The Vitus Zenium CR provides a nice ride, with a carbon frame and fork and 105 hydraulics, at a price that’s good value for a bike with its spec. You’ll probably want to upgrade the wheels though.
105 groupset for 11 speeds
Wide tyres help smooth the road
105 hydraulic braking is powerful and effective
Rather lacklustre wheels
By Paul Norman
Vitus, the in-house bike brand of Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles has built up a broad range of bikes. As well as road, that includes a TT bike and a track bike, kids’ bikes and bikes for cyclocross, gravel and city use, plus an e-MTB.
>>> Buy now: Vitus Zenium CR from Wiggle for £1259.99
The road line-up includes the range topping ZX-1 Aero Disc and the Vitesse Evo, which has now gone all-disc too. Third rung down, the Zenium range is also carbon framed and disc braked, with three models. The Vitus Zenium CR has an equivalent spec women’s version, while the £1000 base Zenium comes equipped with Shimano Tiagra and mechanical disc brakes.
Vitus Zenium CR frame
The geometry of the Vitus Zenium CR is compact, so that the frame size comes up quite small for the bike’s fit. It’s a design pioneered by the Giant TCR range and helps to keep the frame weight down, while maintaining stiffness and adding compliance.
The Vitus Zenium CR has quite a short headtube for an all-rounder. Coupled with the sloping top tube, this makes for quite a sporty ride position; with the bars down low and quite a bit of seatpost on show, you can easily get a pro-looking drop from the saddle to the bars. Slam the stem and you can drop the bars a further 3cm to heighten the effect.
Although the tube profiles – except the down tube, which has a round edged rectangular cross section – are round rather than aero, the thin, dropped seat stays on the Vitus Zenium CR give the bike an aero look, while also adding compliance to the ride.
The fork is all carbon. It’s nice to see in a bike at this price point, rather than the alloy steerer/carbon leg option which is often specced. The brake interface uses the flat mount standard that has become prevalent on road bikes.
Vitus Zenium CR spec
On a bike at £1400, it’s great to see a full Shimano 105 hydraulic groupset. Bikes at this price point (and above) are now often coming with Shimano’s 10-speed Tiagra groupset and disc brakes can be mechanical rather than hydraulic to keep the price in check.
Shimano 105 gives you the full 11-speed experience and Vitus takes full advantage of this, fitting a 50/34 compact chainset along with an 11-32 cassette. That gives plenty of bottom gear range for the steeper hills you might encounter, compensating for the bike’s quite heavy weight, which is pushing 9kg.
Hydraulic disc braking is the gold standard in stopping power, even if it still contributes a significant additional chunk of weight to the bike over a rim brake spec. But that’s something that it’s almost certainly worth putting up with for the more assured and consistent braking, regardless of the weather. The ability to brake later and harder into corners more than makes up for the extra mass you need to carry up the other side of the hill.
And Shimano’s hydraulic disc brakes are excellent. The calipers include cooling fins to help avoid overheating on longer descents and the shifters, although a bit larger than the rim brake alternative, are reasonably compact and very comfortable to use.
Vitus’s own brand wheels have 32mm deep alloy rims and run on Vitus brand 12mm thru-axle hubs. They feel a bit dead weight when out riding, probably contributing at least 2kg to the 10kg overall bike weight. That makes them a bit slow to accelerate and made me a bit slow off the mark on the inevitable sprint finishes. Swapping them out for 65mm deep Giant SLR1 carbon wheels definitely spruced up the performance of the Vitus Zenium CR.
Tyres are Vittoria Zaffiro 28mm clinchers. Another benefit of the switch to disc brakes is that there’s much more clearance than on a rim braked bike, as the tyres do not need to fit in the limited space between the brake arms. Brands are increasingly fitting wider tyres: those on the Scott’s Addict Disc and Speedster Disc endurance bike ranges have ballooned out to 32mm.
Vitus says that you can push out to 30mm wide tyres on the Vitus Zenium CR. Wider tyres mean lower air pressure and a more compliant ride, soaking up the usual road imperfections. You can feel that on the Vittoria tyres. They’re not as pliable as some alternatives, but make up for that with a prominent tread pattern that should add extra all-condition grip.
Bars, stem and seatpost are all own brand alloy numbers. They’re robust and sturdy. The Vitus branded saddle is comfortable, well shaped and quite deeply padded and the bars are wrapped with soft bar tape, taking care of the two major contact points that can significantly influence ride comfort.
Riding the Vitus Zenium CR
The compact geometry and short head tube, which we talked about above, make for quite an aggressive position when out and about on the Vitus Zenium CR. That should help lower your frontal profile, making you more aero and just that bit faster when riding.
It’s an effect I felt when riding the Vitus Zenium CR, particularly when there was a bit of a headwind, when being able to tuck down low definitely made for more rapid progress.
The geometry isn’t so demanding that it is uncomfortable though and I found it easy to get into the drops on faster descents and corners, lowering my centre of gravity still further, for a fast, engaging ride.
I didn’t come back from my rides feeling beaten up by the Vitus Zenium CR either: you’re not so flat backed that the position will give you backache once you get home. And the wide tyres and long seatpost mean that you don’t get too rattled around by the road surfaces either.
There’s plenty of gear range to tackle sharper rises comfortably, while the 11th sprocket means that the jumps between gear ratios don’t leave you either straining or spinning as you shift up and down to match the gradient of the road.
So overall, the Vitus Zenium CR is a bike that will serve you well, whether you’re out for a short, fast local ride to keep up your fitness or in for the long haul on an ambitious day ride or sportive.
With a carbon frame and all-carbon fork , along with Shimano 105 hydraulic shifting and braking, the Vitus Zenium CR provides a good value package at a price at which many brands are offering Tiagra.
>>> Buy now: Vitus Zenium CR from Wiggle for £1259.99
That’s a step up that seems to have been bought by a step down in the wheels and tyres. That’s not a bad trade off though: you’re likely to want to buy some nicer wheels for your bike at some point and the supplied Vitus wheelset would serve well as a robust winter option if you do.
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