Specialized is calling its new S-Works Venge ViAS the fastest bike ever created. After three days of test riding, we're not quick to argue. Four years since its initial launch, the new Venge is more than just a refresh. Specialized's retooled aero road bike is the first bicycle designed almost entirely in a wind tunnel and effectively a complete revamp. "The only thing not new is the saddle," says Chris Riekert, Specialized spokesperson.
The new Venge lacks any extraneous parts that would create drag. Both the brake cables and electronic Dura-Ace wires are completely internal. And the brake calipers are now integrated into the front fork and seat tube, neatly sheltered from the wind.
The distinctive downtube is bigger than the previous edition of the Venge, twisting dramatically from top to bottom. "When we studied air flow at the downtube, we found it has two distinctive jobs," says Chris Yu, Specialized's aero and racing research and development lead. The upper half optimizes aerodynamics behind the headtube, while the bottom half is designed to smooth air around the bottom bracket and seat tube. The different sizes of the Venge each have a slightly different downtube shape and carbon layup to optimize both power and aerodynamics for the rider. The rear triangle and seat stays are smaller and stiffer than the previous model, allowing for better power transfer, says Specialized. Even the cockpit is new, with the low, integrated stem connecting to the flat-topped handlebar.
So how does all this make you faster? The average rider spends 70 to 80 percent of his energy fighting the air and wind, Yu says. After more than 600 prototypes and 1,600 hours of testing in Specialized's in-house wind tunnel, Yu claims this Venge cuts through the air more efficiently than any other road bike, even the highly regarded Cervelo S5.
When coupled with Specialized's new suite of aero products — Evade helmet, S-Works 6 shoes, Evade skinsuit, Roval CLX64 wheels, and S-Works Turbo tires — the manufacturer claims the new Venge can shave more than five minutes off your time over a 40-kilometer time trial versus traditional non-aero road bikes and gear. After three days riding the new Venge in the wind tunnel and on the roads near Specialized's California headquarters, we believe it.
With the first turn of the pedals, the bike snaps forward. Primary designer Chris D'Alusio says the focus on aerodynamics doesn't detract from the Venge's nimble handling. The bike is, after all, designed for racing everything from the Tour de France to amateur criteriums, not just going fast in a straight line.
On the second day of testing, we rode two back-to-back 20-kilometer solo efforts. The first was on a Specialized Tarmac — a non-aero bike that won last year's world championship road race — with a regular kit and helmet. On the second effort, we used the new Venge and Specialized's recent line of aero products (minus the S-Works 6 shoes, which weren't available at the time). Though it was just one comparison, we dropped two minutes in real-world conditions. That doesn't quite extrapolate out to five minutes over 40 kilometers, but we were nevertheless impressed.
Specialized was reluctant to release the weight of the bike, but it likely falls into the 16-pound range. The Venge isn’t as light as its Tarmac cousin, but it’s more than capable on the uphills, and an absolute rocket on the descents. We hit more than 56 mph on one twisty downhill section.
The race-ready S-Works Venge ViAS will retail for $12,500 when it goes on sale this August. Each is equipped with a Quarq power meter, integrated Garmin computer mount, Shimano Di2, and Roval CLX 64 carbon wheels. A regular (non-S-Works) Venge Pro ViAS will go for $8,000 with a mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace drivetrain. A frameset with brakes, stem, handlebars, seatpost, and fork will also be available for $5,800.
[$12,500 as tested; specialized.com]