While disc brakes are making massive inroads on bikes above the £1,000 /$1,000 mark, they are still less common when you’re spending below this amount on a road bike. I suspect that one of the reasons for this is that it’s hard to kit out a drop-barred machine with hydraulic disc brakes at this price, which is why the Vitus Zenium Disc Road has TRP’s Spyre cable-actuated disc brakes.
- The Vitus Zenium Disc Road is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
Does this mean that you should disregard it and wait for trickle-down economics to bring hydraulic disc brakes to bikes at more everyday prices? Not necessarily, as this Vitus has a hell of a lot going for it and it might well appeal to a wide range of riders.
A lot of this is down to the Zenium Disc’s very attractive price. The Vitus name is a storied one, with echoes of the great Irish rider Sean Kelly powering away from the peloton on his Vitus 979, with its small diameter aluminium tubes that were bonded into lightweight lugs. Surprisingly this unorthodox technology worked.
The 21st century Vitus is part of the Wiggle/Chain Reaction empire, and its massive buying power allows it to hit the sort of prices that most other brands, online or otherwise, can only dream of. And this being 2018, there are no lugs and no such skinny aluminium shenanigans going on. Slimline and glued aluminium tubes? Just the thought of it makes me shudder…
The Vitus Zenium Disc’s much larger diameter 6061 tubes are welded in the modern manner, with no attempt made to smooth them. That said, I reckon the two-tone Zenium looks brighter, better and shinier in the flesh than its images suggest and where it can look somewhat muted.
Further up-to-date features include thru-axles on the frame and carbon fork. These deliver a greater integration between the bike and brakes for more accurate braking. The rear has a 140mm diameter rotor and the front, where most of your stopping power and control is required, has a 160mm rotor.
Vitus Zenium Disc Road brakes
Okay, so the brakes themselves may ‘only’ be cable-actuated rather than hydraulic, but these come with many of the same advantages of hydraulic disc brakes. Cable actuation is exactly what it sounds like — you pull the Shimano Tiagra brake lever, which pulls a metal cable, which applies braking force on a metal rotor, which can get hot with prolonged braking.
The main benefits of disc brakes are often given as more powerful and better controlled braking, and while that is true, many rim brakes already have more than enough power.
But what discs also offer, and which is as important — or possibly more important — is more consistent braking, regardless of the weather, and regardless of rim material or indeed how true the rim is.
Say you’re commuting to work and your rim gets knocked out of true. If you’re on rim brakes your stopping power is much diminished and your safety compromised. On disc brakes? No loss of braking power. Oh, and your rims aren’t being ground down on a daily basis by a combination of rubber blocks and road crud, so they should have a much-improved lifespan.
The TRP Spyres are among the best mechanical disc brakes out there too, and wet or dry it’s all the same to them.
Vitus Zenium Disc Road ride impressions
The Vitus may not quite match other bikes at this price for all-out acceleration, and it’s carrying a small amount of extra weight, but the Zenium Disc scores very well for comfort, versatility and a more-than-decent performance. The compact frame, 27.2mm seatpost and reasonably slim seatstays pair well with the 28mm Continental Ultra Sport II tyres for excellent comfort through the saddle, while these are combined with some surprisingly racy geometry for a big-tyred bike.
There are low stack figures and reasonably short head-tubes throughout the six-bike range, which is backed up by some lively handling too. This verging-on-racy ride is supported by the high Tiagra gearing, which pairs a 52/36 chainset with an 11-28 cassette. I’d have personally gone for 50/34 and 11-32 for more help on challenging climbs.
The fact that the Zenium comes with cleverly concealed mudguard tabs suggests that commuting, group rides and winter training are within its remit, where a lower bottom gear might also prove advantageous. After all, the top gear is a massive, Sean Kelly-friendly 121in that the rest of us are incredibly unlikely to spin out on.
But that’s just about my only criticism on a bike that successfully brings together several disparate elements that could be hard to manage. Quite racy geometry? Yep. Tyres that are 28mm wide? Ditto. Very good levels of comfort? Another thumbs up. The result is a bike that while lacking top-end speed will make a very fine year-round trainer, all-rounder and slick commuter that’ll cope with the roughest roads with plushness and aplomb.
I’d be very surprised if our top £1,000 road bikes next year don’t have a greater representation of disc brakes.