The Bike List

Voodoo Wanga 2011–2012

Tested by Oli Laverack

Review

With the release of VooDoo’s new range of mountain bikes earlier this year we were pleased to get our hands on their top of the range hardtail the Wanga. Growing up in Marin County in the 70’s and as a young gun having won his fair share of races Joe Murray, the designer behind the brand, has a background in mountain biking that reaches not only back to the time but also the place where the sport began. So with such an impressive history our expectations were very high.

At the centre of the action is the Wanga 7005 double butted aluminium frame which uses an oversize tapered head tube (1 1/8in top & 1.5” bottom) to reinforce the front end. Only the down tube deviates in shape on the front triangle with a small arch near to where it connects to the head tube. On the rear the seat stays snake out and the chain stays also curve slightly to help the rear end absorb vibrations. The perfectly round tubes give the frame an old-school look but with a more modern matte brushed aluminium finish which looks great.

Up front 140mm RockShox Revelation RL air fork takes the hits whilst also featuring a lockout function and a 15mm thru axle. The black Alex SX44 double wall rims are laced to black alloy hubs using black spokes giving the wheels a stealthy look and are completed with a set of Maxxis Minion DH 2.35 tyres. The front derailleur, rear derailleur, gear shifters and cassette are all 30 speed Shimano XT but some money has been saved using a lower spec Shimano non series FC-M552 chainset and SM BB51 bottom bracket. Anchors come in the form of Avid Elixir R Hydraulic discs with decent sized 185mm rotors. As a complete bike with pedals our 20” test bike tipped the scales at 13.41kg. The front wheel weighed in at 2.26kg including the 15mm thru axle and the rear wheel weighed in at 2.74kg making both front and rear 5kg combined including tyres.

With 140mm travel up front the Wanga is clearly a trail bike that has been designed for more punishing trails with testing terrain. Cross country style riding isn’t out of the question but the more relaxed geometry with a shorter reach really comes to life when you point the Voodoo at something more demanding like a bridleway in the Lake District or a trail centre red route. Despite the VooDoo’s clear preference for descending, the Wanga does climb well enough to get you to the top efficiently. Climbing up a section of switchbacks at low speed the VooDoo felt stable and easy to manoeuvre and the brilliantly grippy tyres offered an amazing amount of traction over greasy rocks that have been known to make me dab a foot down on other bikes. The Maxxis Minion ST (Super Tacky) tyres also feel like they’ll stick any corner and make the downs really fun. Coming back down the other side the Wanga again felt very stable at high speeds and the bike gives you the confidence to really push hard on descents. On the flat however the VooDoo lacks in pace especially over the kind of soft soil you find in woodlands but this isn’t surprising. This could easily be improved with a change of tyres to something narrower and with a less aggressive tread pattern but then you probably wouldn’t have the amazing grip that these Maxxis tyres offer. If you’re not covering big miles and you’re happy putting in a little extra effort to get around the trails the Minions do deliver on the descents and are also ideal for slippery, wet and muddy conditions that are all too common on UK trails.

The RockShox Revelation RL air fork goes through its 140mm travel smoothly and the adjustable rebound (on the bottom of the right fork leg) doesn’t take long to tune in to get it just how you like it. Getting the right amount of air in the fork to match your weight is also straight forward thanks to the air pressure table printed on the left fork leg. The lockout function on this fork is great for climbs and fire roads but as always a remote lockout lever on the handlebars would have been a nice addition. The very easy to use Maxle Lite 15mm through axle up front helps keep the front end super stiff especially when combined with the oversize tapered head tube. This increased stiffness isn’t noticeable straight away but as soon as you rail through a rutted, twisting trail you’ll feel the difference.

Riding this bike around the forested sandy trails and jumps in and around Chicksands bike park the bike really impressed me. This isn’t a dirt jump bike but I was still able to clear a few sets of doubles without too much trouble despite being on a 20” frame. On the berms of the dual slalom and four-cross track the handling felt quick and precise on the dry dusty day that we’d picked and I was able to hold off a few of the locals. The Wanga is clearly a versatile bike then but where it feels most comfortable is on technical trails where the more relaxed geometry with a shorter reach give you the confidence to push the bike down descents and into tight corners as fast as you dare. The Avid Elixir R offer plenty of power which I needed to use to full effect on plenty of occasions but their grip is gradual enough to make even sharp braking very predictable and easy to control. The 10-speed mostly Shimano XT gearing is as reliable as ever with gears shifting smoothly as you’d expect from this level of kit. The huge range of gears means you’ll be able to pedal up all but the steepest inclines and my experience of Shimano XT is that it’ll also last a long time before it will need replacing, even under heavy duty use. The riser handlebars, stem, seatpost and saddle finishing kit are all own brand items to help keep the price down and are perfect upgrade items if you like to pimp your ride.

In terms of value there aren’t many bikes that can boast such and impressive list of quality parts at such a competitive price point. Competing models from Saracen, Marin and Kona all fall short of the VooDoo spec which would look at home on a bike costing a few hundred quid more. The brand that is exclusive to Halfords has clearly been able to take advantage of the enormous buying power the major chain has to place big orders with component manufacturers to help get the price point to a penny under £1000. The VooDoo isn’t all about value however, as the ride and handling have impressed on every trail and terrain that I’ve tested it on. If you’re in the market for a solid and reliable trail bike at around this price point then the VooDoo Wanga should definitely be on your short list. The bombproof Wanga will take a serious amount of abuse and if you like to give your bikes some stick on the trails and hit the occasional jump then the VooDoo will do everything you want and more. With a price point that makes this bike available on the Cycle to Work scheme, finding an off-road route to work has never looked more appealing.

At a glance

Verdict A great value, bombproof, trail-taming hardtail perfect for trail centres and more technical trails.
Value
Performance

Do you own this bike?

by Dom  on 4 Sep 2012
Bought the wanga through company's cycle to work scheme. Generally an excellent bike. I just keep asking myself why they built it with what is very possibly the world's heaviest ever set of wheels and tyres.

After I rode the bike once I replaced the tyres immediately with a pair of folding maxxis, this saved around 1.6KG or 3 1/2lb. This made the bike immediately more responsive and less sluggish. As has already been mentioned, the spec (other than the tyres and wheels) is great quality for the price. Also, the stem is a little on the short side for my 6'2"'s on the 20" frame

Frame is great, forks are quality (if a little fiddly to get just right), gears and brakes are awesome.

I would advice anyone to buy the Wanga, just make sure you leave enough aside to replace the tyres! maybe the stem, saddle, pedals & wheels also!
by Anonymous  on 13 Jul 2011
The Voodoo Wanga's alluminium frame gives a very solid powerful feel without adding too much weight. Its long travel fork, while a little fiddly at times is flawless once tuned properly. For 1k, the spec is high quality and very well put together which makes this bike an excellently equipped all mountain hardtail which isnt afraid to be pushed hard and can still climb fast and well. A very worthwhile purchase. The only down side for me is the colour of the 2011 model.
Ollie

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