The idea behind the latest Vitus Venon Evo was to make a bike that has versatility at its core.
The Venon Evo RS Aero comes in a road setup, complete with 700 x 28c Michelin Power Cup tubeless tyres. However, there’s a huge amount of clearance to spare.
In fact, Vitus offers another build of the Venon, called the Venon Evo-GR, which comes with 45mm gravel tyres.
Blend this with a frame that sees equal attention paid to outright speed and flexibility, and the Venon Evo could be the one-for-all option for many riders.
In fact, the Vitus Venon EVO RS Aero is everything an endurance bike should be and that’s why it takes the road and overall title in our 2023 Bike of the Year Awards.
Vitus Venon Evo RS Aero Force AXS frame
The frame details certainly suggest versatility. There’s a bridge across the rear seatstays complete with a mudguard fitment, which can be removed for maximum tyre clearance.
The front derailleur mount is removable should you want to build the bike 1x, plus you get two-position bottle mounts on the down tube so you can occupy the lower position and fit a frame bag above it.
Like the brand’s premium aero road bike, the ZX-1, the Venon uses FSA ACR internal cable routing, so it looks very clean.
The profiles of both top tube and down tube are based around the aerodynamic profiles of the ZX-1.
Vitus makes no claims about the Venon’s overall aerodynamics, but says it benchmarked the Venon Evo against the ZX-1 Evo aero road bike and Vitesse Evo lightweight racer, coming up in the middle of the two in terms of slipperiness.
The BB386 Evo bottom bracket and head tube are said to be optimised for stiffness, but the ovalised, dropped seatstays combine with a slender 27.2mm seatpost and a cutaway seat tube to bring compliance to the design.
Vitus says it has worked extensively on the Venon’s carbon construction, mixing unidirectional carbon, Toray T700, T800 and T1000 fibres to minimise weight and maximise stiffness where needed, while keeping compliance in key areas too.
Like many brands, it keeps the exact layout under wraps, but the blend is likely to promote flexion where it doesn’t compromise lateral stiffness.
Vitus states weights for an unpainted Venon Evo frame from 778g for a size XS, up to 856g for the XXL.
My XL test bike frame was claimed to come in at 847g. With paint, that should mean a sub-kilo weight. In fact, the complete bike tips the scales at 8.19kg.
Vitus Venon Evo RS Aero Force AXS geometry
The Venon Evo’s geometry shows the versatility of the frameset.
My XL (58cm) test bike matched a 73-degree seat tube angle with a 72.5-degree head angle.
The stack height (including the aero-headset cap) is 606.7mm. This is combined with a long reach of 403.3mm.
The stack height is within a few millimetres of the sportiest endurance road bikes such as Wilier’s Gran Turismo SLR and Merida’s Scultura Endurance, yet lower than the equivalent-sized Cervélo Caledonia.
The wheelbase is longer than most endurance bikes at 1,039mm, but that’s to be expected when a bike can take up to a 700 x 45c tyre.
A long wheelbase also aids stability, but Vitus has been keen to keep the Venon’s handling quick. This is achieved by using a fork with a 50mm offset.
Combined with the 30c tyre and 72.5-degree head angle, this gives a 56mm trail figure. Yet the trail can lengthen to over 60mm with 45c gravel tyres fitted, which adds real off-road-oriented stability.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.6||74.2||73.8||73.4||73||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||70.7||71.1||71.5||72.1||72.5||72.7|
|Seat tube (mm)||460||480||500||520||540||560|
|Top tube (mm)||515.1||531.4||551.2||570.9||588.8||604.6|
|Head tube (mm)||102.18||120.02||142.7||168.18||187.02||206.11|
|Fork offset (mm)||50||50||50||50||50||50|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||71||70||70||70||70||70|
|Crank length (mm)||165||170||172.5||172.5||175||175|
|Stem length (mm)||80-90||90-100||100-110||110-120||120-130||130 Max|
Vitus Venon Evo RS Aero Force AXS build
The Venon Evo RS gets an impressive parts package for the price.
A SRAM Force eTap AXS drivetrain combines a 46/33-tooth crankset with a 10-33-tooth cassette.
It’s a great spread of gears for an endurance bike, and I like the inclusion of a Prime chain guide at the front – the added bit of chain retention security (also thanks to the Orbit fluid damper in the rear derailleur) brings plenty of confidence when the going gets rough.
Up front, FSA’s SMR stem routes both hydraulic brake hoses internally down through the Venon Evos head tube.
The stem clamps Prime’s Primavera Carbon Aero bar. This combines a deep aero-profiled top section and mid-compact drop.
At the rear is Prime’s carbon aero seatpost, topped with a titanium-railed Vitus-branded saddle.
The Venon Evo runs on Prime’s Primavera 44 wheelset. This 44mm-deep aero wheelset comprises a hookless carbon rim with a generous 23mm internal width.
The rims are laced with 24 DT Swiss Aerolite spokes per wheel onto Prime’s own hubs.
The rear freehub has a dual-sprung star ratchet engagement, similar in design to that you’ll find on DT Swiss hubs. It provides 36 points of engagement, translating to a quick 10-degree pick-up when you start to pedal.
At 1,530g a pair, including valves and tape, the Primaveras are competitively light too.
The wheels are wrapped in Michelin’s tanwall Power Cup 28c tyres, which plump up on the 23mm-wide rim to 30.9mm (measured).
At £4,699 with a specification that really needs no upgrades, the Venon Evo RS Aero is good value. It combines excellent carbon wheels, top-quality road bike tyres, a carbon finishing kit and a superb drivetrain.
It also outclasses its similarly priced Bike of the Year rivals. The Cervélo Caledonia is £500 more and comes with a lower-tier groupset and alloy wheels.
Meanwhile, the Merida Scultura Endurance is £3,400, but has a SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset and alloy wheels. Wilier’s Granturismo SLR is the closest match in terms of specification, but at £8,630 is getting on for twice the price.
If you prefer Shimano drivetrains, it’s also worth noting the same bike can be specced with Ultegra Di2 R8100 for exactly the same price. Or you can have the same specification but with a drivetrain step down to Rival eTap AXS (£3,999.99) or 105 Di2 R7100 (£3899.99). In either of those guises, it could be a bargain.
Vitus Venon Evo RS Aero Force AXS ride impressions
The Venon Evo’s ride is everything a modern endurance road bike should be, with a ride position that’s pitched perfectly between delivering speed and comfort.
The reach, at 403.3mm, is longer than all of its Bike of the Year endurance bike category rivals.
When built up in Vitus’ standard specification (with a 120mm stem), it has a superb ride position. I could make myself low and fast in the drops and on the hoods, but could switch up onto the textured tops of the bar and enjoy a great position for putting in long, steady efforts.
The Venon is a superb climbing companion too. The light, stiff wheels respond quickly with their fast-acting freehub.
This combines with a taut feel from the frame and fork, making the Venon feel especially efficient, be it for out-of-the-saddle efforts, or sitting in and turning circles on longer climbs.
When the road heads downhill and gets twisty, the Venon’s finely judged handling reveals itself, It blends sure-footed stability with quick reactions and is perfect for big, fast road rides.
Drop into a corner and the Venon feels as though it runs on rails. Head for the apex and it stays on course without a hint of drift or understeering.
The SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset performs brilliantly, with rapid shifts and silent control of the chain, no matter how rough the ground gets.
My test bike features the pre-2023 iteration of Force, but the 2023 update will trickle through onto the Force models in due course. This means you should get a slight drop in weight and improved front shifts, along with improved shifter hood and lever ergonomics.
The Michelin tyres have impressed in both wet and dry conditions, with the supple carcass providing both grip and comfort in spades.
The tubeless setup, combined with the frame’s compliance, makes for a ride that – like its handling – hits the sweet spot between stiffness and comfort. It’s nigh-on perfect for poor road surfaces.
My only quibble comfort-wise is the Vitus Performance saddle. It’s reasonably well-shaped, long, narrow and comes with a relief channel.
I was fine with it, but never felt as at home as I do on shorter road bike saddles such as the Fizik Argo Adaptive on the Wilier Granturismo SLR, or Merida’s own model fitted to the Scultura Endurance.
I rode the Venon Evo with Prime’s short saddle a few months ago and it felt like a better fit for this style of bike. Saddles are a personal choice, however, and because the only thing I could really find fault with was the saddle, it shows the Venon Evo RS Aero to be one seriously impressive bike.
How does the Vitus Venon Evo perform as a gravel bike?
I’ve loved the Venon Evo in road-going trim, but how does it perform as a gravel bike?
I’ve also been testing the Vitus Venon Evo GR Rival AXS build, with 40c Michelin Power Gravel tyres and a SRAM Rival XPLR AXS groupset, with a 1x drivetrain which combines a 40t chainring with a 10-44t cassette.
While I haven’t got enough miles under my belt to file a full review just yet, it has given some early insight into the Venon’s all-round potential.
The sharpness of the frame and fork hasn’t been diluted by running fat tyres, and the Evo chassis still responds with an immediacy that never fails to impress.
That said, on the roads that take me to the trailhead of one of my favourite local gravel loops, the studded tread of the Michelin tyres does rob the bike of a fair amount of efficiency, as well as a little vagueness in the corners.
It’s worth it when you hit the dirt, though. The stiffness that’s so welcome when you want to get the power down doesn’t translate into a harsh ride.
In fact, the frame compliance that impressed me on the road makes for a beautifully balanced ride when combined with big-volume tyres.
As this is a gravel build derived from what is ostensibly a road bike, the Venon Evo is at its best on wide-open, ungraded dirt and gravel roads rather than farmland-rutted doubletrack or choppy, twisty singletrack.
That I expected, but what I didn’t expect was just how competitive it feels against the latest wave of race-optimised gravel bikes, such as the BMC Kauis, Factor Ostro Gravel, Scott Addict Gravel and Specialized S-Works Crux.
Look out for my full review of the Vitus Venon Evo GR Rival AXS in the not-too-distant future.
Vitus Venon Evo RS Aero Force AXS bottom line
Back to the road-going Venon Evo and the handling, in tandem with the balance of comfort and stiffness, make it practically perfect for purpose.
It’s seriously fun and fast, yet forgiving – if that’s not the definition of what a modern endurance bike should be, then I don’t know what is.
The Venon also has a great turn of speed married to its all-round potential.
Because you won’t need to upgrade it, and it undercuts practically all of its rivals on price for the given specification, the Venon Evo RS Aero is an outstanding bike.
Endurance Bike of the Year 2023 | How we tested
Each of the bikes selected for our Bike of the Year 2023 endurance category was first given a high-tempo two-and-a-half-hour ride to see if any adjustments needed to be made.
The meat of the testing took place over an 82-mile/132km route.
It was then a case of riding the bikes back-to-back and eliminating them one by one until I was left with the best of the bunch.
My decision reflects each bike’s balance, how well it handles, how it’s equipped and, most importantly, how much fun it is to ride.
For the endurance bike testing alone, I notched up in excess of 1,200 miles/1,931km.
Our Endurance Bike of the Year contenders
- Wilier Granturismo SLR UDi2
- Rondo RATT CF2
- Vitus Venon Evo Force AXS
- Cervélo Caledonia Rival
- Merida Scultura Endurance
|Price||br_price, 5, 3, Price, AUD $8000.00EUR €4899.00GBP £4699.00USD $4699.00|
|Weight||br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 8.19kg (XL), Array, kg|
|Brand||br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Vitus|
|Available sizes||br_availableSizes, 11, 0, Available sizes, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL|
|Bottom bracket||br_bottomBracket, 11, 0, Bottom bracket, Sram DUB BB386 evo|
|Brakes||br_brakes, 11, 0, Brakes, SRAM Force hydraulic disc with 160mm front and 140mm rear Sram Paceline rotors|
|Cassette||br_cassette, 11, 0, Cassette, SRAM XG 1270 D1 10-33 12 speed|
|Chain||br_chain, 11, 0, Chain, SRAM Force flat top 12 speed|
|Cranks||br_cranks, 11, 0, Cranks, SRAM Force DUB 46/33|
|Fork||br_fork, 11, 0, Fork, Full carbon|
|Frame||br_frame, 11, 0, Frame, Carbon|
|Front derailleur||br_frontDerailleur, 11, 0, Front derailleur, SRAM Force AXS braze on|
|Handlebar||br_handlebar, 11, 0, Handlebar, Prime Primavera Aero carbon 44cm|
|Headset||br_headset, 11, 0, Headset, FSA/Vitus ACR|
|Rear derailleur||br_rearDerailleur, 11, 0, Rear derailleur, SRAM Force AXS short cage|
|Saddle||br_saddle, 11, 0, Saddle, Vitus Race Performance CRN-Ti rail|
|Seatpost||br_seatpost, 11, 0, Seatpost, Prime Carbon 27.2mm dia, 10mm offset, 350mm|
|Shifter||br_shifter, 11, 0, Shifter, SRAM Force AXS|
|Stem||br_stem, 11, 0, Stem, FSA SMR 120mm|
|Tyres||br_tyres, 11, 0, Tyres, Michelin Power Cup Classic TS TLR 28c|
|Wheels||br_wheels, 11, 0, Wheels, Prime’s Primavera 44 wheelset|