Sean Kelly won around 80 percent of his victories riding Vitus bikes, so he was the obvious choice as frontman when Chain Reaction Cycles revived the brand last year. This limited edition model adds Kelly’s choice of cockpit kit to a proven smooth riding frame and Shimano’s top conventional groupset.
We asked Sean about the bike when we rode with him at the 2012 launch. In typically succinct fashion he told us he’d put what he wanted on, but “without going crazy on the price” – £3,000 for full Shimano Dura-Ace kit on a carbon fibre frame and fork is certainly an attractive option.
Sean’s influence is clear in the cockpit choice; not only are 3T his favourite trusted brand, he’s also gone for the assured strength and security of alloy over the super-light temptation of carbon fibre. The long stem and tight round bar shape encourage a racer’s low elbow, flat forearm position too, rather than a more relaxed anatomical bend. The Dura-Ace transmission has a full size 53/39-tooth chainset designed for fast riding and racing, not the more comfortable compromise of a compact.
From this aggressive first impression comes a surprisingly genial ride. The Vitesse frame that the SK version is based on is a long way from the original plug-and-lug Vitus framesets, but it’s still smooth rather than sharp in feel. In fact, the more we rode it, the more we began to appreciate the buoyancy of the ride over rougher roads.
The genuinely floated feel is even more remarkable considering its riding position is competition- rather than cruise-orientated. It’s also running on conventional clincher tyres rather than tubulars. Nonetheless, on our longer rides not even the foulest grit and sleet-laced weather could dampen our enthusiasm for staying out longer.
The sprightly feel of the Vitus extends up into the hills as long as you can spin the bigger rings. If the cadence drops, though, the more malleable nature of the frame is noticeable in a slight lack of edge to the drive as the material sucks up some of your muscle twitch. Despite a tapered head tube and full-carbon fork, several of our testers found flex up front unsettling when riding technical descents hard.