The usual £1,000 road bike in 2020 comes with an aluminium frame, carbon fork and part or all of a Shimano 105 groupset. There are a few in our top ten – the £800 Carrera, and £1,000 Boardman and Ribble – that manage carbon frames by dropping down to Shimano’s 10-speed Tiagra with rim brakes. So, step forward and take a bow Vitus!
Bike of the Year 2020
The Vitus Zenium Road is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.
Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.
This really is a step-change for a £1,000 bike. It may not be a high-end or super-exotic carbon but the standard-modulus carbon-fibre frame is manufactured by Toray – one of the biggest names in the world when it comes to the material – and it has all of the features cyclists have come to expect on more expensive disc-braked carbon bikes.
The gear cables and rear brake cables are routed through a port in the down tube with the rear derailleur cable piped through the driveside chainstay.
The gear cables and rear brake cables run neatly through a port in the down tube.
It’s all very neatly done, which is true of just about every aspect of the subtly styled two-tone grey Vitus Zenium Road.
The carbon frame is paired with a full-carbon tapered steerer, the left leg housing the gear cable.
The frame follows all of today’s familiar design cues; a large diameter down tube, a flattish top-tube that flattens further along its length and dropped slimline seatstays, designed to deliver comfort, stiffness and comfort again.
Thru-axles are always welcome on a bike with disc brakes, helping to maximise stiffness and improve braking quality – and these even come with removable levers for ‘greater aerodynamics’ and ‘lower weight’.
The Vitus Zenium has a Shimano Tiagra drivetrain.
Talk about ‘marginal’ gains! Losing a few grams on a 9.37kg bike and the simultaneous aero benefit would make so little difference I reckon it would take a super-computer to determine the difference.
That said, my comment is on the cheeky side because it’s fantastic to see both thru-axles and the neat removable levers on a bike at this price.
Vitus Zenium Road tech
Other tech choices that are great to see are wider tyres than on most of the top 10 bikes and a very good range of gears – both of which are genuine benefits for most of us.
The 34×32 bottom gear doesn’t quite equal a 34×34 for being able to stay in the saddle on steep climbs, but I much prefer it to the Boardman SLR 8.9c’s 34×28 bottom gear.
28mm tan wall Vee Road Runner tyres.
Frankly, unless you’re racing or particularly strong, having access to a lower bottom gear is always welcome. You’ve still got the same 50×34 crank-up-the-sprint gear and the only downside is the bigger jumps between gears, which I rarely notice.
That most of us would be better off riding with wider tyres is equally true. The difference between 25mm and 28mm might not sound much, but it represents a considerable increase in the volume of air between you and the road, and virtually no loss of performance – and wider tyres can also be run at lower pressures for even more cushioning.
TRP Spyre disc brakes with 160mm rotors.
The Vee Road Runner tyres themselves look great with their tan sidewalls, nicely complementing the frameset. They’re grippy and they have an Aramid (Kevlar-like) puncture-protection belt.
Vitus Zenium Road ride impressions
You do need the width and the suppleness of the 28mm tyres because the Vitus has a pretty firm ride, presumably the extra strength required to incorporate the disc brakes has upped the stiffness proportionally.
But the combination of the tyres and contact points stops it becoming wearing even on longer rides.
The pretty short 17.5cm head tube results in a 576.3mm stack.
Compared with some of the bikes on test, the Vitus has a long endurance-friendly wheelbase, at 1,017mm, but it also has a pretty short head tube resulting in a 576.3mm stack that’s 20mm less than the Specialized Allez’s figure, while the reach figures are virtually identical.
So you’re not that stretched out and if you don’t want to go too low there are a couple of centimetres of spacers to allow you to tweak your ride.
Vitus AL6061 bar with Tiagra levers.
The metre-plus wheelbase – compared with the Allez’s 991mm – is slightly at odds with the low head-tube, but, in practice, it feels just fine.
The Zenium’s 9kg-plus weight makes it one of the heavier bikes here – a full kilo heavier than the Canyon Endurace, for example – but that’s really only an issue on steeper hills.
And with its gear range you can either spin or crank up inclines, both work, with the confidence that the brakes will help you on the descent.
Yes, it may ‘only’ be TRP’s cable-actuated discs but they’re progressive and strong enough even if they require more effort than hydraulics on your part.
They’re also more consistent in the wet than rim brakes and don’t rub the wheel rims down to the inner tube.
The Vitus Zenium has a 10-speed Shimano Tiagra drivetrain.
The levers, drivetrain and derailleurs are all 10-speed Tiagra, which isn’t that far removed from Shimano’s 11-speed 105 – especially if you cut your cycling teeth on 7-speed Suntour – and worked pretty much as well as its more exalted big brother.
One final positive is that Vitus has managed to keep the costs down while making the Zenium Disc in six sizes for riders from 160cm / 5ft 3in to 193cm / 6ft 4in, which should cover most of us.
Vitus Zenium Road bottom line
Overall, it’s very hard to fault Vitus’s Zenium Road. The ride may be a little firmer than the Boardman and Ribble’s £1,000 carbon bikes, but only marginally.
And the 300g of extra weight it’s carrying over those is neither here nor there when it comes to performance.
Tiagra is just fine and dandy, and Vitus’s achievement in getting out a disc-braked all-carbon fibre bike at this price is to be applauded.
With its longish wheelbase I’m not sure it’s quite ‘perfect’ for crits as Vitus reckons it is, but I do think it’s spot on for the speedy sportives, weekend club runs and winter training sessions it also mentions – the latter with mudguards, of course!
The Zenium has no fittings for them but there is more than enough room for aftermarket blades even with 28mm tyres.
The Zenium would also make a fine fast commuter or a bike for big days out with no other ambition but to enjoy yourself.
Vitus Zenium Road geometry
Sizes (* tested): XS, S, M, L*, XL, XX, L
Seat angle: 73 degrees
Head angle: 71.5 degrees
Seat tube: 52cm
Top tube: 56.1cm
Head tube: 17.5cm
Fork offset: 5.1cm
Bottom-bracket drop: 7cm
With thanks to…
BikeRadar would like to thank 100%, Q36.5, Lazer, Garmin and Facom for their support during our Bike of the Year test.