RIDE Media will be reviewing the $8,999 AUD Polygon Helios AX9 in the coming weeks. There’s a lot to be said for a beautiful bike that’s sure to be popular, and I’m starting the conversation on my first ride…
Review by Rob Arnold
Watch the first ride video on YouTube.
This review was made possible thanks to the brand’s Australian agent, Bikes Online.
Check out the full Polygon line.
Was it a coincidence or a reflection of the market that on my first ride on a Polygon bike it seemed like everywhere I looked there were other riders of the same brand? This Indonesian company is not new. The range is extensive and includes bikes of all kinds and the emphasis seems to be on a product with 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 to wait long before a box shows up at your place.
The home delivery model is not new to cycling. Not too long ago, it was frustrating because bicycles are complex machines, but today a good bike mechanic can perfect the build with the right tools that may not be part of the collection in your shed at home.
Years of experience in building bikes is one of the reasons bike shops are an important part of the retail model. When done right, you’ll have hours of cycling enjoyment with minimal fuss or effort. Get it wrong, and a bike ride can be a frustrating exercise.
However, the market has evolved and some bike companies are investing in thoughtful packaging and engineered interiors that do much of the manufacturing 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 Sun AX9 as you can see here it is near the top of the row line. For another $1,000 AUD, you can step up and have Shimano’s C60 wheels instead of the in-house option, Entity, as featured on this bike.
As it is, the review bike represents impressive value for money, especially when you consider that it includes a full Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, complete with a Shimano power meter.
Started in September 2021, the 12-speed Dura-Ace R9270 with strength it was hard to find. Supply chain issues meant that Shimano’s latest top-of-the-line set was in high demand and, if available, commanded a higher price.
With an MSRP of ±AUD$7,000 (including power meter), the groupet features what Shimano calls “wireless” electronic shifting – so just ignore the cables that are part of the package – and, in 2023, it’s available to buy. Not only is the supply starting to flow, but some retailers have also started running sales.
It’s possible to find the new Dura-Ace as a stand-alone groupset or as an OEM spec on high-end bikes, and while you can find it for a better price than just a year ago, it’s still a premium product.
When a complete bike features this groupet as well as other expensive components (such as Vision’s ±AUD$650 Metron integrated handlebar and composite stem) and a nicely finished frame, you could reasonably expect the price to be significantly more than AUD$8,999. But cost is just one surprise of the Helios AX9 package (which is available in a range of sizes).
Add a power meter, a set of carbon wheels, Schwalbe One tires (which come with inner tubes and tubeless valves as part of the build kit), a sensible saddle and a more professional pre-boxing build, and there’s plenty of bike for the your money!
It’s easy enough to see where savings have been made, but the specs are perfectly adequate – even good… and it’s easy to make improvements here and there if you’re so inclined.
Testing the original specification
After preparing the bike as a Bikes Online customer would – e.g. by opening the box and following a few simple instructions – the AX9 was ready to drive within 30 minutes of delivery. I have recorded the unboxing session and it will be posted soon as part of the video review series. But before I share this episode, I wanted to take the bike for a ride.
The video at the top of this page gives an overview of my initial 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 didn’t take long to perfect the fit and enjoy the quality ride characteristics.
Even before my first pedal stroke, I knew there would be things that would be traded off from the original spec. The Entity-branded saddle (as are the wheels) gets the job done. The shape is good, it fills perfectly, and with chromoly rails it’s not even too heavy (276g), but it’s wider than I like. After the first weekend of riding, he was replaced by a Fi’zi:k Review Saddle (Argo Adaptive) which is 10mm narrower (and 100g lighter).
The next change from the original spec will be to remove the inner tubes, install tubeless valves, add sealant and possibly lower the tire pressure.
I’ve been riding tubeless tires exclusively since I first adopted them in late 2020 and have found that the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks. These days I do the fitting myself as tubeless technology has improved dramatically since it was first introduced to the road market. it’s relatively fuss-free and although there were times when it required a bit of trial and error, it was well worth it. In addition, Polygon / Bikes Online have included the necessary bits to make the transition to tubeless simple.
However, the first few rides were with the bike as it was out of the box. That said, I will point out that – because I didn’t explain before the review started that I rode the right lever for the rear brake – I visited my local mechanic for some post-decode improvements.
Hayden Nosatti by Tuning circles removed the original handlebar tape (a thin, sticky and not-so-comfortable offering that came with the bike) and disconnected the hydraulic hoses and reinstalled them from the Australian Standard setup (eg left lever, rear brake) to my preferred set – up.
Since the bike was partially disassembled for this workshop session, I also asked if Hayden could cut the fork steerer. It cut 20mm off the original and I was ready to ride a 54cm bike that matched my personal bike very well (Focus Izalco from 2019).
It took a few miles of fine tuning before I found a position that was just right. A few mid-way changes – e.g. 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 was shorter than what I was used to.
Later when I did some measurements this was confirmed with the AX9 about 10mm shorter than my Izalco.
As you’ll see in the #FirstRide video, there were other aspects of the bike that caught my eye: adjusting to the different shape of the handlebars, remembering how to use the Shimano shifting system (not hard… but different than the SRAM set on my bike) and adaptation to new sensations.
After 90 minutes everything was completely natural. And while the first ride wasn’t a great workout at all, it did provide a good overview of what to expect from a bike that just a few days earlier was sitting in a box on a shelf in a Sydney warehouse.
Click play on the video, see the bike sparkle in the sunlight, and listen to my commentary as I note the differences and sensations while riding. There will be a lot more to say about the Polygon Helios AX9… but for now this is my introduction before I pull the inner tubes, do a few adjustments and see how different it is after I reset my preferences for an impressive, well – bike package in price.
– By Rob Arnold
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