We put the Specialized S-Works Venge, the race bike of Peter Sagan, through its paces
The Specialized S-Works Venge was one of our most hotly anticipated bike launches of 2018, and it didn’t disappoint.
Devilishly good looks, supreme handling and a feather weight on the scales, Specialised has done it again, creating one of the most desired bikes on the market: the Venge had to be on our Editor’s Choice list this year.
In my opinion, the Specialized S-Works Venge might be the best looking aero bike out there, but that could be because it looks so much like the Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc.
It was a relief when Specialized revealed the bike and it looked so much different to the Venge Vias. Admittedly, all those complex frame shapes made the old bike fast but it also made it heavy, and, in my opinion, compromised the ride quality and handling of the bike.
You’d be forgiven for seeing the new Venge as an aerodynamic update to the S-Works Tarmac, and there’s no denying the two look very similar. However, the Venge has more exaggerated dropped seat stays as well as a more angular head tube and down tube intersection.
The S-Works Venge’s tubing is also slightly bigger and more square than the Tarmac’s, no doubt because it’s more of an aero dynamic shape. It has a v-shaped seat tube and seat post, commonly adopted as the most aerodynamic shapes available to bike manufacturers.
With just enough road feel coming through the wheels and frame, the Venge rides a lot like the S-Works Tarmac. It offers a numbed ride, one that’s a lot less harsh than a lot of aero bikes i’ve ridden and it’s potentially a smoother ride than the Tarmac; although there’s not much in it and it might just be down to the Specialized Power saddle on the Venge – it’s one of my favourites.
Compared to the previous Venge Vias, I found the updated model to have a far improved ride quality. Some minor geometry changes have made it a superb handling bike. It shares the same stack and reach as the Tarmac, a bike renowned for being a fast handler. On long flowing descents in the Austrian mountains it was very fast and inherently confidence inspiring. It had a feeling of stability that delayed you reaching for the brakes and encouraged you to lean the bike past the limit of your bravery – leaving an enormous grin on your face.
Back at home, on the short, steep descents the assuredness is still there, still leaving you feeling in control. In both situations, the bike’s handling is improved by the use of Shimano Dura-Ace disc brakes. The modulation allows you to scrub off the perfect amount of speed for sweeping bends while the stopping power is immediate for hard braking.
Much like the Cannondale SystemSix, the Specialized S-Works Venge was fast on shallow climbs and rolling hills because it was able to maintain its rolling speed thanks to its stiff frame and deep 64mm wheels. However, on steep or long climbs, the Venge takes the crown of best climbing aero bike that i’ve used thanks to its staggering 6.9kg weight – that’s almost a kilo lighter than the SystemSix.
The S-Works Venge frame is hydraulic braking only, which is the same as a lot of new bikes released this year. What’s different is that the frame is only compatible with electronic drive chains, which elevates the Venge to a level of unattainability for a lot of riders. It’s just one piece of the puzzle that gives the bike its £9,500 price tag.
The Venge also uses a new Aerofly 2 bar, which is a far cry from the original, seagull shaped cockpit setup of the Venge Vias. It also comes with a new stem (modelled on the Zipp SL Sprint) that gives the bike a far more aesthetically pleasing look. It has a gentle forward sweep which helps pull you into a more aerodynamic position, but also the bend provides a very comfortable hand rest for climbing or when you’re just spinning.
As you’d expect, all the cables run internally, but there’s the frustrating omission of split spacers, meaning you have to de-couple the hoses if you want to change your stack height. Fortunately you won’t have to cut the steerer height if you don’t want to; it’s possible to stack normal spacers above the stem.
The bike retails with the Specialized power cranks, another item that pushes up the retail price. It’s a good power meter though, and in my experience I’ve had next to no issues or dropouts when running it.
It’s clear that the Tarmac and Venge share a DNA, fortunately it’s one that makes the Specialized S-Works Venge a bike that is this good to ride.
The Specialized S-Works Venge is an aero bike without compromise, it's light with a comfortable ride quality and addictive handling