The Voodoo Nakisi is an entry-level bike designed for gravel and adventure cycling. It offers a good-value specification but some of the components are not quite up to the level for typical gravel riding. There are glimmers of a decent bike but just how capable is it when compared to the best gravel bikes under £1,500?
The Voodoo brand has been around for at least 20 years, previously an American company that was famous for niche, stand-out bikes it is now part of Halfords. The Nakisi is marketed as a gravel and adventure bike, and it would be among the cheapest available that is specifically aimed towards gravel.
Voodoo Nakisi - Technical details
The Nakisi has an aluminium frameset and aluminium fork, with reasonable tyre clearance and a Shimano Sora 2x9 drivetrain. The brakes are mechanical Tektro MD-C400 with 160mm rotors front and back.
The wheelset is basic with own-label hubs and (narrow) rims fitted with WTB Riddler Comp 700x37mm tyres. The wheels are not tubeless ready, and the tyres are steel bead with quick-release attachment front and rear.
The finishing kit comprises all-alloy parts, with a semi-flared 42cm-wide handlebars and a WTB Volt saddle. Out of the box, our medium bike weighed in at 11.83kg without pedals.
For the bikepackers among us, the mount options are limited with just the pair of bottle cages within the main frame. There is no cage mount under the down tube, and the fork legs are also void of any bosses. The bike does feature rack and mudguard mounts front and rear and enough tyre clearance to make it a more friendly winter bike complete with panniers.
Voodoo Nakisi - Geometry
There is nothing groundbreaking about the geometry, which is to be expected for a budget adventure bike. The headtube angle is reasonably steep at 70.5-degrees (71-degrees for L and XL sizes), and a 74-degree seat tube angle (dropping to 73.5 on L, and 73 on XL) plscing you more over the front. The reach on the medium is 382mm with an 80mm stem.
At 168cm, I was between S and M frame sizes based on the Halfords size guide which was pretty spot on if I'm honest. The only small concern would be limited standover, despite the sloping top tube - my inside leg was touching the frame while standing over the bike.
With head angles that are close to road bike geometry it is no surprise that the handling is very fast, which might be fine on roads and lanes, but less so on steeper off-road tracks - especially with the steep, seat tube angle that pushes you over the front. Voodoo claims the frame is dropper-post compatible, which might appeal to some, but even then it will never truly turn the Nakisi into a demon on the downhills.
Voodoo Nakisi - Compliance
Budget bikes often struggle with comfort and the Nakisi is far from perfect. The fork is aluminium and this creates a harsh ride, especially on larger bumps.
There are two main areas where comfort could be increased with the bar tape being the simplest and cheapest option. The tape fitted is thin and basic, adding little comfort or vibration damping and, for such a small and simple fix, it would have been good to see Voodoo fit something more comfortable.
The biggest difference would come in the form of wider, tubeless tyres but unfortunately, the stock wheels don't play ball here and do not support a tubeless setup - but this is par for the course on a sub £800 bike. The frame and fork will support a larger tyre. There's no quoted maximum but a 40mm or potentially 42mm would probably be the limit both front and rear. Tubed tyres mean higher tyre pressure to reduce the puncture risk but this has an adverse effect on grip, comfort and control (both up and downhill). Combined with the blunt aluminium fork, it all adds up to a less-than-perfect ride.
Voodoo Nakisi - Performance
The Shimano Sora drivetrain shifts more smoothly than you might expect for a budget groupset and, with full cable outers, it should stay smoother for longer, even through typical British weather. The front mech and shifter do need lots of micro clicks to prevent the chain from rubbing and there is a considerable jump between the chainrings - so it is best not to shift under load. Unlike some higher spec double groupsets, the Sora rear derailleur does not have a clutch mechanism, which means a lot of chain slap, so adding a good chainstay protector would prevent any damage to the paint.
The 48/32T, 11-34T gear spread and overall weight (11.83kg) make the bike feel somewhat overgeared, which in fairness is to be expected for an entry-level bike, but lower gearing would be very welcome.
I am a reasonably fit rider but on some road climbs I was running out of gears and having to work much harder than I would have liked simply to get up the hills. Head off-road onto
anything either moderately steep or less than perfectly smooth and you will find yourself out of gears very quickly.
There are wider ratio 9-speed cassettes available not to mention smaller-sized chainrings and it would have been nice for Voodoo to have specified either or both. The tall gearing when combined with other areas, such as the geometry and tyre width builds a picture that the bike is more suited to road rather than bona fide off-road riding.
Throughout testing, there was only one occasion where I found myself in the largest 48-11 gear but countless times when I was wishing for an easier gear.
Mechanical disc brakes at this price level are to be expected, and the Tektro Mira calipers and 160mm rotors do a decent job at stopping. They do need a little more power through the lever to get any real bite, and the biggest difference versus most hydraulic brakes is far less modulation and control. I found myself braking hard for downhills and junctions and locking up a little easier than I would have hoped.
Voodoo Nakisi - Verdict
At £650, the Voodoo Nakisi doesn't have much competition but there are many hybrid or mountain bikes that are equal if not more capable in an off-road setting for the same asking price.
One bike that is aimed at the same market is the Triban RC120 from Decathlon. Priced at £599 it features a carbon fork with mudguard mounts, tubeless-ready wheels and tyres, a 38T, 11-42T groupset and clutch-actuated Microshift derailleur that will offer simpler shifting with a slightly easier gear than the Nakisi.
The spectrum of bikes that fall within the “gravel” genre is wide, from race-orientated bikes to more extreme styles such as the Evil Chamois Hagar. But despite this highly competitive category, I would not define the Voodoo Nakisi as a genuine gravel bike when looking at the current specification. It would work well as a commuter with mudguards fitted or a backcountry road bike but, even then, the gearing would still be an issue on some climbs.
You could change the parts to make it more suitable, but the cost of wheels, tyres and cassette would mean spending enough to put the bike into a different price tier.
On paper, the Voodoo Nikisi has a good spec level that stands out in certain areas but, if you are looking for a genuine gravel bike, it, unfortunately, misses the mark.