by Nick Legan
This bullet of a bike was used to great effect by Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss last season and Tom Boonen has already notched a few wins on one in 2012.
Specialized markets the Venge as “more bike than aero.” Normally, I’m not a fan of ad-speak, but it sums up the bike well. The Venge is a great bike that happens to be aerodynamic. Because it’s stiff enough for sprinters, but comfortable enough for long days in the saddle (especially solo ones where aerodynamics play a larger role), the Venge is the high-performance jack-of-all-trades in this round-up.
Scientific Testing: 22 of 30 points
Second fastest in the tunnel and third stiffest in the lab meant the Venge was lagging behind both the S5 and the Foil after the scientific testing portion.
Cable routing can have big aerodynamic impacts and we feel that this is where the Specialized was left behind by the Cervélo in the A2 Wind Tunnel.
While some have complained that the Venge is too stiff, it ranked third in our torsional stiffness test, ahead of only the S5. Because we test the bikes as a system (including cranks, bb, etc.), it may be the superlight Specialized cranks that are giving the Venge a higher deflection number. Front derailleur rub under hard acceleration led us to believe that The rings may allow some flex, though we have not isolated this in a test — and they shifted just fine.
Subjective Ride Quality: 24.5 of 30 points
It is always tough to rate a race bike on comfort. After all, that’s not what they’re about, but I rode the Venge with deep carbon wheels on dirt roads, chip seal pavement and everything in-between and was very pleased with the ride. It’s no endurance bike, but if I were in the market for a new race bike, I’d want one that smoothes out the road just a little.
While the Venge’s number may have lagged behind the others in stiffness, it didn’t feel that way on the road. A bit of snap or spring can be a good thing and the Venge is a lively bike. The stock Roval wheels are nothing to write home about, but like the Mavic Cosmic Carbons on the Foil, they’re good, reliable wheels that won’t hold you back. Carbon tubulars (or wide clinchers) for race day offer a noticeable improvement, though.
Handling is where the Venge earned back some Ride Quality points. Simply put, it’s brilliant. Two things are at play: the excellent race geometry and a frame that handles crosswinds well. Even with deep wheels, the Venge didn’t buffet in blustery conditions. Because it felt so predictably flickable, the Venge encourages you to attack corners.
User Friendliness: 10.5 of 15 points
All of these aero road bikes have internal cable routing, something we’re very picky about in the Velo tech room. Thankfully, the Specialized routing is straightforward. The derailleur cables entering the down tube may have slowed the bike a bit in the tunnel, but the Venge is easier to work on than the S5.
One item that shows some clever thought is the seatpost. It is reversible for more or less setback. The shape is symmetrical front to back. Having a perfect airfoil shape doesn’t mean much, however, if you can’t achieve your position. The saddle rail clamp mechanism is a good one too, but adjusting seat height was a huge pain. Tight tolerances are a good thing, but they were so tight on our test bike that it took ages (and a mallet) to dial in seat height. Big thumbs down there.
We loved seeing the inclusion of a chain catcher. Chapeau.
Value: 15 of 20 points
It’s always difficult to justify any bike that costs north of $8,000 and the Venge is no exception. We like SRAM Red, but if we were spending our own money, we’d look at the Vengo Pro Ui2. It’s $2,200 cheaper and offers Ultegra Di2. The downside is a heavier frame. Then again, the $18,000 McLaren version makes the S-Works we tested look like a bargain.
Weight: 5 of 5 points
The lightest in the test by over half a pound.