Vitus are a legendary French brand revived in recent years by online giants Chain Reaction Cycles. The direct sales route means masses of value for money can be offered compared to bikes available on the high street.
Take the Vitesse. Its revised 2013 frameset has shed a fair few grams, now tipping the scales below the kilo mark. It’s paired to a light, all-carbon fork and both are approved by the UCI for racing – not surprising, as they’ll see service underneath riders in the An Post-Chain Reaction Cycles-Sean Kelly team.
Frame & equipment: Racy frame with great value spec
The geometry and dimensions reflect the racing intentions of the Vitesse. Parallel 73-degree angles, a short 155mm head tube and short sub-metre wheelbase are all features we’d expect.
Up front, the head tube is standard and non-tapered, and at the heart of the bike Vitus have forgone the latest press-fit or oversized BB designs, instead favouring a 68mm BSA. Keeping things simple suits the bike’s racing intentions, spares will always be easy to find and using such broad standards means plenty of choice too.
The component selection is a mix-and-match affair. Using Ultegra for the mechs and shifters ensures smooth shifting even with a 105 chain and 11-25T cassette. FSA provide the chainset in the form of a 50/34 Energy Compact. In the scheme of things it’s a long way below Ultegra, but the quality machined rings offer smooth shifting.
FSA also taking car of the stopping power with their Gossamer brakes. These are decent quality units that follow the same design as FSA’s top K-Force performers. Sadly, though, they’re let down by hard, waxy non-cartridge pads. Dry weather performance is adequate but in the wet much more lever force is required to significantly slow the bike, making it hard to avoid an inevitable skid when grabbing fistfuls of lever.
In the cockpit, FSA’s basic but good OS-150 stem and Wing compact bar is a great combo. The super comfortable wing-shaped top is brilliant, with the shallow but cleverly shaped compact drop encouraging speed.
The Vitesse is running on one of the best wheel packages in the whole Bike of the Year test. It combines the solid, stiff, super-tough yet light Mavic Ksyrium Equipes with Schwalbe’s peerless Ultremo ZX tyres. This pairing keeps the Vitus light where you want it to be, making rapid progress easy.
The excellent Prologo Scratch Pro saddle finishes things off; its colour scheme adding a touch of class. Despite the Scratch’s comfort, however, it sits on a basic aluminium seatpost. Combined with the Vitesse’s stiff, race-ready chassis, it doesn’t add up to the most compliant of bikes.
Ride & handling: How much comfort are you willing to sacrifice?
We love the Vitesse’s snappy handling and positive turn of speed. Both features are offset and outweighed by the noise chattering through the frame, though.
At the front, the comfortably shaped bar and compliant fork stop any issues with hand numbness. At the back and through the seat of your pants, however, the buzz is constant.
A bike destined for the cut and thrust of racing is going to be stood above far more than sat on, but we never felt comfortable seated over long distances on the Vitus.
Most of that’s down to the stiff, oversized 31.6mm seatpost. It’s a bike crying out for a carbon upgrade. We’d recommend one of the latest comfort posts from Canyon, Storck or Syntace. In its present form, the post is one for the hardcore racer, which is a shame on an otherwise well-priced bike with great spec and sharp handling.
This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2013 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 273, on sale Friday 1 March and available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.