Long Term Review: Specialized Venge Pro Aero Road Bike

Specialzed Venge road bike long term review

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…

ROB’S REVIEW

Specialzed Venge road bike long term 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.

Specialzed Venge road bike long term review

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.

Specialzed Venge road bike long term review

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.

EVAN’S REVIEW

Specialzed Venge road bike long term review

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.

Comments

Steven H - 05/23/13 - 12:30pm

Pro bike racers usually file a 1099 (independent contractor), not a W-2. But that’s just being picky…

Andrew - 05/23/13 - 12:45pm

Reviews should be a little more critical, in my opinion. I understand that the bike felt fast – but how does it compare in terms of vertical stiffness? Value for money? This reads more like a Specialized write-up than a review.

plum - 05/23/13 - 12:47pm

“we’re only talking around 120 grams difference” – that’s a quarter of a pound. It’s substantial.

plum - 05/23/13 - 12:50pm

LOL you find a 16 pound bike too heavy for a day in the mountains. That’s rich.

wako29 - 05/23/13 - 12:56pm

I would rather have the Madone. Just as aero, rides WAY better, and is much lighter. Plus is made in the US of A. Can’t beat that.

dave - 05/23/13 - 1:49pm

>> At 17+ mph on flat to slightly pitched roads is where the Venge really took charge. <<

huh?

grandpatouchedme - 05/23/13 - 1:55pm

wako29, the madone is not even close to as aero as the venge, do some research before saying something that is completely misleading and wrong please.

Rick - 05/23/13 - 1:58pm

You’ve had it over a year and logged 1,000 miles? That’s about 83 miles a month… WOW! how do you find the time :-)

Pancakes - 05/23/13 - 2:12pm

“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.”

Can’t think of any (functional) road bike where this would be the case.

FM - 05/23/13 - 2:57pm

I think you mean 3:1 aero tubes. Also, the “truncated airfoil” makes it sound like they’re using a Kammtail like the Scott Foil or the new Madone. This isn’t the case with the Venge.

I know it’s tempting to compare the Venge to the Tarmac but they’re actually pretty similar bikes. The geometries are almost identical, down to within a couple millimeters. So why would the Tarmac handle better at slow speeds? Also, according to Specialized the Tarmac SL4 is stiffer than the Venge so for some big guys it might be a better choice even on flat sprints.

Did you guys get a chance to really throw down?

PROEDGEBIKER.COM - 05/23/13 - 3:00pm

Hawt looking bike but i went with the SCOTT FOIL cause the Big-S at that time was only making the VENGE for the high dolla crowd. Needless to say, i’ve been real happy with my roadie bike.

satisFACTORYrider - 05/23/13 - 4:00pm

15-16lbs too heavy for multiple alpine stages for ya? seriously? wow. you’re soft.

don - 05/23/13 - 4:11pm

Great review.

For some 120g is substantial, but for others it’s not. I’m fairly convinced 120g uphill is less of a hinderance then the advantage of 20w going down the other side and the flats in between. I’m hoping most of my competitors disagree with me for a few more years.

My bet is in 2-3 years there won’t be this distinction anymore. All bikes will be aero, right now the venge is one of the leaders. Another major publication did a review of the major aero options and agreed.

don

Echotraveler - 05/23/13 - 4:51pm

Id like to hear more about stiffness.

I doubt this is the bike anyone would choose for a century as this aero racer most be UBER STIFF. You cant have it all…

Jacob - 05/23/13 - 5:49pm

I don’t know if this has changed but the McLaren Venge was needed as even the S-Works version wasn’t stiff enough for the Pros. I am 90kg and found flex in the frame when out of the saddle hammering (Not so for the Tarmac SL4). If there is an update coming in 2014 I really hope they focus on that (as well as less decals…)

BBB - 05/23/13 - 5:55pm

Considering that the bike itself (no wheels) is responsible only for about 15% of total air drag, savings of 20% within these already small 15% would effectively be so tiny that no testers would have noticed it at typical speeds.

That’s assuming that we can believe the “20%” claim.
Typically manufacturers demonstrate the aero benefits not at typical 16-18mph but at fast TT speeds which have absolutely no relevance to the vast majority of cyclists.
Marketers are really good at putting completely meaningless “best scenario” numbers into consumers heads. Once the number is quoted in the press and repeated hundred times on forums it becomes a distorted “fact”.

P.S. 120g significant ? It’s a joke right?

Joey Brown - 05/23/13 - 7:10pm

Try the BH G6 if you want aero, light weight and comfortable.

patrik - 05/23/13 - 8:07pm

@wako29 “Plus is made in the US of A.”

Most of the money you spend buying that bike goes to foreign companies. What does it matter where the “bike” is made? Please name some of the American-made components.

cuddles - 05/23/13 - 9:39pm

It looks like the guy in green has hairy legs….

mellon - 05/23/13 - 10:20pm

It’s too bad that Specialized was too scared to accept Giant’s challenge to test the Venge vs. the Propel at Spec’s fancy new wind tunnel KoolAid machine. All the hype about how fast the Venge is and when they get called out, they back down.

Psi Squared - 05/23/13 - 11:21pm

@BBB: 20% of 15% is 3%. If you’re putting out 200W on flat ground, and if you assume that drag is 75-90% of resistive forces, then 3% is going to be on the order of 5W. That’s not huge, but it’s not necessarily insignificant.

A. - 05/24/13 - 12:11am

No one is calling bullshit on the “2 minutes faster”? What are you comparing that to? A mountain bike?

Nuno Dias - 05/24/13 - 4:32am

All this aero thing is greatly exagerated. What about the cyclist himself and the clothing he wears? His frontal area relative to the bike is huge. In the real world you have to view aerodynamics as a singular unit consisting of the cyclist and his bike. What fraction does the bike represent in this “unit”. My guess is not more than 10%. Marketing is one thing and reality another.

wako29 - 05/24/13 - 7:10am

@grandpatouchedme: http://weightweenies.starbike.com/forum/download/file.php?id=50269&mode=view
Looks like I’m not the one who needs to do my research :)
@patrik: Truth. I guess knowing that the frame being made by US craftsmen is better than nothing? Good point though.

Fisho - 05/24/13 - 7:49am

All the aero numbers only count if when you are doing a solo effort….

Gravity - 05/24/13 - 8:34am

For crap’s sake, it’s “Di2,” and has never been “Ui2.” Please stop saying that.

Also, reviews like this make me want a Rivendell.

Mike Brauer - 05/24/13 - 11:21am

Most of the negative comments appear to come from people that have never actually ridden this bike. I own the Ultegra electronic version. Aero makes a positive difference even in group rides that average 20-25 mph. I agree with much of what is said in the article except the low speed handling part.

Sardinian rider - 05/24/13 - 11:23am

Wow,some people out there are still eager to pay extra bucks for something that has a “Made in USA” label on it . Are these folks aware that when Cannondale moved it’s production in Asia their frames’s quality improved night and day ?

Scott Cahow - 05/24/13 - 11:47am

I just weighed my car keys. 126 grams on a good digital scale, maybe I should leave my keys at home and be faster?

Alex - 05/24/13 - 12:18pm

@Gravity – It is Ui2 – this is a 2012 bike.
http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bikes/archive/2012/venge/vengeproui2mid-compact

ralphmaccio - 05/24/13 - 1:10pm

Evan’s (parachute) jacket is costing him 20 watts at least..

Zach Overholt - 05/24/13 - 1:21pm

@Alex, Gravity, no he’s right, he was referring to calling it Ui2 instead of Ultegra Di2. Both Ultegra and Dura Ace electronic versions are called Di2 which stands for Digital Integrated Intelligence – not Dura Ace Electronic.

slippy - 05/24/13 - 3:26pm

Is it possible for reviewers to distinguish between an ‘aero’ effect, and that of increased stiffness/rigidity due to larger aero tube sections? My guess is no…

People say the Cervelo S5 is super fast, but look at the size of the tubes on that bike.

Aero sells, and its hard to quantify (e.g. call BS on)

g - 05/24/13 - 8:15pm

There was somebody who commented earlier (paraphrasing) – ‘this review makes me want to go buy a Rivendell’. I thought it was one of the best comments in this thread. It gets old that y’all delete any comment that sorta rubs you the wrong way. That post was funny. Did it hurt your feelings or something?

Gravity - 05/24/13 - 11:23pm

I said it, and it didn’t get deleted – it’s still up there. Thanks though, and I stand by that sentiment.

g - 05/26/13 - 1:41am

whoops, see it now. I share that sentiment.

Darwin - 05/27/13 - 10:16am

Specialized is made by Merida in Taiwan. They used to be made by Giant too.
Almost all Treks including most Madones are made by Giant in Taiwan so its laughable to claim they are made in the U.S.
You might as well by a Giant which I think is a better bike at a lower cost and they don’t cheap out trying to slide lower cost components on their bikes like everyone else.

Darwin - 05/27/13 - 10:20am

This “review” reads like a Specialized ad and I seriously doubt the author cut two minutes of his time using one. You must think your readers are all idiots.

Gravity - 05/27/13 - 1:03pm

Darwin – His point about Trek is valid. Yes, most Treks are made in Taiwan, contracted by Giant, but the Trek bikes that stack up most closely with the Venge, both the Madone 6 and 7, are made in Waterloo, Wisconsin.

The equivalent US-made Madone 6.2, with Ultegra, sells for $2000 less than the Venge. The Di2 model (6.5) is $20 more than Specialized’s standard Ultegra version. Neither of these bikes have anything to do with Giant, and are both fully made in the US.

I don’t know where Trek slides lower-cost components on their bikes. The bikes in question (and this unspecified price range), from their Taiwanese to their US-made bikes, come with full Shimano groups, top-to-bottom (no 105 cassettes or chains on Ultegra bikes, etc.). The handlebars, stems and wheels are typical high-grade OEM components that come with practically every bike, from every maker. I don’t know how Giant specs their bikes, but it’s certainly not true at all to say that Trek somehow “downgrades” their bikes, while Giant does not.

scott - 05/28/13 - 2:47am

Wow, an entire thousand miles over a year? Most Cat 1′s ride more than that in a month…..333 miles for each of 3 riders, what is that, a week of training? How can you tell much about a bike in that short amount of time? Do an NRC stage race and a spring’s worth of 20-hour weeks and get back to us with a real review…..

Taylor - 05/28/13 - 11:41am

Nevermind the bike, I want a Black Cat burrito

1Pro - 05/28/13 - 1:24pm

i love the diversity in choices for bikes these days. intolerance? not so much.

Slowerthanyouareold - 06/09/13 - 10:21pm

The best part about this review is getting to read all of the replies. Some good laughs at how full of ourselves we are.

Darwin - 08/28/13 - 5:40pm

I thought the Venge was not as stiff as I would have expected. My Giant is stiffer and better handling which is why I bought that instead. I’m a big guy so your mileage may vary…

Niels - 11/17/13 - 10:39am

Grown ups defacate 100 – 200 grams each day. Next time I take my Venge for a spin I will go before I go and the weight penalty should be negated.

KeepItRealDrake - 12/17/13 - 5:02pm

^Best comment on here. Well put.

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