Long Term Review: Specialized Venge Pro Aero Road Bike
We’ve had the Specialized Venge Pro for more than a year now and logged well over a thousand race and training miles between three test pilots.
As with most aero bikes, you either love their looks or hate them, but make no mistake about it they are fast – faster than their round-tube cousins in almost all conditions. In my opinion the only thing that holds aero bikes back at the moment is the slight weight penality due to the nature of air foil shapes being either slightly thicker or larger to gain the lateral stiffness necessary.
Yes, I know there are super light versions of the Specialized Venge and other aero bikes out there, but the prices make them unattainable to most, those getting their W2 from a Pro Tour team excluded.
And we’re only talking around 120 grams difference on average between aero and non aero frames in a given size, which isn’t likely to be the difference between a win or loss. This slight weight penality seems to be more than offset by the gains in efficiency. In the case of the Specialized Venge, its other traits make it an honest-to-goodness “do it all” bike. It’s versatile enough for fast group rides or a century while also being a very capable crit racer. With its two-position seat post and a set of clip on aero bars it could also double as a TT or triathlon bike as well.
Check our original weigh-in post for tech specs and details, then click through for the full ride review…
Any bike with this much versatility needs to be considered.
After spending considerable time and miles on the Venge I can say it’s one of the best bikes I have ever ridden. The bike lives up to it’s reputation of being faster than a normal road bike. Specialized claims a 20 percent aero savings over a traditional road bike – the equivilant of saving 20 watts. Without a wind tunnel to validate these claims, I’ll just say my times on the local test course are two minuetes faster and I feel fresher at the end of my rides with the Venge.
Carving tight lines on sweeping downhill turns is a blast on this bike. It felt very connected to the road allowing me to push the bike harder than my normal bike. The UCI compliant 3:2 aero tubes with a blunt trailing edge makes it extremely manageable in cross winds. The one-piece ribbed bottom bracket and chain stay assembly helps keep everything stiff so there’s very little wasted power.
Stiffness was excellent on out of the saddle climbs. Much like the other testers the slight weight penalty was only noticed on long, steep sustained climbs. While the Venge certainly isn’t heavy (our size 52 test bike 15lb 15oz / 7.23kg without pedals) it would not be my choice for extended days of climbing in the mountains. But that’s not what it’s for. It’s made to go fast on the flats, handle small climbs or rollers and keep you fresh for the sprint finish.
Make no mistake about it, this bike is a weapon. If you like riding off the front, chasing breakaways or sprinting for the line this bike is for you. It’s all about total watts out, not watts per kilo like a Specialized Tarmac. When you drop the sledge hammer this bike takes off like a rocket. The faster you go the better this bike handles. It’s slow speed handling is not as lively, but they make the Tarmac for that. If I could only pick one bike for my riding style the Venge would be my weapon of choice. It handles my long training rides, fast group rides, and critirum races with ease. It is suprisingly comfortable for an aero bike, but I would not reccomend it for a casual distance rider unless you are looking set a PR in your next century.
Although Rob got the bulk of the miles ont the Venge, my few weeks worth of rides definitely left an impression. A good one. The Venge was unlike any bike I had ever ridden previously and it’s a fine representation of the growing aero road bike category.
Regardless of how much of it was mental, I felt like it sliced through the air. When I pedaled it launched forward with nary a lag. It made me push myself just to see what I could get out of it. It is not the lightest of carbon road bikes, it’s not the fat kid either. The only time that I really detected the extra ounces was on sustained and steeper climbs.
Honestly, the Venge was a better all around bike than I thought it would be. Maybe not my choice for days out climbing aggressive pitches but, if you caught yourself rolling out with a group that, once departed, mentioned you’d be climbing 5,000 ft that day, you wouldn’t have to go packing for being ill-equipped. On descents, the Venge feels locked into the road and inspired me to take aggressive trajectories. I was faster on couple of descents on this bike than any other I’ve ridden. I attribute this largely to the geometry, aero design, and the lateral stiffness of the frame and wheels; the bike can snap from one side to the other quite impressively and slingshot in and out of tight twists.
At 17+ mph on flat to slightly pitched roads is where the Venge really took charge. So much so, that it makes me think there’s more going on than just aero shaping. I’d say the R&D Specialized put into developing this bike has paid off. Given this is Specialized’s first aero road bike effort (and one of the originals of the modern “aero road bike genre), it’ll be really interesting to see where their technology goes from here beyond just limited editions or McLaren-themed layups and colors. Especially now that they have their own wind tunnel!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 2012 Venge Pro, which retailed for $6,600 spec’d with Shimano Ultegra. The current model is the Venge Pro Force with SRAM Force and retails for $5,800. Specialized’s website has quite a few of the models showing discounted pricing, suggesting changes might be up for 2014, but given the success of the Venge under Cavendish and others, it might be a good time to snap one up at a deal. The Di2 Ultegra bike (without deep aero Roval wheels) is just $4,500, and the Comp is as low as $3,000.