RIDE Media will be reviewing the AUD$8,999 Polygon Helios A9X in the coming weeks. There’s a lot to say about a good looking bike that is bound to be popular, and I get the conversation started while on my first ride…
Review by Rob Arnold
This review was made possible thanks to the Australian agent for the brand, Bikes Online.
Take a look at the full Polygon range.
Was it a coincidence or a reflection of the market that during my first ride on a Polygon bike it seemed that everywhere I looked there were other cyclists on the same brand? This Indonesian company isn’t new. The range is extensive, and it includes bikes of all kinds and the emphasis, it seems, is providing a product that is good value for money.
In Australia, Polygon is distributed by Bikes Online and, as the name suggests, you can place your order and – with plenty of stock in the large warehouse – you won’t have long to wait before a box turns up at your place.
The home delivery model isn’t new to cycling. Not so long ago it was frowned upon because bikes are complex machines but these days a good bike shop mechanic can fine-tune the build with the appropriate tools which may not be part of the collection in your shed at home.
The years of experience in building bikes is one of the reasons bikes shops are an important part of the retail model. When everything is done correctly, you will get hours of cycling pleasure with a minimum of fuss or bother. Get it wrong, and a bike ride can be a frustrating exercise.
Still, the market has evolved and some bike companies are investing in considered packaging and in-house mechanics that do much of the build before boxing and shipping bikes directly to customers. This is the approach taken by Polygon and its association with Bikes Online.
At AUD$8,999* the Polygon Helios A9X as you see it here is close to the top of the line in the range. For another AUD$1,000 you can take one step further up and have Shimano’s C60 wheels rather than the in-house option, Entity, as featured on this bike.
As it is, the review bike represents impressive value for money especially considering that it includes a full Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, complete with Shimano’s power meter.
Launched in September 2021, the 12-speed Dura-Ace R9270 with power was difficult to find. Supply chain issues meant Shimano’s latest top-end ensemble was in high demand and, if it was available, it had a price premium.
With a recommended retail price of ±AUD$7,000 (inc. power meter) the groupset has what Shimano call “wireless” electronic shifting – so just ignore the wires that are part of the package – and, in 2023, it is available to purchase. Not only is supply starting to flow, but some retailers have also started discounting.
It is possible to find the new Dura-Ace as a stand-alone groupset or as OEM spec on high-end bikes and although you can find it at a better price than only a year ago, it is still a premium product.
When a complete bike features this groupset as well as other expensive components (like Vision’s integrated handlebar and stem combo, the ±AUD$650 Metron) and a beautifully finished frame, you could reasonably expect the price to be considerably more than AUD$8,999. But the cost is just one surprise aspect of the Helios A9X package (which is in stock in a range of sizes).
Add a power meter, a carbon-fibre wheelset, Schwalbe One tyres (which are supplied with inner tubes fitted, and tubeless valves as part of the build kit), a reasonable saddle and a most professional pre-boxing build, and there’s a lot of bike for your buck!
It’s fairly easy to see where savings have been made but the spec is absolutely adequate – good even… and it’s easy to make improvements here and there should you be that way inclined.
Testing the original spec
After preparing the bike as a Bikes Online customer would – ie. opening the box and following a few simple instructions – the A9X was ready to ride within 30 minutes of it being delivered. I’ve recorded the unboxing session and that will soon be posted as part of the video review series. But before sharing that episode, I wanted to showcase the bike out on a ride.
The video at the top of this page offers an overview of my original impressions of the Polygon bike, the first from this brand that I’ve ridden. And while it took a few minutes to adjust to the differences it wasn’t long before I’d fine-tuned the fit and found myself enjoying the quality ride characteristics.
Even before my first pedal stroke, I knew there would be things that would be swapped out from the original spec. The saddle, branded Entity (just like the wheels), does the job. The shape is good, padding ideal, and with chromoly rails it’s not even too heavy (276g) but it’s wider than I like. After the first weekend of riding, it was replaced by a Fi’zi:k review saddle (Argo Adaptive) that is narrower by 10mm (and lighter by 100g).
The next alteration from the original spec will be to remove the inner tubes, fit the tubeless valves, add some sealant, and probably reduce the tyre pressure.
I’ve exclusively ridden tubeless tyres since first adopting them in late-2020 and I’ve found the benefits far outweigh any disadvantages. These days I do the fitting myself as tubeless technology has improved dramatically since first introduced to the road market; it’s relatively fuss-free and although there have been times when a bit of trial and error was required, it’s worth the effort. Furthermore, Polygon / Bikes Online have included the necessary bits to make the switch to tubeless simple.
Still, the first rides were on the bike as it was when it emerged from the box. That being said, I will point out that – because I didn’t explain before the review began that I rode right lever for rear brake – I did visit my local mechanic for some post-unboxing refinements.
Hayden Nosatti from Tune Cycles removed the original handlebar tape (a thin, sticky and not-so-comfortable offering that came with the bike) and unplugged the hydraulic hoses and refitted them from the Australian Standard arrangement (ie. left lever, rear brake) to my preferred set-up.
Given that the bike was partially disassembled for this workshop session, I also asked if Hayden could trim the fork steerer. He cut 20mm from the original and I was ready to ride on a 54cm bike that closely matched my personal bike (Focus Izalco from 2019).
It took a few kilometres of refinement before I found a position that was right. A few mid-ride tweaks – eg. saddle a little further back on the rails – and I was in a happy place. Still, it was obvious even before I ran a tape measure over the bike that it is shorter than what I’m used to.
Later, when I did take some measurements, this was confirmed with the A9X roughly 10mm shorter than my Izalco.
As you’ll see in the #FirstRide video, there were other aspects of the bike that caught my attention: adapting to the different shape of the handlebars, remembering how to use the Shimano shifting system (not difficult… but different to the SRAM groupset on my bike) and adjusting to new sensations.
After 90 minutes it all felt totally natural. And while the first ride was hardly a solid work-out, it provided a good overview of what I could expect from a bike that only days earlier was boxed on a shelf in a warehouse in Sydney.
Click ‘play’ on the video, watch the bike sparkle in the sunlight, and listen to my commentary as I note the differences and sensations while I ride. There will be a lot more to say about the Polygon Helios A9X… but for now this is my introduction before pulling out the inner tubes, doing a few adjustments, and seeing how different it is after resetting my preferences for what is an impressive, well-priced bike bundle.
– By Rob Arnold
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