Velo Vie Vitesse 500 long-term £2866

Small price, big performance – but questionable quality

BikeRadar score 3/5

One could be justified in questioning the street cred of Velo Vie's flagship Vitesse 500 road racer. After all, the company doesn't sponsor any big-name riders, there are no Velo Vie bikes on the covers of mainstream magazines, and you won't find them in brick-and-mortar shops.

If you're a rider who prefers to let your legs do the talking, though, you'll find more than enough performance here to leave your better-equipped friends in the dust – just don't expect to find the best finish work here.

  • Highs: Incredible value, stiff chassis, snappy handling, lots of build options
  • Lows: Stiff ride, sub-par finish quality, so-so frame weight, questionable wheels

Ride and handling: Very efficient and quick on its feet

Velo Vie is relying on the performance merits (and the excellent value) of its Vitesse 500 to sell itself, and it's hard to argue with that businesslike approach. Cast aside any hesitations you might have about riding an off-brand machine, and what you're left with here is an awfully capable bike for racing… or just going flat-out fast.

The rear end rides like it looks. it's stout under power but also rides quite firmly on broken surfaces

The Vitesse 500's carbon chassis aces the stiffness portion of the report card with a solid front triangle and a stout rear end that are amply reinforced to handle all-out sprint efforts or steep climbs out of the saddle. It's an efficient feel overall, with few hints that betray its bargain basement pricing.

Velo Vie has done a good job with the frame geometry, too, with smart numbers that yield refined handling manners. Riders coming off of more endurance-focused machines might find the Vitesse 500 to be a little on the twitchy side, but we found it appropriately quick for the segment and an easy choice for a frenetic criterium. The chassis certainly leans towards the edgier end of the spectrum but it's not in any way unruly or nervous.

The carbon fork features a tapered 1 1/8-to-1 1/4in steerer tube

Nevertheless, Velo Vie has taken a safe approach to rider positioning, with even our 48cm sample (53.5cm effective top tube length) sporting a relatively long 138mm head tube. We slammed the stem atop the headset cover for a more reasonably aggressive stance, but even casual riders should still find a fairly generous amount of stack for a more relaxed position.

Those looking for a healthy dose of comfort to go along with their speed fix will be disappointed, though, as this is the one area where the Vitesse 500 doesn't deliver. While the ride quality isn't unreasonably harsh (and again, is wholly appropriate for a race bike), it isn't terribly refined, either. Whereas more mature designs can filter out nasty pavement buzz and somehow manage to mute bigger impacts all the same, the Vitesse 500 chassis is rather stiff all around with a somewhat flinty composure on bumps and a connected-to-the-road feel that not everyone will appreciate.

You won't find Velo Vie bikes in shops; the company only sells consumer-direct through its website

Frame: Workhorse carbon racer

With an actual frame weight of 1,120g (including the rear derailleur hanger, seatpost collar, and water bottle bolts), our sample impressively comes in 40g below Velo Vie's official claim. Likewise, the tapered all-carbon fork weighs just 380g with a 220mm steerer and no compression plug – 60g lighter than the figure provided to us.

Neither value is remarkably light, mind, but they're reasonable numbers given the pricing – and we dare say that many buyers would be more than happy to save a bundle of cash in exchange for a few hundred grams.

The Velo Vie Vitesse 500 frame uses an aluminium bottom bracket sleeve and true BB30 bearings

Slightly inflated weight notwithstanding, the Vitesse 500 includes most of the features folks are looking for these days: a tapered front end (with a 1 1/4in lower steerer diameter, not the 1 1/2in one listed in the specs), neatly done external mechanical or internal electronic routing, a true BB30 bottom bracket, drop-in headset bearings, and pseudo-aero frame tube shaping.

We noticed during our teardown procedure that some of the frame's extra grams are well spent, too. For example, the bottom bracket shell uses a full-length aluminium sleeve that at least suggests good bearing alignment (and thus, better bearing life and less creaking), the headset bearings sit on machined seats that are bonded into the head tube, and the internally routed rear brake line is fully guided for easy servicing.

The rearmost derailleur housing stop is removable should you decide to use an electronic drivetrain

That's not to say that we didn't wish Velo Vie had spent a little extra elsewhere, though. While the matt unidirectional finish lends a businesslike aesthetic to the workhorse frame, it also leaves any imperfections exposed for all to see – and we spotted what looked to be four big finger marks right on the top tube and sealed beneath the clearcoat, complete with slight depressions in the surface that we could actually feel.

Such blemishes aren't likely to manifest into any long-term reliability issues, but they cast into doubt the workmanship of all the other layers you can't see. After all, quality control is something that should never be sacrificed at any price point and, while the Vitesse 500 is very appealing priced, this bike still costs a fair chunk of change. Needless to say, imperfections like this are not what anyone would want to see as they're rolling down the road on a brand-new bike.

Our test bike arrived with these unsightly blemishes sealed beneath the clearcoat

The tinted accents also come across a little half-baked to us – they're more dark coral than the blood red many might expect – and the overall scheme unfortunately somehow just looks cheaper than it should do given the bike's performance chops.

Equipment: Excellent SRAM Red 22 and FSA components, but unproven wheels

That the frame isn't the lightest around isn't really concerning, because at such a low price you can afford to splurge on parts. Our test bike with a complete SRAM Red 22 group, an FSA carbon cockpit, and house-brand Essor carbon clinchers sells for less than US$4,800 (£2864/AUS$5151 at the time of writing) and weighs just 6.67kg (14.70lb) without pedals.

The a la carte menu means you can pick and choose where to spend that money, too. Say you want a cheaper group but with nicer wheels? Check. How about a nicer group but with no wheels because you already have your own? Check, check. Need a particular bar width and stem length? Triple check. And if you want the frameset by itself, you can even do that, too (it includes the aero-profile carbon seatpost and headset).

We went with the top-end SRAM Red 22 build and had no complaints whatsoever with those bits. As always, we enjoyed very precise and consistent shifting (if a bit overly tactile and audible for some), great ergonomics with lots of adjustability, and fantastic brake lever feel.

Braking power is also especially good for a carbon rim with the included Reynolds Cryo-Blue pads. The initial bite is strong and positive, there's a big build-up in power with increasing lever pressure, and there was no undue squealing or squawking, even when the rims got warm. We did notice a slight bit of pulsing, though, and Velo Vie was unable to provide us with any heat testing data for the carbon clincher rims so we refrained from doing any serious downhill passes with the Essors.

The front hub developed play quickly, and Velo Vie wasn't able to provide any test data in regards to its house-brand carbon clinchers' heat resistance

More immediately troubling was the bearing play that developed almost immediately in the front hub, which isn't acceptable for any wheel at any price.

Consumer-direct but maybe not for everyone

The pricing on the Vitesse 500 is incredibly enticing and the performance that's included would still be impressive for thousands more, but many potential buyers might still be leery of going consumer-direct with no local support in terms of warranty support. While it's true that most of the bits should technically be supported at nearly any local shop, the only pieces we had issues with both happened to be Velo Vie house items.

There's certainly some merit to such caution but the consumer-direct model has been around for some time now and some have figured it out better than others. To Velo Vie's credit, all of the bikes come with a two-week return policy (with an included return shipping label) so at least there's an exit strategy should you get cold feet. And even if the frame did eventually crack (and wasn't covered for some reason), you could practically buy another one at full retail and still come out ahead versus a similar build from a major label – and those numbers are hard to ignore.

Even so, while most of our experience on the Vitesse 500 was very positive – and even with today's inflated pricing structures – it seems there's still something in the old saying, "you get what you pay for".

Complete bike specifications

  • Frame: Velo Vie Vitesse 500
  • Fork: Velo Vie Carbon Axis Formula, 1 1/8-to-1 1/4in tapered
  • Headset: FSA Orbit integrated, 1 1/8-to-1 1/4in tapered
  • Stem: FSA OS-99
  • Handlebar: FSA K-Force Compact
  • Tape: FSA cork
  • Front brake: SRAM Red w/ Reynolds Cryo-Blue carbon-specific pads
  • Rear brake: SRAM Red w/ Reynolds Cryo-Blue carbon-specific pads
  • Brake levers: SRAM Red 22 DoubleTap
  • Front derailleur: SRAM Red 22
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM Red 22
  • Shift levers: SRAM Red 22 DoubleTap
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-1190, 11-28T
  • Chain: SRAM Red 22
  • Crankset: SRAM Red 22, 53/39T
  • Bottom bracket: SRAM BB30
  • Pedals: n/a
  • Wheelset: Essor Pace
  • Front tire: Hutchinson Fusion 3, 700x23c
  • Rear tire: Hutchinson Fusion 3, 700x23c
  • Saddle: Selle Italia X1 Flow
  • Seatpost: Velo Vie Carbon Axis Formula UD

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