Every now and again, there is a defining moment in an industry, when a brand does something so radically different that it changes the way brands and consumers think. Montra have done just that with the new Helicon. We got our hands on it and took it for a serious spin to see if there is more to it than it's good looks.
Looking into the heart of the bicycle, the hard tail frame is a well-built 6061-Aluminum alloy unit. The overall weight of the bicycle was a tad towards the heavier side. The tube profile was very interesting as Montra have finally decided to consciously move away from circular tubing to semi tapered profiles. The top tube comes with a good looking, flat and tapering profile, while the bottom tube starts flat and transforms into a tubular profile towards the bottom bracket section. What this has done is that it has reduced unwanted weight on the frame, while reinforcing the points prone to maximum load and stress.
The overall ergonomics for the rider is a semi aggressive position, which is ideal for city commuting and medium touring distances. We felt that since the overall characteristics of the bicycle lean towards and XC / Tourer, while also playing the role of a city hybrid, the manufacturers should have given the options of Pannier rack mounts in the front and rear.
You will be left with your mouth wide open when you lay your eyes on the Montra Helicon. There is something about simplicity in design that appeals to the human eye, and this bicycle does just that. The matte black colour, with the stunning 27.5'Kenda wheels and extended rim set, just add up to one sweet looking hybrid/XC bicycle. The designers of this bicycle have played it smart by giving it unique, contemporary tube profiles that not only serve an aesthetic purpose, but also a functional one. The decals were all in a glossy finish, which in a sense balanced the full matte profile of the bicycle. We particularly liked the font and badging of the 'HELICON' on the top tube¾
The 21-speed gear system that powers the Helicon is a Shimano Tourney group set. The group set option did translate into a more cohesive experience while shifting. The Front derailleurs were Shimano Tourney FD-TZ30 (3 Speed), while the Rear derailleurs were Shimano Tourney RD-TY500 (7 Speed). These were controlled by Shimano Tourney ST-EF51 Trigger shifters, which performed well through the ride, and were ergonomically convenient to shift. The only downside we experienced with the gear system was that there was a bit of a noise while shifting down.
When a bicycle comes fitted with a 27.5 x 1.75" wheel, which holds a solid and sturdy frame, it will need suitable stopping power. This is one area where Montra could have done better. The power V-brakes fitted on the Helicon did not provide the stopping response required, and it also made a screeching noise on hard braking. This can be addressed if the manufacturer could increase the width of the brake pads, or if price permits, upgrade to discs. As a bicycle that could be used for touring, braking under all kinds of weather and road conditions must be considered. The bicycle comes with Shimano ST-EF41 brake levers ideal for 2 or 3 finger braking.
The semi-recessed handlebar combined with the touring geometry meant that the Helicon was agile enough for the purpose it was built for. The bicycle felt steady, reassuring and stable on corners. There was the right amount of stiffness in the frame, to ensure that it transferred the maximum power forward, while keeping the bicycle comfortable and agile enough.
The tires and wheel set were clearly the stars of the show for us. The Slick Kenda 27.5 * 1.75 tires fitted on to matte black XMR 27.5 alloy rims, aided the overall ride quality and performance of the Montra Helicon. The Kenda tire profile was slick in the middle, and had basic tread patterns on the sides to give better traction on bad roads. This intermediate sized wheel (650B/27.5) and tire profile gives the Helicon the flexibility of riding efficiently on the streets, as well as off road and on touring terrain. The roll on the wheel set was quite good, but one could feel a bit of resistance caused by the wider 1.75 profile, as opposed to thinner tires found on traditional hybrids.
The Helicon really scores in terms of Ride quality. The well-built aluminium frame that comes with marginally reinforced tubing, accompanied by the well put together wheel set translates into a plush ride. The frame and bicycle have been engineered to allow heavier riders to use the Helicon without worrying about the strength of the unit. The Montra commuter saddle is ergonomically well designed and contoured to give you the much needed support and comfort through commutes and medium to long rides.
At the end of the road test, we all felt that the Montra Helicon is certainly a step in the right direction for the Indian market. Once the manufacturer addresses a few areas in the upcoming versions, riders will have access to a well-balanced hybrid that will have the capability of city commuting and touring. It is safe to say that who ever rides the Helicon, will love the experience and unique positioning of the bicycle. This good looking Hybrid-XC bicycle certainly fits the bill when it comes to the formula that works in India, which is More for LessÈ, due to the overall package along with a stunning price point of Rs.14,500. The industry will be closely watching the commercial success of the Helicon to decide their counter move, until then the Montra Helicon is going to make a lot of customers happy through hours of adventure riding.