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Vitus Substance SRS 1 review

British steel for big adventures

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £1,600.00 RRP | USD $2,000.00 | EUR €2,200.00 | AUD $2,800.00
Vitus Substance SRS 1 gravel bike

Our review

An excellent package where the quality frame is the star
Pros: Great handling; ride comfort; quality frame
Cons: Below-par saddle; some cassette noise
Skip to view product specifications

The Vitus Substance SRS 1 combines modern all-road geometry with classic, skinny Reynolds 725 steel tubing to create a bike that majors on versatility without compromising off-road performance.

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Vitus Substance SRS 1 geometry

The design combines a road-bike style 73.5-degree seat angle with a slightly relaxed head angle of 71.5 degrees. The fork offset of 43mm and the big 47c tyres create a 69mm trail figure.

The usual trail for a fast handling road bike is around 57mm, so at 69mm the Vitus boasts handling that is more relaxed than a road bike, making for great off-road stability. (Trail is the measurement of the front tyre’s contact point behind the steering axis: a small trail figure makes for a fast-handling bike, while more trail slows down a bike’s steering response).

This makes the SRS a truly excellent all-rounder. On dirt it inspires confidence with handling that’s nicely balanced between stability and swift reactions and it feels particularly at home when traversing technical singletrack.

XSSMLXLXXL
Seat angle (degrees)74.27473.573.573.273.2
Head angle (degrees)70.671.371.571.571.571.75
Chainstay (cm)43.643.643.643.64444
Seat tube (cm)505254565860
Top tube (cm)52.253.55556.257.859.5
Head tube (cm)10.812.3141516.918
Fork offset (cm)4.34.34.34.34.34.3
Bottom bracket drop (cm)777777
Wheelbase (mm)1,010.301,015.501,024.101,036.501,0501,065
Stack (cm)53.3955.0656.7557.759.560.64
Reach (cm)37.0937.7138.1939.1139.8441.14

Vitus Substance SRS 1 kit

The SRS comes with an off-road-ready 1x SRAM Apex groupset, combining a 40-tooth chainring with an 11-42 cassette. The super-low gear makes off-road climbs a breeze. Even when traction is an issue I always found the right gear to make progress.

Braking also comes from SRAM’s Apex. With bags of power and plenty of feel, they’re less vocal than Shimano’s hydraulics but did become a little screechy when wet and mud-caked. And I did experience a little rotor scraping at the rear after riding on muddy sections.

Vitus has stepped away from the full SRAM group by using a SunRace RX8 cassette. This looks swish with its red anodised carrier and glossy black sprockets.

Looks out-do the performance though compared to the understated GRX found on BiviBikes’ Graveller and Ragley’s Trig, which were also on test, or the smart Force unit on Felt’s Breed 2, because the Vitus has a little more chain chatter and vibration.

Vitus Substance SRS 1 gravel bike is equipped with an own branded Vitus bar
The Vitus bar is well-shaped with flattened aero-style tops.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The finishing kit all comes from the Vitus stable with the cockpit a particular high point. The gravel bar combines 16-degree flare with a flattened, almost aero-shaped top section that makes for a great hold when you’re grinding along on the flat at speed.

Vitus Substance SRS 1 ride impressions

The ride position, with its low 577mm stack and mid-length reach of 391mm, makes for a ride that feels rapid off-road and is no slouch on it.

The Prime Kanza wheels are stiff laterally; the WTB Venture tyres have a low textured grip through the central section and prominent knobs on the shoulder.

Prime’s tubeless-ready 650b wheels are impressive
Prime’s tubeless-ready 650b wheels are impressive.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

This makes for a fast-rolling tyre (for its size) on tarmac and one that offers plenty of cornering grip on dirt. That said, while the less-prominent tread’s excellent in the dry, it struggles in wet mud compared to something like a WTB Sendero.

The 650b wheel choice has its benefits when it comes to off-road cushioning and traction. Sadly, the downside is that it can’t match the speed of a 700c set-up on mixed-surface rides. You’ll beast big-wheeled rivals on the really rough stuff, but on tarmac, you’ll exert yourself to stay on the wheel of big-wheeled brethren.

Vitus own branded saddle on the Vitus Substance SRS 1 gravel bike
The Vitus saddle wasn’t one of my favourite perches.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Ride comfort is seriously impressive with the Substance; the skinny-tubed Reynolds steel frame offers the lively spring indicative of quality steel pipes and the full carbon fork, with its generous rake, nulls vibrations. It’s all wrapped up with the suspension-like cushioning offered by the huge tyres.

The Vitus saddle is the only chink in the SRS’s formidable armour. The flat shape is okay, but the hull feels overly stiff and that’s only compacted by the minimal padding.

Overall, the Vitus is a superb modern gravel machine. It hits all the high points – handling chops; versatile with fixtures and fittings for racks and mudguards; 1x and 2x drivetrain options; 650b and 700c compatibility – though the carbon fork lacks mounts for the fully-loaded bike-packing brigade.
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It’s well-priced with it and the ride will impress too.

How we tested

Gravel riding is more popular than ever and if you’re looking to have a gravel adventure and have a two-grand budget, we’d suggest searching beyond carbon and looking at some of the toughest rides around made of metal.

This quartet of versatile and durable bikes was selected from brands you may not be aware of or because of a unique point of difference, but all dispense with carbon for steel and aluminium.

Each bike was tested on a variety of terrain on our local gravel routes that included rocky tracks and byways, as well as tarmac roads.

Also on test

  • BiviBikes Graveller
  • Felt Breed 20
  • Ragley Trig

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $2800.00EUR €2200.00GBP £1600.00USD $2000.00
Weight 10.8kg (L)
Brand Vitus

Features

Available sizes XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Headset NECO
Tyres WTB Venture 650 x 47c Road Plus
Stem Vitus 6061
Shifter SRAM Apex
Seatpost Vitus 6061
Saddle Vitus
Rear derailleur SRAM Apex
Handlebar Vitus 6061 gravel bar
Bottom bracket SRAM GXP 68mm
Frame Reynolds 725
Fork UD carbon
Cranks SRAM Apex X-Sync 40t
Chain KMC X11
Cassette SunRace RX8 11-42
Brakes SRAM Apex
Wheels Prime Kanza 650b