Specialized Venge Expert Disc Bike Review

Specialized Venge Expert Disc Bike

About the bike

In the world of cycling, the brand Specialized needs little introduction thanks to the relentless marketing work they’ve put in over the years. With sponsorship at all levels of the sport, including charismatic Road World Champion Peter Sagan, they create products to suit just about every taste and performance level, which can get a little confusing. Venge is the brand’s aerodynamic road bike and Expert the base offering suited to racing, sportive riding or just riding fast with your mates. The halo product has been updated for the 2019 season which makes this older version better value.

The ride

First impression

Specialized has a significant advantage oven most of its competitors when it comes to designing aero bikes since it has its very own wind tunnel – though as any Formula 1 viewer will attest, having a tunnel and making a faster component are two different things, so do Specialized make the most of theirs? Well, given the number of pro races won on the Venge, the answer is probably yes, which means we’ll also let them off the fact that they refer to it somewhat cheesily as the ‘Win Tunnel’.

Looking at the Venge, the benefits of the Win Tunnel aren’t immediately obvious – from the side view, the main tubes look large and not especially aero, but as any cyclist knows, the majority of the wind doesn’t come from the side, it comes from head-on, and it’s a very different story here with a small area presented to the wind that should reduce those all-important watts.

On the road

Straight out of the gate, the Venge has a very familiar ‘Specialized’ feel to it, which we have to emphasize is a good thing. The geometry makes for quick handling and the stiffness of the front end is undeniable. In fact, Specialized list the front end stiffness as being 30% greater than its lightweight racer, the Tarmac SL5 , which to our minds is quite a large step. Style wise it has more than a hint of the Shiv time-trial bike about the head tube, but then why wouldn’t it?

Intriguingly, our Venge was fitted with a 110 mm stem – on a 58 cm frame we’d normally expect to find a 120 mm stem but since we’d always recommend getting a professional fitting, it’s probably a moot point. A pleasure to ride fast, the stiffness does mean you search for smoother tarmac but if (or should that be when?) you find a rough section, it copes well enough. The bike will still let you know it’s broken tarmac though.

Handling

Again, like others here, the extra material around the front end makes for a direct-feeling front end. Likewise, the disc brakes offer an initial response that regular rim brakes can’t quite match. Once up to speed, it’s very clearly a top handling bike, offering great stability at speed even in cross winds, which suggests the aero-side has been well resolved for all-round riding.

Anecdotally, we found the Venge to be the fastest bike here as we managed to set several Strava sector PBS on our regular test circuit. Dropping into corners really brings out the bike’s best. There is plenty of feel to go with the quick handling that flatters to make you look and feel fast.

The spec

Frameset

Constructed from FACT 11r carbon fiber, Specialized has gone with one of its highest grades of carbon – in Specialized parlance, only the 12r is a higher grade, and that’s only found on bikes that cost more than twice as much as this one, which tells us that this is a machine built for serious performance. Higher grades bring lower weight and increased stiffness, and in fact for most riders the slightly lower grade will be more suitable, offering a more forgiving ride.

As if that wasn’t enough, the paint in Cosmic Black with multi-color flake, is spectacular in the sun when the light catches it. The use of 12 mm bolt-through axles in both the front and rear wheels help no end with the stiffness and probably account largely for the step up in lateral stiffness. The only minor downside for us is the Praxis BB30 Shimano conversion, which needed a little attention as it creaked occasionally under big loads but any good dealer should happily sort this out.

Groupset

As you’ll have already realized, this is a Shimano Ultegra heavy test and the Venge is no different. It’s fitted with Ultegra 8000-series running gear, along with the 8020 hydraulic shifters and callipers. The only slight change is the use of the RT81 MTB 160 mm brake rotors rather than Ultegra-specific ones, but whatever the reason for this, they performed every bit as well as the road RT800 version with their additional cooling fins during testing, with no overheating problems even under heavy braking.

Finishing kit

Arguably, the Venge is coming in a little more expensive than others here but then when you look into the spec it’s possible to justify the price thanks to the use of the carbon Aerofly aerodynamic handlebars, the S-Works pro-level tyres as well as the Power Expert saddle, all of which add to the cost of assembly. Of course, these are all own-brand products, which isn’t always a good thing but Specialized is one of the few brands who can be relied on to get these things right so we really rate them and reckon they’re worth paying something extra for.

Wheels

Look around your local bike shop and you’ll spot that wheels are a common place to save money on new bikes, and while that could be the case here it doesn’t feel like it. Specialized has used its own disc specific rim, the SLX 24 (normally found on the £600 wheels of the same name) but paired them with a set of DT Swiss 350 hubs for a robust performance that stands out especially well in cross-wind situations. They’re fitted with S-Works Turbo tires in the 26 mm width, which have a supple 120 tpi casing to enhance speed and comfort. They’re not the most puncture-proof but they are seriously race-worthy rubber.

Specs

Frame: FACT 11r carbon 12×142 mm thru-axle, carbon OSBB, S-Works FACT 11r carbon fork

Groupset: Shimano Ultegra R8000

Brakes: Shimano Ultegra R8020

Chainset: Shimano Ultegra R8000, 52/36

Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 8000, 11-30

Bars: Specialized S-Works Aerofly

Stem: Specialized Pro SL

Saddle: Specialized Power Expert, 143 mm

Seatpost: Specialized Venge Aero

Wheels: Roval SLX 24 Disc, DT Swiss 350 hubs, DT Swiss Competition spokes

Tires: S-Works Turbo, 120 TPI, 26 mm

Geometry

Size tested  58 cmWeight 8.1 kg
Top tube (TT) 581 mmSeat tube (ST) 524 mm
Stack (S) 591 mmReach (R) 401 mm
Chainstays (C) 410 mmHead angle (HA) 73.5°
Seat angle (SA) 73°Wheelbase (WB) 1006 mm
BB drop (BB) 68 mm

Rating 8.5/10


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