I learned that Vassago Cycles was planning to build a cyclocross/gravel grinder machine early last year and that it would be based on the wildly successful Optimus Ti platform. It took some time to get things in place but finally mine came a couple of weeks ago. After building it and waiting for the winter to stop throwing freezing crap all over, I got to get it out and put some miles on it.
On the road, it felt nimble and quick with a stiff bottom bracket and precise handling. Compared to my benchmark BMC Road Machine, there was a little more road feel transmitted to me on the TKO and the steering wasn't as quick but that's a good thing for a cross bike. It needs to be stable not twitchy and my TKO gets a gold star there. I wouldn't hesitate to hop on it for a century or long Gran Fondo if needed.
On the dirt/gravel/rocky singletrack. I realize that I asked this bike to do a few things that it wasn't necessarily designed for and I further shot myself in the foot by trying this stunt on road tires. If I had proper cross tires inflated to something less than 80lbs it would have performed much better on trails. That being said, it really shined in the grassy (typical cyclocross course) stuff and despite the tires, the gravel felt good. On the singletrack I survived (and turned a few mountain biker heads in the process) and it rode and handled much like my Optimus (with really hard tires). Overall, I felt like my TKO, like all the other Vassagos I have is a solid bike and does what it it made for very well.
Two component highlights that really make me happy are the Whiskey TA fork and the disc brakes. If I could, I'd go back and have thru-axles on both ends of every bike I have. The added stability and rigidity make a huge difference in the way the bike feels and handles. Second is the brakes. I think every bike needs disc brakes. They are amazing and better at stopping you when you want to stop anytime, any place in any conditions... period! I have Shimano CX 70 mechanical brakes for now due to the current production issues industry wide on hydro road discs. I have faith that the industry as a whole will catch up and make a reliable hydro disc set up for road levers but until then, the brakes I have work fine. Haters gonna hate, I say give me discs. I don't care about the: weight, wheel mounting hassel, maintenance (never understood that one. Once set up, hydro brakes are pretty much maintenance free) and any other cons I've heard going around about disc brakes on road/cross bikes.
The Vassago TKO is going to make an amazing cyclocross race bike. I can't wait until cross season begins!
Set-up with Continental Gatorskin tires and compact gearing, it's ready for the classics.
The EA90 XC wheels are too flexy for mtb use but they fill the ticket for cross/gravel grinding.
Thru axle forks are the bees knees for bikes. So are disc brakes!
Perhaps my favorite touch is the top tube cable routing. Every mountain bike and
cross bike should have this.
Vassago's welds and craftsmanship are top notch.