The Energie EVO CRS is Vitus’ new top-end cyclocross race bike. The build presents superb value for money and is paired with a truly versatile frameset that will suit gravel or winter road riding duties equally well. It also looks damn cool, with a premium finish that belies its value-packed price.
Vitus Energie EVO CRS geometry
Though the Energie EVO is pitched as Vitus’ cyclocross race bike, it shares much of its geometry numbers with its Substance gravel bike – notably, the head and seat tube angles are almost identical, but the Energie’s chainstays are 10mm shorter, the fork offset is 5mm shorter and the reach is considerably longer.
The long-ish reach is paired with a short-ish 80mm stem. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
It’s worth noting that the relatively long reach (406mm on my size large bike) is paired with a short-ish 80mm stem. Adding reach to the frameset rather than cockpit places your weight further back from the front wheel, improving handling in steep terrain.
All of this conspires to create a more nimble ride and aggressive fit that better suits cyclocross racing.
Vitus was keen to stress that, if you would prefer a more old school fit, most riders should be able to easily size down and fit a longer stem.
If you are erring towards this, I would strongly recommend you look at the geometry and reconsider – this ‘new school’ approach has been adopted on mountain bikes for years now and improves handling considerably.
The bike is built around a full SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
The spec on the Vitus Energie EVO CRS is superb for the money – for £3,499.99, you get a full SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset, a Prime Black Edition 38 Disc carbon wheelset and primarily carbon finishing kit, again from Prime. This adds up to a build that weighs 8.30kg with a pair of Ritchey WCS pedals.
The Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9 is probably the closest comparable consumer-direct brand. With that bike, you’ll pay £3,899, though you do get name-brand Reynolds wheels.
A super-accurate hoot of a ride
The front end is supremely stiff. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
The overall ride of the Energie is best described as superbly accurate, with front end stiffness in rough terrain the most notable attribute. There is absolutely no squashy vagueness from the fork even under outrageously panic-induced heavy braking.
The light weight of the Energie EVO CRS paired with its whippy race-focussed geometry makes for a really engaging and competent ride on rooty, technical or lumpy terrain. With a relaxed posture and generous use of wheelie skills, you can smoothly cross obstacles that feel inappropriately large for a bike of this kind.
Cyclocross tyres – good in mud. Who would have thunk it? Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Rattling along at a fair clip on gravel roads, the bike is also surprisingly comfortable, even on the stock 33mm-wide Vee XCX cyclocross tyres, which many gravel riders would likely deem excessively narrow.
On that note, it had been a while since I rode on ‘proper’ cyclocross tyres and wow – I’d forgotten quite how good they are in the mud.
Who would have thought that tyres designed for a discipline characterised by mud would excel in those conditions?
The tyres’ tread isn’t perfect for super greasy conditions or the very deepest mud, but they strike a good balance between rolling resistance and grip, with exceptional traction in off-camber terrain. In any case, dedicated ‘cross racers will swap tyres to suit course conditions.
It’s worth noting that my test bike came set up tubeless, but complete bikes will ship with tubes. That said, the rims are pre-taped and the tyres are tubeless-ready, so you’ll only have to add sealant and valves to convert them.
If 33mm-wide tyres won’t cut it for you, the clearance around the fork crown and chainstays is generous.
This will mean mud clearance is a non-issue when running ‘cross tyres plus you’ll be able to run tyres of up to 40mm wide should you want to run something a bit more gravel friendly.
This clearance paired with the racier-yet-gravel-friendly geometry means that, if you wanted to build up a spritely gravel bike, the Energie could be a really good option.
Mudguards, glorious mudguards. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
The bike also has the provisions to run mudguards if you would like to turn it to paved winter riding duties.
Vitus deserves heaps of praise for this – shockingly few truly high-end bikes come with the option to run mudguards, which is a great shame, as it only boosts versatility and value.
All bikes ship set up 1x. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Every bike in the Energie range is built around a 1× drivetrain with the option to go 2× via a removable front derailleur hanger. A chain guide is supplied with every bike and can be fitted in place of the derailleur.
The bike is specced with a 38t chainring and a 10-33t cassette. This gave ample range to climb some stupidly steep banks and, equally, was low enough to feel comfortable spinning away on long gravel roads. As noted by other testers, the jumps between each cog is well thought out and gives a smooth transition throughout the range.
I’ve packed loads of riding in on the Energie CRS so far, including some really long grimy days. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
This was actually my first time riding Force eTap in a 1× arrangement and, though it noisily protested a little in the very largest and smallest cogs when caked in grime, I left impressed by how smoothly and consistently it shifted in truly miserably conditions.
The lack of cables or wires also makes the bike blissfully quiet on rough terrain. The two hydraulic hoses rattled off each other on wash boarded surfaces but a generous helping of heat shrink tubing would put this to bed. The excellent clutch in the Force rear mech also stopped virtually all chain slap.
The bike is a total hoot to ride on rough terrain. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Though racing seems off the cards for this season, I did some mock portaging around my parents’ garden (much to my mum’s amusement) to see how the Energie EVO CRS handled… off the bike.
Some ‘cross bikes go for super wide and flat top tubes to aid comfort when portaging. This feels great once on the shoulder but can be hard to grasp, especially if you have smaller hands.
The Energie goes for a slightly different approach, with a narrower overall profile and a flattened bottom that’s really easy to grab and perfectly comfortable once it’s on your shoulder.
I didn’t fall in love with the saddle. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
The old-school-ish house-brand saddle stands out in a world where flat and wide Specialized Power-like saddles have become the norm.
The nose on the saddle is super long and the overall shape is very narrow. This makes it an ideal and clever spec choice for ‘cross racing as large wings won’t get in the way when shouldering or remounting the bike.
However, for longer days, I didn’t find it to be the most comfortable option. Your results may, of course, vary depending on the shape of your butt.
If you need to remove the seatpost for packing, take care with the seatclamp – though it’s very secure once fitted, it is not held captively within the frame and falls out easily.
On longer rides, I also wasn’t a huge fan of the super-wide 44cm Prime Primavera X-Light Carbon handlebars. That said, in the rough and tumble of a technical cross race, I have no doubt the additional comfort and control these would offer over narrower bars would be welcome.
I love a set of roomy bars. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Personal feelings about width aside, the overall profile of the bars is excellent – there’s loads of room for even the largest of phalanges in the drops and I prefer a round profile on the tops for a ‘cross bike.
Rounding things off, I won’t lie for a second – the glorious glittery iridescent sparkly paint job of the bike is a huge draw for this cycling magpie.
The paint work is so delightful. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
It looks super-premium in a stealthy way and has attracted admiring glances throughout testing. Matched with the classico tan wall tyres it’s an absolute delight.
If you’re looking for a truly excellent cyclocross race bike that will be a tiger between the tapes but, equally, can be turned to all manner of other riding with little compromise, the Energie EVO CRS comes very highly recommended.
Vitus bikes are available exclusively via Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle with stock of this bike due to arrive in late September/early October 2020.