Specialized S-Works Venge first ride review£9,500.00

Feels more like a standard (high-end) race bike than an aero bike

Yes, the Specialized S-Works Venge is fast — with less aero drag and weight than the previous model — but what really makes it cool is the balance of all-out aero with rider-friendly details like an easily adjustable cockpit and a stock power meter.

I had the chance to take the bike for a spin in California, and here are my thoughts.

Specialized S-Works Venge highlights

  • Hydraulic/electric only, with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9170
  • 960g frame that is claimed to be more aero than previous Venge
  • Adjustable aero bar 
  • Di2 port integrated into the seatpost
  • Left/right power meter included
  • Roval CLX 64 wheels with CeramicSpeed bearings
  • Specialized S-Works Power saddle
  • 26mm Turbo Cotton clinchers

The 2019 Specialized S-Works Venge is a hydraulic/Di2-only affair
The 2019 Specialized S-Works Venge is a hydraulic/Di2-only affair

Optimized for aero, stiffness... and real life

As you'd expect, the S-Works Venge is a fast bike. An aero frameset paired with 64mm wheels, low rolling resistance tires and an aero cockpit — at this price — darn well should be fast. On my 29-mile test ride with a few journalists and Specialized staff we notched a KOM and a few top 10s on Strava.

But what really makes a bike fast of course is you: your position and your power output. In offering easy adjustability for positioning and a power meter, Specialized gives you the tools to optimize these two key facts.

Specialized spent a lot of time engineering the frameset to perfectly balance low drag, low weight and high stiffness. The previous Venge ViAS was basically a time-trial superbike with drop bars. (For the record, I really enjoyed riding the ViAS.) This machine, by contrast, feels much more like a standard road race bike in agility and compliance. 

You won't mistake this bike for an endurance bike in terms of compliance, but it is reasonably comfortable now
You won't mistake this bike for an endurance bike in terms of compliance, but it is reasonably comfortable now

It's interesting to compare the various strategies bike brands employ for cockpits on aero bikes. On one end of the spectrum you have the ultra-aero monocoque design, like on the Scott Foil or the older Trek Madone. This is fastest in a wind tunnel. But good luck adjusting your position on that! 

On the other end you have standard stems and bars that can easily be rotated or swapped out. What many brands are doing now is trying to find a happy medium, where drag is reduced to a minimum while still letting a rider make adjustments.

Here, I think Specialized has really nailed it, with an aero but separate bar and stems that go on and off like normal components — yet with most of the aero benefits of a monocoque design thanks to tight routing underneath.

Brake hoses and Di2 wires go inside the frame, but under the stem so you can make adjustments
Brake hoses and Di2 wires go inside the frame, but under the stem so you can make adjustments

True, you probably will only just set up your cockpit once and be done with it. But with a variety of stem lengths and angles paired to an adjustable bar that comes in four widths, you can dial in your fit perfectly instead of having to just make do with how it comes. 

Note that there is no rim-brake or mechanical-shift S-Works Venge; it's disc and Di2 only.

Lighter, faster and hydro/electronic only

Scary fast

It's a dumb cliche, sure, but the S-Works Venge did indeed feel scary fast on a couple descents. I love to go downhill fast, but evidently not as much as this bike. A slippery frame, deep wheels, ceramic bearings and fast tires mixed with a steep, windy descent had me reaching for the brakes.

Roval CLX 64s sail through the wind, and the 26mm Turbo Cottons deliver a creamy (and speedy) ride
Roval CLX 64s sail through the wind, and the 26mm Turbo Cottons deliver a creamy (and speedy) ride

Geometry wise it's a Tarmac: straight ahead road-race angles and figures. I feel right at home here, steering with the hips and quickly changing lines to dodge holes and such.

Standing up and stomping on the pedals is rewarding: there is virtually no lateral give in the system from bar to rear hub.

While not as Cadillac-smooth as the Trek Madone aero bike, the new Venge is markedly less jarring in the saddle over bumps than the ViAS.

The new Venge anchors climbing efforts in a rigid chassis
The new Venge anchors climbing efforts in a rigid chassis

A complete race-bike build 

Specialized polished all the details. I believe a race bike this expensive should come with a power meter, and this one does. Ceramic bearings are the absolute best (and most expensive) for low drag, and they are used here in the bottom bracket and in the hubs.

Even small features such as the out-front computer and GoPro/light mount is metal, made by Bar Fly. Integrated mounts are common these days, but they are almost always done in cheap plastic. Not so, here. 

The metal Bar Fly out-front mount is a classy touch. More brands are offering integrated mounts, but they are nearly always plastic
The metal Bar Fly out-front mount is a classy touch. More brands are offering integrated mounts, but they are nearly always plastic

Put on pedals and cages and you are ready to toe the startling line with a complete and refined race machine.

Specialized S-Works Venge initial verdict

It's impossible to judge things like durability with one 90-minute group ride, but it was easy to enjoy the thrill of a slippery race machine on a rolling course near Specialized's headquarters.

It is easy to believe the new Venge is lighter than the ViAS by looking at it (and lifting it), but for the new frame being faster, for now we'll have to take Specialized's word for it
It is easy to believe the new Venge is lighter than the ViAS by looking at it (and lifting it), but for the new frame being faster, for now we'll have to take Specialized's word for it

Specialized hasn't released specific drag figures on the bike, only saying that it is faster than the previous Venge ViAS. So we'll have to take the company's word there.

But the 2019 Specialized S-Works Venge is clearly a hors categorie race machine, balanced not only in carbon construction for weight and drag but also in real-world riders' needs and wants of adjustability and an integrated power meter. 

Click or swipe through the gallery above for a closer look at the 2019 Specialized S-Works Venge.

The Venge flies down descents, making me happy to have disc brakes
The Venge flies down descents, making me happy to have disc brakes

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Age: 40
  • Height: 183cm / 6'
  • Weight: 82kg / 180lb
  • Waist: 84cm / 33in
  • Chest: 99cm / 39in
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team Issue, Specialized S-Works Tarmac, Priority Eight city bike... and a constant rotation of test bikes
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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