So Vitus's 2012 Decium is a great bike. At this price point it's an almost unbeatable proposition on the spec sheet, and it proves to be even more talented from the saddle. True, the Decium is not a do-it-all machine - you can't add a rack or mudguards - but anybody who wants to enjoy cycling as an athletic pastime won't be disappointed.
Shimano 105 groupset
Good FSA finishing kit
Smooth ride quality
No rack mounts
Vitus burst back on the bike scene in 2011 after being taken over by the Chain Reaction Cycles group of companies.
However, the brand already had a legendary reputation having made innovative bikes for professional racers in the 1980s, particularly finding fame under the pert posterior of Irish legend Sean Kelly.
Last year's line-up majored on value for money, but that meant there was the occasional concession. For example, the Dark Plasma VR we tested back in August 2011 was kitted out with the old 5600 version of Shimano 105.
These issues have all been rectified for 2012 and this Decium model has fully up-to-date 5700 105 kit. It also comes equipped with a fine-looking aluminium frame, a full carbon fork, a nice selection of FSA parts, and the whole range of 2012 Vitus road bikes also features an extra little detail: new brand ambassador Sean Kelly's signature sits resplendent on the top tube.
So is this the kind of bike that Kelly would ride? It certainly has a racy look about it. The head tube is shorter than a sportive-inspired machine, and the whole meeting of tubes up front gives a subtle suggestion that strength and stiffness is paramount. Less practical considerations, such as the on-trend matt black finish also indicate that this bike is a pretty serious machine.
With that in mind I was fully expecting the Decium to be an out-and-out speed demon with little quarter given to the soft-bottomed, fair-weather rider, but I was wrong.
It's actually very smooth - OK, it's not quite as comfy as machines designed purely to cosset their pilots over long distances, but it's far better than most super-stiff aluminium offerings.
The Decium's supple rear end allows it to ride over imperfections, creating relatively easy forward momentum. The pay-off is that when you finally do find the Holy Grail - a flat, smooth stretch of perfect asphalt - it might not quite match the unbridled power return of its more rigid rivals.
But in the majority of situations the ability to ride the bumps seems a fair trade in terms of efficiency - particularly as it contributes to a pleasant overall ride experience too. On the same note, while geometry and bike fit is a very personal thing, I have to say I never felt a twinge of back or neck ache while in the Decium's company.
One area where a little compromise has been made is in the selection of available gear ratios - although you've got a helpful compact chainset and the rear cassette ranges from 12 to 25 teeth.
That's fine for most people, especially on routes you know well when you can prepare for climbs. But if you're going to take on foreign challenges with significant slopes you might find yourself wishing for one of Shimano's wider-ranging options. You won't find much improvement on the 105 derailleurs, though, which shift crisply every time.
Meanwhile, that strong-looking front end isn't just for show - it really delivers in terms of control and stability. I have two small children who I'd like to see grow up, so I'm not overly keen on taking risks on the bike, but the Decium really had me believing I could push further. Thankfully, neither the bike nor I met our limits.
Know your limits
Significantly helping that was the selection of 105 parts. I'm sure 105 levers act as a psychological booster - the typical brakeset seems to feels 10 or 20 per cent better when it's teamed up with 105, Ultegra or Dura-Ace levers - but the FSA calipers didn't let the side down. Indeed, all of the FSA kit here, including the wheels, really worked well.
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