Vitus Dark Plasma VR - First ride review£1,499.99

Competitive newcomer

BikeRadar score3.5/5

The Dark Plasma VR moniker might sound like the title of a dodgy Hollywood sci-fi flick but this Vitus is another entry into the already highly competitive mid-price road bike market. With a weight nestling under 8.5kg, Shimano’s 105 groupset doing its usual sterling work, and coming specced with a decent set of wheels and good quality Control Tech components, it’s a serious candidate too. The bold graphics and oversize tubes may not please everybody but the ride quality is likely to have wide appeal.

The Vitus name won’t mean much to cycling whippersnappers in 2011, but for those of us old enough to remember it, the original French company made some serious waves in their Seventies and Eighties heyday. They went from making steel tubes for French bike manufacturers to constructing bikes from narrow aluminium tubes under their own name. Irish hardman sprinter Sean Kelly even rode a bonded aluminium Vitus to victories in the Classics. Latterly they became early exponents of carbon fibre – their distinctive frames bonding carbon tubes into aluminium lugs.

While it’s fitting that today’s Vitus bikes include carbon fibre models, it’s a shame that the new owners, online retailers Chain Reaction Cycles, haven’t included any nods to Vitus’s heritage in the looks of the Dark Plasma VR. Instead it’s every inch the thoroughly modern semi-compact carbon road bike, boasting a striking white, black and red colour scheme. The rear end, with its chunky seatstays, oversized chainstays and wishbone, is satisfyingly stiff and solid, and combined with the Vitus’s oversized bottom bracket area makes for a pleasingly efficient ride, rewarding all-out stomping-on-the-pedal efforts.

Fortunately the 27.2mm Control Tech M-Post seatpost stops the ride from feeling too harsh, and you could easily use this for sportives as well as more intense sessions. The down tube is quite heftily oversized, and while the head tube is more modestly proportioned, the handling is taut and there’s never a sense that you have anything less than total control. The full-carbon fork helps to keep the handling pleasantly light too.

Wheels are Vitus-branded Pro-Lite Meranos with 30mm deep V-section rims and aero spokes. These handbuilt wheels are stiff under power, roll smoothly, stayed true during the test and complement the Dark Plasma’s looks. They’re a fairly lightweight pair too, which contributes to the bike’s decent climbing abilities. The Schwalbe Blizzard tyres are more of a compromise. They come with a Kevlar layer for puncture protection, but grip isn’t inspiring over so-so wintry surfaces.

Ultimately it’s great to see the historic Vitus name restored to cycling, and Chain Reaction have produced a highly competent all-round machine at a competitive price. But at £1,500 the Dark Plasma is up against some serious opposition and, while the Vitus name will be familiar to older riders, it might be hard for the brand to achieve high levels of recognition against companies such as Giant, Scott, Trek and Specialized among newer cyclists.

Vitus dark plasma vr: vitus dark plasma vr
Vitus dark plasma vr: vitus dark plasma vr

Simon has been cycling for as long as he can remember, and more seriously since his time at university in the Dark Ages (the 1980s). This has taken in time trialling, duathlon and triathlon and he has toured extensively in Asia and Australasia, including riding solo 2900km from Cairns to Melbourne. He now mainly rides as a long-distance commuter and leisure/fitness rider. He has been testing bikes and working for Cycling Plus in various capacities for nearly 20 years.
  • Age: 53
  • Height: 175cm / 5'9
  • Weight: 75kg /165lb
  • Waist: 33in
  • Discipline: Road, touring, commuting
  • Current Bikes: Rose SL3000, Hewitt steel tourer
  • Beer of Choice: Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • Location: Bath, UK
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