Not too long ago, we covered a review on the Polygon Strattos S4 road bike. For those who have not seen that write-up, the quintessence of our assessment is candidly short: We absolutely adore that bike! Albeit the fact that it is built as an entry-level two-wheeler with a comfort-centric focus, the S4 possesses the prowess of a race-ready steed. All it requires is an equally aggressive rider to take it to the podium.
This time, we had our hands on the Strattos S5, a close sibling of the S4. We had to admit that we were somewhat in a state of dubiety during the time when the S5 was with us. This was because the S5 and the S4 were so identical to each other that we began to worry if the S5 review would be perceived as a direct plagiarism of the earlier S4 review. When compared side-by-side, the S5 and the S4 are the same when it comes to the type of frame used and the components (fork, wheel-set and cockpit) that are installed to make the bikes wholesome. The difference? The group-set and the brake-set of the S5 came from Shimano 105 whereas those fitted on the S4 hailed from Shimano Tiagra.
The S4 in the earlier review had already received a number of thumbs-up from us, having successfully wooed our consensus that it has the versatility to satisfy the diverse needs of those who simply desire a comfortable weekend ride to those who has no qualms in covering 200 kilometres for a single training session. The S5 works on the same principles as the S4. The true distinction of the S5 is reflected from its ability to rattle the excitement of riding.
The set-up, or geometry, of the S5 is largely identical to the S4. Available in five different sizes, the S5 weeds out the time-consuming task of choosing a congenial road bike with its upright frame and a relatively horizontal top tube, ensuring efficient riding and minimising backaches during long-haul rides.
Just like its twin, the stiffness of the S5's frame is achieved through Polygon's proprietary hydro-forming process. Whilst the black-red colour scheme looks like the vintage decal on the Dodge Charger from the 80s, the smoothness and precision of the tube joints gave the S5 a premium feel. The S5's tapered head tube, which is seen on the more expensive models like the Colossus DH9, is said to fortify the frame with strength and durability. The internal routing feature hides the cables and wires within the frame, creating a clean uncluttered look. Polygon added a finishing touch to the frame with the ACX Endurance Carbon fork.
The S5's Schwalbe Lugano tyres are mated to a pair of Entity XL2 700C rim, a marriage which does not appear to be exciting. That said, Polygon contended that the unique rim-tyre combination has produced a wheel-set that is nonetheless light yet tough.
S5's cockpit components - handle-bar, stem, seat-post and saddle - are the same as those found on the S4. This is undoubtedly a disappointment to those who are at a procurement dilemma between the S4 and the S5.
The saving grace, or rather, the most potent components that defined the S5 is probably the Shimano 105 group- and brake-set. What really stoked our enthusiasm for the S5 is its 22-speed gear system, which is quite a remarkable enhancement from the 20-speed system used on the S4. With a 11-28T layout, the 11-speed cassette promises smoother gear-changing. The 50-34T crankset, which is easier on the legs with its mellower configuration, appears to be the perfect match for amateur riders.
The Shimano 105 brake-set is an all-time favourite amongst budget-conscious riders. Leveraging on technology that trickles from the Dura-Ace and Ultegra series, the 105 caliper-type brake features a symmetrical dual-pivot design which is touted to exhibit 10 percent more braking power than the previous iteration.
Those who had hopped on the S4 would instinctively recognise a familiar spirit when riding the S5. Frame geometry and bike fit between the two models is identical. Hence, those who had previously ridden on the S4 will find the medium-sized S5 to be a very accommodating steed.
The 90-millimetre stem felt right for our height, and the reach to the drop-bar was ergonomically affable. The S5 weighs as light as the S4, offering the same level of ease and portability when it comes to bike transportation.
As similar as they may be, the S5 took on its own identity altogether the moment we pounded the pedals with the first stroke. Right from the beginning, the S5 conveyed a balanced feel of stiffness and responsiveness, and power delivery to the crankset was swift. Thanks to the close-range 11-28T cassette, acceleration was effortlessly quiet and undeterred. Quite expectedly, the shifters performed the gear-changing with engineered precision.
The S5 can be a speed demon, if it wants to. If you have a set of strong lungs and a pair of powerful legs to match, the bike can easily attain 45 to 50 kilometres per hour on its highest gear (11-tooth cog). With its large 28-tooth cog, overcoming steep terrains is neither a challenge to the S5.
Compared to the Shimano Tiagra series, the 105 braking system delivered better stopping power. Modulation and lever feel were also more refined. With the new dual-pivot design, braking performance remained consistent, even in wet conditions.
The Schwalbe Lugano 25-millimetres tyre hooked up really well, relaying plenty of cornering confidence to us. However, if given a choice, we would prefer the S5 to be fitted with 28-millimetres tyres, which are plushier, smoother and more resistive to punctures on long-haul rides.
Do not belittle the Entity XL2 wheel-set. They were surprisingly stiff and a lot faster than they appeared to be. Whilst we are worshippers of high-profile rims, the low-profile XL2 was a refreshing change, eliminating cross-wind hindrances that predominantly plague users of high-profile rims.
Our Buying Verdict
It will be tough when we have to make a choice between the S4 and the S5. Both are equally-good steeds that are aimed at riders who are new to road riding and those who have a budget to adhere to.
If you have a slightly deeper pocket and are looking for a bike that can deliver race-pedigree performance in your upcoming triathlon or duathlon, the S5 will be a better option for you. The Shimano 105 group-set that the S5 is distinctly spec'ced with are race-inspired and they are well-designed to take you through the many seasons of weekend ridings and races without the hassles of servicing and repairing.
Both the S4 and the S5 are fast and versatile machines, and it will not be fair to say that the S4 is a more inferior bike. But in many ways, the S5 has a stronger appeal to riders who are progressing to competitive riding.
The Polygon Strattos S5 is available at all Rodalink Stores in Singapore.