Chain Reaction's Vitus Venon is a bit of a revelation. It's an inexpensive carbon build that is fun, stiff and surprisingly comfortable to ride over long distances. It comes with a pretty decent build kit too.
The Vitus had its inaugural ride at the Tour of Wessex which covers 107 miles with over 2000m climbing and it was raining a lot. My first choice of a titanium steed with disc brakes was now out of the equation and it fell upon the Venon to save the day.
Some entry level carbon frames can feel pretty dead and the thought of spending the best part of six hours on the Venon didn't appeal I must admit. Straight away though I noticed how easy the Venon was to ride with quick handling and a decent turn of speed. Maybe things weren't going to be quite as bad as I thought.
At the heart of the Venon is a T700 high modulus, uni-directional carbon fibre frameset with a curved top tube making for tight, compact geometry. It follows the tried and tested formula of a tapered head tube, oversized down tube and chunky chainstays for power delivery and stiffness while slimming everything else down for comfort.
The integrated headset is 1 1/8in at the top and 1.5in at the bottom to increase steering precision and that large lower bearing means a bigger surface at the bottom of the head tube to attach a bigger down tube. The fork used matches the frame material but also includes a carbon steerer, something that isn't often heard of at this price.
At the bottom bracket area Vitus have decided to stay away from press-fit systems and stick with tried and tested BSA threads. The sound you can hear is every mechanic in the country cheering.
For a bike designed for all day comfort the angles are pretty steep. The seat angle of 74.3° and head angle of 73° are more at home on a race bike rather than a sportive mile-muncher. The effective top tube of our 55cm is 551mm, with a 150mm head tube that gives a reach of 395mm and stack of 482mm.
The naked carbon with lacquered over decals gives a smart finish and the overall build quality looks pretty impressive.
Apart from an FSA Gossamer chainset the groupset is mostly Shimano's entry level 10-speed Tiagra. It's solid, reliable stuff, providing a good compromise of shifting and longevity.
The bars, stem and seatpost are all branded Vitus aluminium items which are pretty smart looking and do a decent job without really excelling. The bars are a compact style giving a shorter dimension to the drops than a more traditional set up.
The wheels are again Vitus branded with a 30mm deep semi aero rim and alloy hubs. They're pretty decent performers, with the machined braking surface getting the most out of the limited power of the Tektro brakes. They remained true throughout the test period and the bearings didn't grumble with all the wet weather they've seen. The Kenda tyres grip well and considering the number of riders fixing punctures on the Wessex, for them to get through without a single scratch is commendable.
The Venon is a very easy bike to ride for a frame with such steep angles. Things can get a bit skittish at those degrees but thanks to a slightly longer wheelbase the Vitus is sharp handling and precise with very little input, something I was very happy about when it came to descending in a group on wet roads.
Initial acceleration isn't the sharpest due to the heavyish wheels and an all up weight of 9.0kg (19.8lb) but once it's up and rolling it maintains speed well. When you hit a climb the 12-28 cassette certainly makes things easier. Paired with the 50/34 chainset it allows you to stay in the saddle spinning it out.
The Tiagra groupset performs pretty well and while it's not quite as snappy a shift as 105 you can still feel what's going on and there were very few missed shifts. Hopefully Shimano will eventually get round to running the cables under the bar tape as it does look so much cleaner and tidier.
Braking performance was acceptable from the Tektro R315 dual pivots but they lack serious bite and there is very little in the way of modulation. On the upside, the pads did perform better than expected in the wet.
Comfort was the biggest surprise from the Venon considering how stiff the frame feels but it really is quite a cosseting ride. Century rides were finished with barely any fatigue in the arms or hands and the stock Vitus saddle provided plenty of padding.
On the whole the Venon is much greater than the sum of its parts. While a quick look at the spec sheet might not show anything out of the ordinary for a bike of this price the ride is much more engaging than you would expect. It's ripe for upgrading too as the range-topping VRS uses the same frame with Ultegra 11-speed and Easton 70 wheels for £450 more.
The Venon is a smart looking bike too. The fact that Vitus have gone for a tapered headtube and a full carbon steerer means your money is in the frame. This isn't a bike where they've taken something a little less technically sophisticated and draped it in shiny kit.
Chain Reaction is currently selling the Venon for £759.99 and at that price it's an amazing bargain.
Surprisingly comfortable mile muncher with a solid frame and finishing kit
road.cc test report
Make and model: Vitus Venon
Size tested: 55
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame - High-Modulus T700 HM-UD Carbon
Forks - High-Modulus T700 HM-UD Carbon With Tapered Carbon Steerer
Wheelset - Vitus Alloy Road
Hubs - Alloy
Tyres - Kenda, 700 x 25c
Brakes - Tektro R315 Dual Pivot
Chainset - FSA Omega, 50t x 34t
Bottom Bracket - FSA MegaExo (BSA)
Chain - KMC X10, 10-Speed
Cassette - Shimano Tiagra 4600, 12t-28t, 10-Speed
Rear Derailleur - Shimano Tiagra 4600
Front Derailleur - Shimano Tiagra 4600
Shifters - Shimano Tiagra 4600
Handlebars - Vitus Elite Compact, 6061 Double Butted Alloy
Stem - Vitus Elite, 3D Forged 6061-T6 Aluminium , +/-7 Degree Rise
Handlebar Tape - Cork cushion
Headset - Token A83M Integrated, 1.1/8' – 1.5'
Saddle - Vitus
Seatpost - Vitus Alloy, 6061-T6, 15mm Offset, 31.6mm x 350mm
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Vitus describe the Venon as a bit of an all rounder but focussing more on the long distance. Thats exactly how I found it with long distance comfort very high on the list of its attributes.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The carbon and black/red graphics work well together to create a smart looking frame and it looks very well put together. There weren't any defects noticed or creaks while riding.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
HM T700 UD carbon fibre used in both the frame and fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry can be found here: http://www.vitusbikes.com/road-bikes-2014/venon-2014#geometry
As you'll see it has very steep angles for such a long distance orientated frame.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach set up was bang on for a 55cm top tubed frame. I found it very comfortable for its first ride which was a 6.5 hour epic.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Much more comfortable than expected. It felt very stiff but ironed out the bumps very well.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness at both the bottom bracket and head tube was very noticeble and the Venon responded well to sprinting and descending.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Pretty good, the large bottom bracket area showed no flex.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Only when I stuck a pair of Race-guards on.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling was pretty stable and while not uber exciting it wasn't hard work when I was tired.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The Vitus saddle provided a decent level of comfort and the bar tape was good at soaking up road buzz.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The bars were stiff as is the FSA chainset.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels were a little on the sluggish side to get moving as were the tyres.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Shimano's Tiagra is relatively cheap and cheerful but works well. That 12/28 cassette was a boon in the hills.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The wheels stayed true and strong throughout the test period and while heavy they keep rolling once they are moving. Kenda tyres are a little stodgy but puncture resistance was very good.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Basic alloy stuff as you'd expect at this price point but will do the job until you fancy upgrading.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
I usually ride: Whatever needs testing or Genesis Flyer, fixed of course! My best bike is: Kinesis T2 with full Centaur Red
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,