When the Specialized Venge first arrived with its radically different aero shaping, to say that it polarised opinion would be an understatement. However, its appearance is now more accepted and the Expert is a fine-looking machine, the upward arch of its top tube combining with the Comp-Set stem to achieve a negative angle that looks positively aggressive.
Highs: Perfectly pitched handling, smooth riding and a decent all-round package
Lows: Should a bike at this price feature Tiagra parts, no matter how small?
Buy if: You want a bike that’s majorly rapid but won’t give you a kicking
We’ve always appreciated the Venge’s silent speed but would never describe its character as comfortable. Having said that, though, while it’s still not Roubaix plush, the addition of Specialized’s Roval Rapide SL35 wheels – with their broad 22mm rims and soft but tough Turbo tyres – results in a huge waft of cushioning. This is supplemented by Specialized’s excellent contact points – the comfortable Body Geometry Romin saddle and thick, plush Pro D2 bar tape.
Ride the Venge and its familiar feeling of absolute pace returns. Its willingness to accelerate on the flat is intoxicating and is only enhanced by the new wheel package.
The 35mm-deep Rapides are stable in crosswinds and their broader profile gives the tyres a shape that copes with poorer surfaces. The rims aren’t as wide as the latest from Zipp, ENVE or HED, and while the tyres are 23mm wide we’d be interested to see whether moving to 25mm would add even more smoothness.
The Venge’s gearing offers plenty of scope for speed. By combining a ‘pro’ compact 52/36 chainset (a classy all-carbon FSA SL-K unit) with a Tiagra-level 11-28T cassette, the bike has plenty of ‘power’ gears, even if we did expect a cassette and chain from higher up the food chain. Should you need assistance when the road starts to rise, the 36×28 pairing will help get you up and over pretty much anything.
The last bike from this line that we tested (the Specialized Venge Comp) had a surprisingly forgiving ride, but we think this higher spec Expert surpasses it for smoothness while retaining its pinpoint handling and stability.
In fact, we think this Venge package is Specialized’s strongest yet. The 10r Carbon frame is more forgiving than the S-Works, without much of a weight penalty, and it’s driven by a flawless combination of Shimano Ultegra Di2 and that classy chainset, running on very decent wheels. The excellent own-brand contact points and good tyres all add to the high watermark of a bike that’s truly exciting to ride.
The increased comfort makes it a great choice for the speedy sportive rider who might want to add the occasional race into their calendar or, with the addition of a set of tri bars, have a slippery aero bike on hand for a few evening time trials.