A quality machine with nice ride and good mechanicals
Not too upright
Quality spec with full 105 groupset
Non-hydraulic disc brakes
Uninspiring paint job
By Paul Norman
Originally a French cycle manufacturer, Vitus was responsible for the bikes ridden, amongst others, by Sean Kelly in the 1970s and 80s. But it’s developed quite a range of bikes across different disciplines since it was bought by Chain Reaction Cycles and relaunched in 2011.
The three bike carbon framed Venon range is designed for endurance riders, with the Ultegra spec VR sitting at the top of the range and a 105-spec women’s version sold alongside the men’s bike which we’ve tested. There are also aluminium bikes in Vitus’s road line-up as well as the Vitesse Evo ridden by the An Post-Chain Reaction pro team, which we’ve previously reviewed.
Although it’s billed as an endurance machine, the Venon isn’t as high at the front as some, with a relatively low 54cm stack and shortish 14cm headtube. So the riding position isn’t too upright. The frame and fork are both high modulus carbon, leading to a 9kg overall weight – not too bad but no lightweight either.
Vitus also uses thru-axles to handle the braking forces from the disc brakes and help with consistent disc alignment. It’s hedged its bets though, selling a conversion kit to change the rear end from 142mm thru-axle to 135mm quick release.
The frame takes a conventional BSA threaded bottom bracket, which should help with maintenance, while the cables are routed internally for a clean look.
The Venon Disc comes with a complete Shimano 105 groupset, including the chainset – an item which is often swapped out for a lower spec model. Although there’s a hydraulic disc 105 groupset available, Vitus sticks with mechanical braking, provided by TRP Spyre units. They’re one of the best cable-operated disc brakes though and the mechanical 105 calipers are more sightly and comfortable than the chunky hydraulic units.
The Fulcrum Racing Sport Disc wheels are relatively basic, with non-butted straight pull spokes and free bearings in the hubs. This should make them durable and easy to service though.
The Venon Disc doesn’t feel like many endurance machines, which can be quite upright and plush. It’s much more like riding a race-oriented bike, with a low position. Despite this, it’s comfortable for the long haul. The good quality Continental Grand Sport Race tyres in 25mm width probable help here. Coupled to the frame’s vibration absorbing qualities, they’re pliant enough to soak up road buzz and I never felt jolted around on rougher surfaces.
The gear range from the compact chainset and 11-28 cassette is fine for most riding conditions. I was able to winch myself into the Surrey Hills up the double arrow Winterfold Lane, although a wider range cassette would definitely have helped here. Going down the other side, the TRP Spyre brakes felt confident and I really didn’t feel the lack of hydraulics. In the dry conditions in which I tested the bike, the tyres never showed any sign of losing grip either.
The own-brand bars are a bit of an enigma though. Although oversized, they taper straight from the stem, so that the tops are quite narrow. They’re fine once you get used to them, but a wider section to the tops would make them more comfortable. Vitus’s own-brand saddle is nicely shaped and well padded. Coupled with the carbon seatpost it soaks up the miles well.
For £1350, the Venon Disc’s spec is right on the money. It’s good to see a full 105 groupset, including the chainset. The rest of the components are good quality and the frameset is well designed for comfortable longer rides. But increasingly disc braked bikes at this price are coming with hydraulic calipers, which do provide stronger and more precise braking than mechanicals.
If you’re after a comfortable machine for longer rides and sportives, which doesn’t compromise too much on position, the Venon Disc is a good contender. Its frame is well designed to deal with uneven surfaces while the quality spec means that there’s little need for upgrades.
Vitus seems to have spent money where it makes a difference: the high modulus frame has plenty of compliance, the carbon seatpost is a quality touch and the own-brand components are well designed. Wheels and tyres are robust, while the 105 groupset should ensure sweet shifting for miles.
At 9kg overall weight, the Venon is not a lightweight. Probably a significant proportion of this is in the wheels. As is often the case, a wheel upgrade is likely to pay dividends in increased responsiveness and lighter overall weight.
So the Venon Disc is a good long term companion which won’t break the bank - and it's currently discounted below £1000 on Chain Reaction's website. But I did find the matt beige, black and orange colour scheme a bit uninspiring.
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