Volagi: The Lawsuit Bike

After discussing Specialized v. Volagi on Twitter, Facebook, and G+ for most of the week, guess what shows up next to me on a team ride? A Volagi!

The will to go

Deliscio

This one was equipped with Di2 and A-Class disc wheels. The bike looks way better in person than photos and much less like a comfort bike with a drop bar. It also does resemble a Cirrus and I think the gimmicky bowflex rear tries too hard. Snap a tube with your finger and the sound is like whacking a hard plastic bucket with a stick, instead of a dull thud of a tightly-wound drum. Other manufactures get flex in the layup around the BB without the bow or with elastomers in the stays.

I listened intently as the Volagi ride was described to me and asked questions like, “what with the odd sizing?” Also jokingly asked if he received a summons to appear, as he possessed one of the 175 bikes reportedly sold.

The rode next to a Bro that owns one review is mostly positive. He’s very happy with it. Notes

  • Got to get used to the flexy rear end, feels like you’ve got a rear flat. The rear triangle isn’t connected to the front, that’s the “bow.”
  • More road than comfort, cause of the massive BB30.
  • They oddly skipped a size in their geometry.

Carbon bikes that flex are marketed as Fondo, Sportiff bikes and are in a category popularized by Specialized’s Roubaix. They’re for buyers that want the look and performance of a racing bike, but don’t want to limp into work on Monday with back pain or numb nuts. They get the cyclist more upright, but without a massive stem stack; instead, there’s a massive head tube.

For those of us into Ti, it’s like “really?” You want a bike that’s fast, responsive, light and also absorbs road shock without beating you up? Wonder what wonder material would do that? A material that could early get built with disc brakes, you mean?

Also, at least in the Pacific Northwest, the desire for disc brakes is so strong, a straight-up, Cat 1 roadie racer will ride a Fondo bike to have them.

Another Opinion

We had more riding to do and I rotated off the front of the paceline to take a turn with Wes. We didn’t get to the lawsuit discussion. If you followed my opinions on it, they’re counter to the prevailing Internet wisdom of the crowd that hates on Specialized. I’ll put it this way…

Sinyard don’t play no game he can’t win and while I know the Internet thinks business is fair, it’s not. You can’t develop work product for one company and then go start your own competing company after stealing the customer database. Whatever the bad blood is here and I think it’s about more than the design, it should come out when the case goes to trial.

I’ve met Sinyard a few times, ridden with him, and offer a larger perspective. This case is like Bratz v. Mattel. That’s a lawsuit that killed a Bratz founder, destroyed a family, and caused a stroke. Volagi’s press release bravado is likely hiding the chaos that’s going on in their lives.

I don’t know the people at Volagi, but will ask them “what the fuck were you thinking?” Marketing that bike is like calling Mike Tyson a pussy in a Vegas bar or launching an iPad copy or an Oracle DB knock off.

This much fight for a container of bikes? To what end?

The entire industry would grind to a halt if designs and patents related to them we’re enforced; especially with the Willy Wonka carbon factories in Taiwan pumping out most mass produced frames. Case in point are Chinarellos and Pinarello trying to market against itself and its own knockoffs.

Specialized v. Volagi is not about the design, it’s how that design was conceived and where. It’s really about a business man not allowing himself to get ripped off because he believes that’s his bike.

But the owner of the Volagi, doesn’t care about any of that. He’s just really happy with his disc brake road bike.



7 Comments

eeh, the Sirrus resemblance is no stronger than any other two carbon bikes in that category.  both of them have gimmicky seat stays as their claim to fame, but the fact that their designs differ at this crucial point dilutes the speculation/accusation that Volagi stole the design.  and the Sirrus does not have disc brakes, which a key selling point of the Volagi.  If those guys were being paid to design something other than frames (Specialized does market everything from bottle cages to pumps) and the Volagi frames aren’t being built by Merida in Taiwan, then it wouldn’t be obvious to me that Specialized could claim that to be “their bike”.  If the Volagi guys could be proven to have used Specialized’s distribution and vender connections on company time and that such actions were forbidden by the wording of their contracts, then I could see that Specialized could claim damages.  “Company secrets” need not be actual engineering data.

my stance would be that if the terms of their employment contracts were constructed in a way that prohibits using one’s own design ideas with Specialized’s industry connections while still in employment, then damages could be claimed.  Specialized IS a big company and there are many reasons why they have been so successful, but I’m pretty sure encouraging innovative competition isn’t one of them.  But their success is what is so attractive to many designers and bike industry people (it’s not because housing is cheap around Morgan Hill).  So maybe Specialized is a devil for looking out for number one…... people are still eager to sign the contract to work there.  And as they say, the devil will have his due.

@mark

Good points and well said. I may have the model wrong, but Spesh has a flat bar bike with disc brakes. Also similar Orbea. Agreed that I don’t think this is about the design, but the manner in which Volagi went about that business that got Sinyard’s attention. As I said, the industry would grind to a halt if people started suing each other.

If unique stays and disc brakes add up to trade secret, surely someone owns the rights to a bicycle with two round wheels.

So far the only damages to Specialized look like self-inflicted wounds.
I remember seeing the Volagi and being interested, but then I forgot about it. The lawsuit was a handy reminder of this company’s product. And even if you don’t think the suit shines a light on The S being abusively litigious, it still points out a hole in the product line that’s being stuffed with lawyers, not bikes. Can an obscure product get any better publicity than being the bike Specialized doesn’t want you to have?

As an owner of a Volagi, I worried that they might have a lawsuit in the works with Specialized. But I still bought the bike because it fit me better and had a better ride than the Specialized I also tried. And having disc brakes doesn’t hurt either. I’m no legal expert, nor do I have any behind the scenes info, but I hope Volagi is able to continue on. It’s nice to see a new player in the road bike marketplace.

holy christe… i just looked up the Bratz/Mattel legal epic…..if the awards from the legal judgements by themselves are in the hundreds of millions of dollars ...i have clearly chosen the wrong industry.  clearly i should have majored in dolls/action figures.

@jeff

Thanks for the comment. How do you like the ride?

I own a couple of Seven Ti bikes, one is a dedicated commuter with discs and a IGH the other is my roadie ride, it has nice Campy componants that I got tired cleaning out road sand from riding on wet roads. What I needed was a decent road bike with fenders and discs. Enter the Volagi. I’ve had it for two months now and it’s great.

I love the ride, comfy like my Ti, keeps a nice line and stops on a dime in the rain. Adding fenders was a snap because Volagi thought of that when they designed the bike. Discs means you can run wider tires and Volagi thought to leave pleanty of room for them.

This is my first bike with a compact frame and compact gearing, so those are small adjustments for me to get used to.

As far as the lawsuit goes, I think the portions about patent infringement has been dropped and just the part about designing your own bike while employed at Specialized remains. Seems hard to prove.

When I was at the shop buying mine someone else bought one and two guys were doing test rides, (Wheelworks in Belmont, MA).

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