may consider going down a size.
The other thing that caught my eye before I started riding the Bend RV was the generous length of the cables and hoses at the handlebars. It was the gear cables in particular that troubled me, crossing from one side of the bike to the other to enter the down tube behind the head tube.
This routing method keeps the cables off the head tube (to protect the finish of the bike) but when there is excess, it becomes unsightly and can interfere with the knees when the rider is out of the saddle. At least it provides buyers with lots of freedom for adjusting the stem height and length.
As mentioned above, the Bend RV sells for AUD$1,599 (~US$1,230) through Bicycles Online where Australian buyers can take advantage of a 14-day test ride. For buyers in other parts of the world, Polygon has its own web store with international shipping, however the Bend RV has yet to be offered for sale via this portal.
AFTER THE RIDE
I have a strong penchant for unpaved roads, so I didn’t need much encouragement to get the bike dirty, yet the performance of the bike had me going in search of new rides and bigger adventures. I didn’t go so far as to attempt a bikepacking trip, but after spending a few weeks riding the Bend RV, I couldn’t find any of the limitations that are normally associated with a bargain-priced entry-level offering.
In short, the Bend RV defies its pricing to offer the kind of performance that would be expected for a more expensive bike.
A large part of that can be attributed to Schwalbe’s G-One gravel-specific tyres. Not only were they generous enough (700x38c) for uneven terrain, they offered plenty of grip in dry and dusty conditions. Better yet, they had a supple feel and rolled beautifully on both paved and unpaved roads.
I really enjoyed the long wheelbase of the Bend RV. The extra distance between the wheels calms the bike down and keeps it grounded even though it reduces manoeuvrability. Such stability becomes ever more valuable on long rides over uneven terrain, where the effort to control (and correct) the behaviour of a more responsive bike (e.g. with race geometry) can become tiresome.
All of the parts on the Bend RV worked well, coming together to produce what promises to be a robust and reliable bike. I’ve had some experience with Shimano’s 105 hydraulic disc brake levers previously and my opinion remains unchanged. The hoods are more comfortable than what the bulbous styling suggests, braking is smooth and effective, however the shifting action is too vague to keep the hands informed when riding off-road.
I’ve already discussed the major limitation of the short cage derailleur, which restricts the maximum rear cog size to 28T. Riding on the road, I found the gearing was low enough for tackling any climb, but unpaved climbs were much more challenging. A 32T cog would have been very welcome, however some buyers may find themselves considering a sub-compact (48/32T) crankset to compensate for the extra tyre rollout (and perhaps weight) of the Bend RV.
The flared drop handlebars may look a little unusual, but the extra width helped when I was riding in the drops on unpaved roads. By spreading the arms apart, these bars improved the stability of the front end of the bike to provide a measure of comfort and relief compared to the hoods.
The seatpost never slipped in the frame, however the knuckle wasn’t as reliable as other designs. If I didn’t take care to apply maximum torque to the bolts securing the saddle rails, then the angle of the saddle would change with the hits and jolts of off-road riding. It was only a matter of a millimetre or two over the course of a single ride, but it soon had a profound effect until I corrected the problem.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND SUMMARY
The Bend RV is a sound bike that offers great value with lots of quality components, but the one thing that lingered after I was finished riding the bike was the versatility and utility it offered. Much of that versatility was on display during Roadtripping Bali, where Andy, Jonathan, Leigh and Matt were able to tackle busy roads, isolated singletrack and even a volcanic landscape on the one bike.