Home
Verdict: 
Very fast with excellent brakes, the Venge ViAS Disc could be a glimpse of the future...
Weight: 
7,890g
Specialized Venge ViAS Expert Disc
8 10

If you enjoy riding fast and want an aero bike but you also want the best brakes in the business, the Specialized Venge ViAS Disc could be for you. It's fast and agile, stiff and responsive, and the brakes offer excellent control to rein in the high speeds the Venge is very capable of.

Aerodynamics and disc brakes are two key developments in road cycling, but until now their individual paths haven't met. Specialized's brand new Venge ViAS Disc changes that, one of the first disc brake-equipped aero road bikes we've had the opportunity to review.

> Find your nearest dealer here

For 2017 the US company is offering three models in the UK. At £3,900, the road.cc test bike is the cheapest – albeit not cheap – in the range and comes with Shimano Ultegra mechanical gears and hydraulic disc brakes, DT wheels and Specialized's own finishing kit, including the distinctive Aerofly handlebar.

Ride and handling

Putting the divisive looks aside for a moment, what really matters is the ride, the way it handles and performs. Is it any good to ride? Yes, is the simple answer. It's a highly impressive bike. Is it fast? Yes, it's a very rapid bike – even in my hands. It holds high speeds in the way all good aero bikes do.

The Venge ViAS Disc is precise and direct, with the front end displaying a high level of stiffness, especially noticeable when you're sprinting out of the saddle. Even though it's slightly longer than the rim-braked Venge, Specialized has kept the wheelbase short (992mm) with 410mm chainstays, and this provides plenty of agility, making the Venge a very playful, nimble bike through the twists and turns of the road.

Specialized Venge Disc - riding 3.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - riding 3.jpg

It's an absolute blast on the descents, too. It's not just when you're battering into a headwind that aero bikes provide an advantage, they are quick downhill as well. The powerful but easy to modulate hydraulic disc brakes and the stiffness of the frame and fork combine to create a bike that is easy to handle at high speeds and through the turns.

While aero bikes are not designed for comfort – it's probably right near the bottom of the list of design objectives – it is remarkable just how smooth the Venge is. It's no magic carpet ride, and it's firmer than many other road race bikes, but it is surprisingly forgiving. There are occasions when it loses a bit of composure, but most of the time it's nothing but steady and planted.

Specialized Venge Disc - down tube shape.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - down tube shape.jpg

The riding position is aimed at racers, but the 170mm head tube on this 56cm bike means it's not as aggressive as other aero race bikes. While top-end Venge bikes come with the company's own negative 17-degree stem to minimise drag and provide a lower front end position, this model comes with a regular. Finding it too short and high, I swapped it for a 120mm negative rise stem, shuffled the steerer tube spacers above the stem, and managed to get a suitably racy position that felt much more in keeping with the Venge's speedy intentions.

But disc brakes on an aero road bike?

Disc brakes are gaining wider acceptance, at least among customers of new bikes if not yet professional cyclists. We've seen the rapid rise of endurance bikes with disc brakes, and on such they make a lot of sense. But adding disc brakes to an aero bike – a bike designed for all-out speed – might seem counterintuitive. And I know where you're coming from.

But that isn't the case: I found the superior braking performance gave me more confidence at the high speeds you can reach on the Venge. You can brake later into corners and you gain a bunch of extra confidence on steep descents. These are all benefits to a rider who doesn't have the luxury of closed roads, with all the hazards of junctions, errant motorists and bad road conditions to deal with. And rain. In the wet, disc brakes are simply better. Period.

Specialized Venge Disc - riding 2.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - riding 2.jpg

According to Specialized, the Venge Disc has nearly the same aero performance as the rim-brake version (watch the video below). It claims the disc bike is less than 4 seconds slower over 40km at 40kph compared with the rim-braked version, but that figure increases up to 8 seconds at higher yaw angles. Clearly, there is a bit of extra drag generated by the disc brakes, but it's marginal. Away from the wind tunnel and in the real-world, the differences are so small as to be almost impossible to detect, at least for a regular cyclist who doesn't have the power output of Mark Cavendish.

Specialized Venge Disc - rear disc.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - rear disc.jpg

At 7.8kg the Venge ViAS Disc is a respectable weight. In fact, it's one of the lightest disc brake-equipped road bikes I've tested since the 6.9kg Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc two years ago. It's clear there's a small weight penalty with the discs; despite the Venge Disc frame being a claimed 200g lighter than the rim-braked Venge, the bike on test is about 400g heavier than the similarly specced Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 6.0 I reviewed earlier this year.

Specialized Venge Disc.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc.jpg

To put that into perspective, it's about the weight of a water bottle. Not much is it? It's certainly not enough that you'll notice it. It's a willing companion up the steepest and longest climbs, but it's more at home on undulating roads with lots of punchy hills – crests, dips and rises – where it really delivers plenty of zip. You can certainly get a lighter bike for this sort of money, and if climbing speed is all you're interested in, well, you're reading the wrong bike review. Everywhere else the weight is not a factor.

On challenging terrain and a demanding course, the disc brakes certainly allow a faster overall performance in my opinion, and outweigh the small weight and drag penalty.

Frame and equipment

The Venge ViAS Disc looks very similar to the regular Venge ViAS, launched in 2015 and the first update since the original Venge in 2011, when the company first debuted an aero road bike. Specialized has been gradually increasing its offering of disc-equipped road bikes, first with the Roubaix and then, with great success, the Tarmac.

The latest Venge was apparently first developed as a disc braked bike until the UCI disc brake trial hit a few hurdles, and so Specialized developed the Venge with unique and finicky calliper rim brakes. But it put the disc brake version back into development, with a few updates, and has released it for 2017 with the full commitment of a three-model range.

Specialized Venge Disc - front disc.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - front disc.jpg

It's the same frame and fork throughout the range, made from the company's own FACT 11r carbon fibre with the Rider-First Engineered size-specific approach first debuted on the latest Tarmac. The frame looks suitably aggressive; it's a bike that clearly puts function ahead of form. I'll let you make up your own mind whether it's a looker or not.

A deep truncated aero down tube curves around the front wheel, the deep seat tube does a similar curve around the rear wheel, and the rear triangle comprises skinny tubes in a compact shape. An aero seatpost is secured in place by an internal seat clamp hidden in the top tube.

Specialized Venge Disc - seat post bolt.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - seat post bolt.jpg

What does look odd is the top of the head tube. The frame here has been designed around its own aero stem, and with that stem and aero spacers it's a smooth and flush looking part of the bike. With the stock 100mm stem and round spacers it just looks odd. It looks better with a slammed stem, but still, it's begging for a better solution.

Specialized Venge Disc - top tube detail.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - top tube detail.jpg

Unlike the S-Works Tarmac, which used post mount disc brakes and quick release axles, the Venge embraces the latest flat mount design and 12mm thru-axles front and rear, with a conventional 142mm width rear axle. All cables and brake hoses are routed inside the frame to maintain the clean lines.

Gears and wheels

Although it's the most affordable Venge Disc in the lineup, £3,900 is not cheap, but you are paying for a state-of-the-art frameset with all the development that has gone into it. The specification includes Shimano Ultegra mechanical shifters with hydraulic disc brakes, and an FSA SL-K Light carbon fibre chainset in a 52/36 configuration, paired with an 11-28t cassette. It's a groupset that works well together. The Ultegra brakes are powerful and work well out of the box, the gears are slick and reliable, and the range works well whether in the hills or in a sprint.

Specialized Venge Disc - drivetrain.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - drivetrain.jpg

The price precludes a set of deep-section aero wheels, but the DT R470 Disc Pros do have a low profile aero rim shape and provide decent performance. They're sturdy, stiff and reasonably light, with a tubeless-ready rim. But still, this bike is crying out for some deep-section wheels, both from an aesthetic and performance point of view. That's going to be a considerable upgrade purchase, though – or you could upgrade to the Venge ViAS Pro Disc (£6,000) with Ultegra Di2 and 64mm Roval carbon wheels... 

Specialized Venge Disc - rim.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - rim.jpg

Specialized fits its own 24mm S-Works Turbo tyres. They provide excellent performance, low rolling resistance and reliable traction thanks to the Gripton compound, and work equally well in the dry and wet. The BlackBelt puncture protection has worked wonders on my local rough roads covered in debris and hedge trimmings.

Cockpit combo

One of the most talked about components is the Aerofly handlebar. While the top-end models use an Aerofly ViAS bar and stem with fully internal routing, this model uses a regular stem with the gear cables and brake hoses routed externally to the frame and fork. It allows much easier fit adjustment but the external cables do increase drag.

Specialized Venge Disc - bars.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - bars.jpg

The novel shape of the bar, with a 25mm rise from the stem clamp, is intended to offer a wider range of fit options and is really designed around the negative 17-degree stem fitted to the range-topping Venge, a combination that Specialized determined to be the most aerodynamic. A flat version is also available. 

Specialized Venge Disc - head tube.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - head tube.jpg

Specialized claims the Aerofly handlebar is up to 20 seconds faster at 40kph over 40km than a regular round bar. Very impressive, but hard to verify. It's worth noting that many manufacturers have been developing aero handlebars in recent years in a quest to reduce the frontal surface area and reduce drag, and it's as important to the package as the aero frame and fork.

The Aerofly handlebar is surprisingly comfortable. I like the shape of the drops and the reach to the hoods is just right, but while the flat tops are comfortable, I found the shape a little too wide for my small hands.

Specialized Venge Disc - bar and shofter.jpg

Specialized Venge Disc - bar and shofter.jpg

Atop the carbon aero seatpost is the distinctive Power saddle. It looks like something from a time trial bike, but like the handlebar it, too, is surprisingly comfortable. It's very supportive with a generous width and pressure relieving central channel. The shape is designed to suit people who prefer a very aggressive position, and it's most comfortable when you adopt an extreme hip angle, such as riding in the drops.

Other bikes to consider

I mentioned it earlier, but if you have the money then the Venge ViAS Pro Disc (£6,000) uses the same frame and fork but gets a few significant upgrades, including the Aerofly ViAS handlebar and stem with fully internal cable routing, Roval CLX 64 wheels and an Ultegra Di2 groupset. Buy it online here

A big rival to the Venge is the new Cervélo S3 Disc. We haven't ridden it yet, but hope to soon. Cervélo has pedigree in the aero road bike game, being partly responsible for the category with the launch of its Soloist many years ago. A bike with a broadly similar build to the Venge on test will cost £4,249. Buy it online here

Another option is the Rose X-Lite CWX-8800 (£3,814.94 plus £32 shipping), from the German direct-sales brand, which because you're cutting out the dealer, offers a superior and lighter SRAM Red groupset with hydraulic disc brakes. You're also getting a pair of 44mm Rose branded carbon wheels in for the price as well. 

> Read our guide to the fastest aero road bikes 

If you want an aero bike without disc brakes, your options increase massively, but you knew that already. Just one example is the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 8.0 Di2 (£3,899), a bike with Ultegra Di2 and Reynolds Strike carbon clincher wheels, and a claimed 7.2kg weight. 

And if you really want a Trek Madone? The cheapest is the Madone 9.2 which costs £4,800 and comes with a Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset. Buy it online here

Conclusion

As I said at the start of the review, if you want aero performance with the best brakes in the business, the Specialized Venge ViAS Disc is an impressive package. It's undoubtedly quick, the handling is fast and agile yet easy to tame for a more leisurely riding pace, and the comfort is good enough to easily smash out a century ride on rough Cotswolds roads.

> The hottest disc brake-equipped road bikes

You can argue all you want that disc brakes are slow and heavy, but the truth is that, in Specialized's testing and my own real-world testing, there's very little to distinguish between this and a regular aero road bike. It's fast, very fast, and the disc brakes provide a whole load of extra control, producing a very complete and compelling package.

It won't be for everyone, but if a fast bike with solid stopping power is what you desire, there are few bikes that are as good as the Venge ViAS Disc at the moment. I'm off for another ride before it goes back...

Verdict

Very fast with excellent brakes, the Venge ViAS Disc could be a glimpse of the future...

road.cc test report

Make and model: Specialized Venge ViAS Expert Disc

Size tested: 56cm

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Frame FACT 11r carbon, Rider-First Engineered, Win Tunnel Engineered, internal cable routing, 12x142mm thru-axle, carbon OSBB

Fork FACT carbon, full monocoque

Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra, braze-on

Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed

Number of Gears 22

Shifters Shimano ST-RS685, 11-speed

Chainset Specialized Pro carbon 52/36T

Cassette Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed, 11-28t

Chain Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed

Brakeset Shimano, hydraulic, Ice-Tech resin pads w/fins

Handlebar Specialized S-Works Aerofly w/out holes, 25mm

Stem Specialized Pro 4-bolt alloy

Bar Tape Specialized Roubaix

Wheelset DT R460 Disc Pro, thru-axle, 2Bliss Ready

Tyres S-Works Turbo, 700x24mm, 220TPI, folding bead, BlackBelt protection

Saddle Body Geometry Power Expert, hollow titaniumrails, 143mm

Seatpost Specialized Venge, FACT carbon

Seat Binder Specialized Venge assembly

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?

Specialized says: "The Venge ViAS Expert Disc w/ Ultegra delivers World Tour performance at a price that competitive riders will find more than palatable. Every facet of it was born in our Win Tunnel, and the result is a bike with supreme braking and a 116-second advantage, compared to the Tarmac, over 40km. In our Win Tunnel, every tube shape, trailing edge, and design cue was made for speed. It's also Rider-First Engineered™ to ensure that every frame size experiences uniform performance, plus front-end stiffness was increased by 30% over the Tarmac. As one of the first elements to hit the wind, we realized that current stem and bar offerings cause too much aerodynamic drag. To achieve the best solution, while also interfacing with the frame, we found a negative 17-degree stem was the best option. Most riders aren't flexible enough to ride in such an aggressive position, though, so we designed the Aerofly bars with a positive rise that replicates your most efficient position. This resulted in a bike that has next-to-no visible cables. Of course, this disc iteration changes the game with undeniable stopping power with any penalty to the aerodynamic profile, so you get powerful hydraulic disc braking without any sacrifice. Then there's the crisp Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset and sturdy DT R460 disc wheels that amplify the overall performance of this race rig. So when it comes to sprinting to the line, this Venge refuses to be outdone."

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Full carbon fibre frame and fork.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Very much a race bike but the wheelbase is slightly longer than the regular Venge, not that you would really notice.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

It's higher at the front than many other aero race bikes.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Surprisingly comfortable, with a pretty smooth ride over rough roads.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Plenty of stiffness evident from the bottom bracket and head tube areas.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Very well indeed.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

No.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Quick.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Quick, agile and precise.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

I got on really well with the stubby saddle, but it probably won't be for everyone, especially if you prefer a more upright position.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

There's nothing that needs changing, the Venge doesn't lack stiffness.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

It's all decent performing kit, so for the price there's nothing I'd rush to change.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
8/10

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so, what for?

The wheels are reasonably light and very durable, and I like the fact they're tubeless compatible, but a bike like the Venge is crying out for some deep-section wheels.

Rate the tyres for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
8/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

The Aerofly handlebar, despite its looks, is pretty comfortable, but those with bigger hands will get on better with the wide flat aero tops.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
7/10

Use this box to explain your score

If you want disc brakes on an aero road bike your options are limited at the moment, but the new Venge ViAS Disc, while more expensive than other similarly specced bikes, is a really good package.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

9 comments

Avatar
Batchy [378 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

Just one gripe. The Venge looks gorgeous and no doubt it rides like a dream. However 7.8ks weight can be achieved at half the price of £3900 using fairly basic kit nowadays !

Avatar
lovemyway [2 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes

I've ridden the top of the range S-Works version and damn, it's a fast bike. The only thing I have against the bike is that it's not as comfortable as the S-Works Tarmac I've rode the same day and that the wheels are pretty susceptible to crosswinds. The handlebar was suprisingly comfortable even though the overall shape is strange. Frame is a giant piece (I mean it) of layered carbon fibers, it's much bigger than the Tarmac.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B2jVKIehWfJQbm1LbmlnN09ieVE?usp=... few pics of the bikes (I know, the saddle position looks strange but I'm a tall rider and I have about 88 cm from BB to the top of the saddle).

I'm considering an aero bike with disc brakes myself and for the moment the only model that crosses the points is this Venge. The Aeroad disc seems to be an interesting bike as well but it's no available yet..

Avatar
Broady. [88 posts] 7 months ago
4 likes

Christ almighty, that riser bar / stem / spacer combo is grim.

Avatar
Poshfpg [5 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

@lovemyway Where were you able to do this testing?  I'm in exactly the same place as you, waiting for an Aeroad disc or maybe a Madone one but a bit concerned about the comfort of the Venge. You're even taller than me it appears, with a mere 84cm saddle height, but I see you had a 58cm frame was that what was available or did it fit better?   How harsh was the Venge v Tarmac?

 

Avatar
anders.r.soderback [20 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

Sure is an ugly bike. Especially with that riser bar. Specialized's designers seem to have lost it for 2017 in the race to stand out and get new innovation out. This one is ugly. The Roubaix and Ruby are dead ugly. And why disc brakes again...? OK on Mtb's, gravel, cross and off season bikes. But not on a tarmac steed. NO! I have tried both rim brakes and hydraulic disc brakes in Mallorca. I could not see that I went any faster or with greater confidence going downhill from Sa Calobra and Puig Major. Maybe if it was raining. And saying that the weight penalty is merely a water bottle. What!? Should I leave the water bottles at home and get parched  3

Avatar
lovemyway [2 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

@Poshfpg I've been riding 58 because there was no Venge in 61 available at the time. I managed to get 88cm saddle on 61 Tarmac, but could't do so on 58 Venge. Maybe the difference in size was the reason I didn't feel quite as comfortable on the Venge, I don't know. Still, the saddle looks

I have found the Tarmac stiffer in the BB area (like literally 0 flex under more than 1000W efforts), I didn't feel the same on the Venge (maybe it was my perception, but I could feel it flexing a little). I think I might have been going faster on the Tarmac, just because I felt better on the bike (which doesn't mean the bike IS faster, just my preference). If I had to choose I would definitely choose Tarmac, but the again, if I had a change to test 61 Venge I'd gladly do so and change my assessment eventually.

Avatar
The_Vermonter [41 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

Unless you're really climbing a great deal, aerodynamics are so much more important than weight. This bike is all about aerodynamics. Specialized still sells the Tarmac.

Batchy wrote:

Just one gripe. The Venge looks gorgeous and no doubt it rides like a dream. However 7.8ks weight can be achieved at half the price of £3900 using fairly basic kit nowadays !

Avatar
Disfunctional_T... [173 posts] 7 months ago
2 likes

> Christ almighty, that riser bar / stem / spacer combo is grim.

Thirded! Cockpit is an apt name for it.

Avatar
nicho [10 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

Weird that Specialized made such a huge deal about the integrated brakes embedded in the forks as a major aero saving.

This time round, funnily enough, callipers and discs have no discernible impact on drag.

Which is it?