Vitus are expanding both their road and mountain bike ranges for 2012. We flew over to Northern Ireland on a pre-emptive riding strike to see how they’re shaping up before their official spring launch. Today we're looking at their new tarmac machines; look out for a piece on the fat-tyred offerings later in the week.
A classic ride around the local Glens of Antrim with Sean Kelly for Cycling Plus magazine (you can read the full story in issue 260, out now) was the ideal opportunity to get to grips with the new carbon- framed, aspirational but affordable £1,700/US$2,890* Venon. The most obvious initial appraisal is that it’s a traditional racing, training or distance bike, rather than an orthopaedic sportive specialist.
While it comes with a tall spacer stack for less aggressive riders the low head tube potentially provides a properly low, road-race position. Reach to the cockpit along the 547mm top tube is fairly stretched even on the 54cm bike too. After a fair bit of agonising, according to the designers, the top three road bikes in the Vitus range come with full-sized 53/39-tooth chainrings for race speed rather than a compact ratio setup.
To back up the performance positioning, the Venon uses Vitus’s top high-modulus unidirectional carbon frame, with a claimed weight of 950g. The tapered head tube and chunky fork make it an accurate and predictable handler, with a surefooted rather than twitchy feel. While we’ve previously noticed a tendency for the broad flat spokes of Mavic's Ksyrium wheels to be relatively gusty we never felt nervous or precarious even when riding wet backroad descents for the first time in seriously windy conditions. The Venon's confidence is further underscored by its top-quality Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tyres.
The generous bottom bracket block gives a stout, muscularly responsive feel when you kick hard, with a very competitive complete bike weight of 8.2kg (18.1lb), and Shimano Ultegra pedals amplifying acceleration. Even after several hours on Irish backroads, comfort levels were perfectly acceptable and the FSA compact bar with wing section top is a particularly well shaped place to put your hands.
The Shimano Ultegra/105 transmission mix was typically swift and precise, and the Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels usefully responsive and accurate under power or pushing hard through corners. The overall result is an impressively balanced and naturally fitness- and handling-flattering partner for whatever speed-orientated riding you prefer.
Vitus Sean Kelly Special Edition
If the frame and fit of the Venon sound up your street but you’ve got more money to invest in an added bit of performance and Irish race heritage, then the same chassis is used for the Sean Kelly Special Edition. For £3,200/$5,440 you get a neon green trimmed version of the high-modulus, sub-kilo Venon frame loaded with a full Shimano Dura-Ace groupset.
Talking to Sean, he used Di2 for a while last year but he didn’t want to “go crazy” with the price of his signature bike so he stayed analogue. Sean's been a big fan of 3T componentry for a long time, so it's no surprise to see them supplying the classic round shaped but compact drop handlebar, stem and seatpost on the SK bike.
There’s no carbon fibre except on frame and forks but then Sean was always renowned for sticking with proven componentry that could be trusted to survive his relentlessly hard riding style so opting for strength over saved grams isn’t too surprising. A Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheelset wrapped in Michelin Pro 3 race tyres completes the package. Again, first impressions are of a very workmanlike, race focused bike rather than a fashion follower. Look out for a full review in a 'Famous Names' bike test in an upcoming issue of Cycling Plus, and on BikeRadar.
Other Vitus road bikes
We didn’t get the chance to ride or photograph the rest of the road range but the basic breakdown goes like this. In between the Special Edition and the Venon comes the £2,150/$3,655 Vitesse. It shares the same frame but with a mixed FSA, Dura-Ace and Ultegra transmission, FSA cockpit and seatpost, and Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheelset.
The £1,400/$2,380 Dark Plasma VR uses the same high-modulus carbon frame and fork but with an FSA Gossamer Pro compact chainset, FSA brakes and finishing kit, and Shimano 105 gearing rolling on Mavic Aksium wheels. The standard Dark Plasma (pictured below) uses Tektro brakes and Shimano Tiagra to hit the £1,200/£2,040 pricepoint.
The Zenium, Decium, Razor and Mach 3 form the metal framed segment of the Vitus family. We’ve already tested the high-value £750/£1,275 Zenium this year, but to recap quickly you get the same race orientated Vitus geometry on a triple-butted alloy frame with full-carbon fork, Shimano Tiagra group and Shimano R500 wheels.
The Decium goes one rung up the ladder with a Shimano 105 transmission for £899/£1,530, while the £650/£1,105 Razor uses the same frame and fork equipped with a Shimano Sora/Tiagra mix and the same R500 wheels. The Mach 3 offers a flat bar version of the same spec for £25/$43 less. Check out our image gallery for lots more pictures of the new Vitus road bikes, which are available from Chain Reaction Cycles.
* US prices correct at time of writing but subject to currency fluctuations