Vitus’s top-spec ZX-1 provides a fast, responsive ride. The CRI spec gives you top-notch components too, highlighted by the 50mm Prime carbon wheelset and Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset.
Quality ride and spec
Fast deep-section carbon wheels
Uncertain aero benefits from the frameset
Some tendency to catch crosswinds
By Paul Norman
It’s a name from Vitus’s past. The original Vitus ZX-1 was one of the first carbon monocoque race bikes. It came with a radical aero frame profile and was launched back in 1991.
Originally a French brand, Vitus was raced by Sean Kelly in the 1980s. In the doldrums, it was bought by Chain Reaction Cycles in 2011, with Kelly closely involved in its renaissance. Vitus bikes are now sold via Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles.
The new ZX-1 was introduced a couple of years ago and is the brand’s range-topping bike and, like the original, is also aero. It’s the bike ridden by the Vitus Pro Cycling Team, which boasts Olympic track gold medal winner Ed Clancy in its ranks.
Vitus offers the ZX-1 in four specs, with the top CRX spec at £4,600 coming with mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace and DT Swiss 48mm carbon wheels. The CRI tested here is the next spec down and comes with Ultegra Di2 and Prime 50mm deep carbon wheels. Below it in price are the £2,800 CRS with mechanical Shimano Ultegra and the same Prime carbon wheels and the £2,100 CR with Shimano 105 shifting and a Mavic Cosmic Elite wheelset.
Vitus describes the ZX-1 frameset as “aero inspired”, suggesting that it has not wind tunnel tested or simulated the frameset’s aero efficiency. Nevertheless, its truncated teardrop tube profiles should provide aerodynamic gains.
As you’d expect, there’s a wide down tube. It ends in a really large seat tube/bottom bracket shell junction, with a BB386EVO bottom bracket for wide bearing placement and pedalling efficiency. The chainstays too are very deep and chunky. This all leads to excellent power transfer from the pedals to the rear wheel. It’s paired with slim, curved seatstays that help add comfort at the saddle.
Made of a mix including Toray T700 carbon fibre, the frame boasts a UCI approval sticker to prove its race-readiness. The frame is married to a carbon fork with elongated teardrop profile blades, which again should prove aerodynamic.
There’s plenty of clearance in the frame and the fork for the fitted Schwalbe tyres, which although nominally 25mm measure 28mm across on the wide Prime rims.
The CRI spec of the Vitus ZX-1 comes with Ultegra Di2 shifting. The electronic version of Shimano’s second-tier groupset gives you polished shifting performance and the option to customise your shifting patterns to suit your style.
So it can be configured using Shimano’s E-Tube app to shift the front mech and rear mech in parallel, with the shifters just used to control up or down shifting or to trim the rear ratio in response to changing between chainrings. If that feels a bit odd, you can just use it like a normal gearset when the light touch and precise shifting, timed for specific points in your pedal stroke, lead to crisp, efficient gear changes.
Whereas the first generation of Shimano electronic groupsets had the junction box zip-tied below the stem, in the Vitus ZX-1 it’s squirrelled away neatly in the end of the bar.
Vitus fits a semi-compact 52/36 chainset, which feels well suited to the ZX-1’s race-ready format, with more higher-speed range than a 50/34 compact but not as taxing as a 53/39. And coupled to an 11-30 cassette there’s still enough range for hills as well as faster flat and downhill riding.
The Vitus ZX-1 is kitted out with 50mm deep carbon wheels from Prime – another Chain Reaction/Wiggle in-house brand. Buy them on their own and they’re priced at £900. We’ve not tested the wheels as a stand-alone piece, although there’s a new £1,250 version with CeramicSpeed bearings that we have in for review. They’re sexily wide at 19mm internal and 27.5mm external, come tubeless ready and weigh a claimed 1,580g a pair. They use thru-axles with a removable lever that you can ride without and cut down on drag.
Tyres are Schwalbe Pro One Microskin 25mm. Again tubeless ready, they’re a fast-rolling option that can be run at lower pressures. On the wide rims, they come out at around 28mm wide, so you get the grip and comfort of a wider tyre without the weight penalty.
The alloy cockpit too comes from the Prime in-house brand. There's an aero profile to the bar tops and a low-profile head tube top cap. There’s a short, angular Prologo Dimension saddle with a central cut-out, which sits atop the aero shaped carbon seatpost.
Riding the Vitus ZX-1 CRI Aero Disc
Although the ZX-1’s aero credentials might not be established by wind tunnel testing, it’s nevertheless a bike that feels fast to ride. With around 80 per cent of wind resistance typically coming from the rider not the bike, even the most highly developed frameset aerodynamics are at best going to provide marginal gains. These diminish at my less-than-pro speeds too.
But there’s a definite benefit from the Vitus ZX-1’s stiff frameset, which leads to good power delivery on the flat and in the hills. That’s not bought at the expense of comfort though, with plenty of compliance to the ride.
I’m not usually a fan of stubby saddles as there’s not the option to shift your weight around as you ride. But the Prologo Dimension saddle fitted to the Vitus ZX-1 was actually plenty comfortable for longer rides despite a wide cut-out and quite thin padding. That’s testament to the Vitus ZX-1’s vibration-absorbing lay-up and the unsupported seatpost length that can be achieved with the frame’s sloping geometry.
The fitted Prime wheels are impressive. They add to the fast feel of the bike and give you a pro look and feel. Set up tubeless and with the wide tyre stance you can drop the tyre pressure for a smoother ride over uneven road surfaces. The Schwalbe Pro One tyres roll fast and smoothly too.
There’s a bit of buffeting of the Vitus ZX-1 in gusty side winds, but it’s not enough to be unsettling or to detract from the enjoyment of your ride.
Aided by the direct sales model, Vitus bikes always provide an impressive spec for the price. That’s true of the ZX-1 CRI. Electronic shifting puts the spec in the premium range. And the high value Prime deep section carbon wheels match well to the Vitus ZX-1’s aero frameset.
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