There’s no escaping the fact that more and more of us are shopping online to get the best deals. If your chosen website is doing a good job of getting you your spares and upgrades faster and cheaper than your local shop it’s tempting to get your next complete bike by clicking a mouse too.
The Vitus Venon proves that as long as you’re basically competent with a set of Allen keys and can work out appropriate bar position and saddle height yourself (or with a friend) it could be a really smart move too.
While it’s impossible to judge frame quality online, the component value being offered here is self explanatory. Like its peer the Norco Valence 105 the price has been permanently dropped to deliver a full 22-speed Shimano 105 gears, chainset, cassette and shifters setup (chain is KMC) within spitting distance of £1,000 ($1,550 / AU$2,130 at time of writing).
The excellent 105 SLR-EV brakes, smooth rolling Fulcrum Racing 7 wheels wrapped in impressive new Grand Sport Race Continentals in an on-trend, rattle quelling 25mm width. You even get a carbon shafted seat post to reduce buzz of the big diameter seat tube.
The Venon even gets the excellent SLR-EV brakes
The obvious potential downside of getting an online bike is that you’ll be getting it delivered in a box rather than via the hopefully helpful setup advice of your local shop. Vitus' mega-retailer Chain Reaction pre-assembles all its bikes before shipping though, and straightening the bars reveals a really well shaped bike.
The head tube is reasonably low and the seat tube relatively steep, which creates a more committed and combative feel. It also puts plenty of weight onto the grippy Continental out front and together with a stout head end and fork makes the Venon a naturally encouraging playmate on steep and twisty terrain.
The steeper seat tube promotes powerful seated climbing and a stout down tube, seat tube and chainstays plus broad top tube transfer torque well whether you’re in the saddle or not. Factor in a very competitive weight, plus the small steps between gears and powerfully controlled brakes and you’ve got a bike that relishes challenging terrain whether you’re going up or down.
Looking at the subtly reflex curved seatstays and shallow-arched top tube reveals the other side to the Venon’s character though. Together with carbon layup changes for 2015, the spring form tubes create an impressively shock shrugging, vibration damping ride that’s amplified by the extra cushioning from the 25mm tyres. Even the extra length of exposed carbon seat post inherent in the compact frame design adds a ‘suspension’ effect.
The head tube is reasonably low and the seat tube relatively steep, which creates a more committed and combative feel
The Venon frame isn’t just designed to make going the distance easy; it’s also got some obvious component-longevity-boosting features too. Press-fit bottom brackets are getting more reliable with every evolution, but you still can’t beat a traditional Shimano screw-in setup like the one in the Vitus for a quiet, trouble free life.
The rear brake cable is internalised but both gear lines are external for a more direct run and easier lubrication and servicing. Even the clamp-on – rather than riveted plate – front mech mount is a stronger solution in the long run.
The result is a bike that delivered a fast but friendly performance far beyond price expectations and was universally praised and thoroughly enjoyed by all our test team. It even held its own when we rode it alongside other test bikes three times the price just out of curiosity.
While the supplied spec is great for the money, adding a lighter set of wheels sometime in the future would boost performance significantly, so it’s a very good buy from an upgrade perspective too.