27.6km is all it took to get me hooked. The Vitus Vitesse EVO disc fit me like glove. I couldn’t get the tune & the words out of my head, “I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride it where I like”. On the bike I have all the time in the world to let my mind wander so Freddie Mercury was singing the chorus to ‘Bicycle Race’ as I stormed up Belair Rd. That’s a local climb in Adelaide, 3.6km long and an average of 6%. My first ride and I got my best time for the year.
Taut. Responsive. Engaging. The first ride was only meant to be was a shakedown run to bed in the brakes, get the position sorted and get a general feel for the bike. It was actually much more than that and I was already wondering how long I could keep the review bike.
Vitus – ‘King’ Kelly’s favourite ride
Vitus bikes have a relatively short history compare to many others, it started out as a small frame-building outfit in France in the 1970’s. The short history of Vitus is quite rich. The Vitus 979 is the bike for which the brand are renowned, but the reign of Sean ‘King’ Kelly is what really embedded Vitus as a name amongst riders and cycling fans. It’s reported that Sean won a staggering 80% of his 193 professional cycling victories on a Vitus bicycle. The link between Vitus and Sean Kelly continues to this day in his role as a Brand Ambassador providing technical input. Technical input also comes from the sponsored An Post/Chain Reaction Continental Cycling Team who played a notable role in guiding the carbon layup of the Vitesse EVO frame.
Given how this frame handles, responds and provides rider feedback, in my eyes the team collaboration for the frame development was successful. This frame (in rim brake guise) was ridden to an impressive 2nd place in the Irish National Championships by amateur cyclist Chris McGlinchey which underlines its credibility as a race machine.
A lot of bike for $3,299
Quite often when looking for a new bike, the spec sheet is defining when comparing one bike against another, but as this test revealed, there is much more to any bike aside from looks and the all-important ‘value for money’. The true value you get from a bike, the joy, comfort and even performance is very hard to judge when you can’t ride it or can’t even see it on the showroom floor. The Vitus brand became the house brand of online retailer Chain Reaction Cycles and since the Wiggle merger, it means the bike is also available online from them. I will tackle online ordering later, after the specs and ride review and share all the details you need to evaluate this for yourself.
To begin with the specs, Vitus EVO Disc has a full Shimano 6800 Ultegra Disc ensemble including the BR805 spec flat mount calipers, FSA Vision Team 30 Disc wheels shod with Michelin Pro 4 Service Course tyres in 25C, a mixture of FSA alloy bars and stem along with Vitus branded seat and alloy seatpost. Some neat items that are not mentioned in the spec are Jagwire cables & inline adjusters as well as a Vitus branded chain catcher to keep the chain on the inner ring where it belongs. This is an important detail; the gap between the inner chain ring and the huge bottom bracket is tiny so an insurance policy in the form of a chain catcher is a really good idea.
The compact crank and 11-25 cassette combo is a good all-round solution for this a swift bike that also climbs likes a sprinter. I find that the 11-28 cassette tends to be suited to the more ‘sportive’ oriented end of the market, especially when you have to tackle steeper gradients at the end of a long ride.
The website images don’t really do justice to the true elegance of the frame. The downtube screams ‘STIFF’ and all the junctions have significant bracing and support. The chain & seat stays also give the impression that this bike is built more for sprinting and powerful riders than comfort.
The simple gloss silver with black/red striping follows a classic approach where less is much more; it is mated with a black fork sporting simple lettering to break it all up. But what I really like is the absence of loud marketing slogans.
One other item that caught my attention was the fitment of 140mm rotors F&R. I am a very early convert for disc brakes on the road bike so after many years experience have settled on a 160mm Front & 140mm Rear combination. This provides the best blend of power, modulation and heat capacity, especially when you are larger rider like myself. So the smaller 140mm front rotor was lined up for testing on some of the steep descents around my hometown of Adelaide.
Ride impressions – Can I keep it?
In road cycling, the classical marketing slogan for bikes is ‘Horizontally Stiff and Vertically Compliant’. Essentially it is suggesting a bike frame that is comfortable and compliant when you need but also stiff in the right places so you are not losing power. This doesn’t however describe the characteristics when I first started out; instead I registered a ride handling I would describe as taut (which I am not implying is bad).
At 8.3kg I pointed the front end toward the local climb wondering how it would perform, the 58cm frame is no featherweight but it isn’t heavy either. You already know the story, it was my best time on the Belair Rd climb in over 12 months. I felt like I was flying (don’t know if I looked the part), each pedal stroke, whether seated or standing, kept me going forward with ease and responsiveness. It is a feeling that I don’t have on my own bike , which is an endurance style frame. The more effort I put in, the more I was rewarded. Whilst stiff and responsive to those inputs, the reward for the exertion was my meagre wattage unfiltered and converted into pure forward motion.
Choppy rural stretches and patchwork urban roads are not the most favourable surfaces for the Michelin Pro4 Service Course 25C tyres. They are generously sized and I measured a shade under 29mm in width. You need to take time to work out the best tyre pressure to make the ride better. I found that the feedback and response from the frame outweighed the extra ‘feedback’ delivered from the road surface via the frame. I settled on around the 80psi for the rear and 75psi for the front – this seemed to suit the bike and the roads in my area without risking pinch flats while also retaining that taut & responsive feeling from the frame.
Despite the rubbish winter that Adelaide was blessing me with when testing this bike, I just wanted to ride it as much as possible. Every time I got on, the Freddy Mercury tune started and it was nice, willing me to keep going when it got hard but also helping me enjoy the descents as well as the climbs.
I lined up a great descent to test the frame handling and capability of the 140mm front disc. Mt Osmond and Old Belair Road see some steep approaches (12 – 14%) into tight hairpins. Perhaps I was secretly hoping the 160mm discs on my own bike were simply superior so to my surprise, the 140mm Shimano Ultegra discs coped admirably well. It is hard to argue against Shimano Ice-Tech rotors that are the gold standard for disc brakes on road bikes.
Closer inspection – good & not quite right
As with any bike, there are always features or solution that are done really well as well as some that fall short of the mark or aren’t quite what is expected.
There aren’t many gripes with this bike, the few I have are minor but important to be because it is all about details. Let’s get started with some of these details. The rear hydraulic brake hose exit on the inner chain stay is a simple angled exit that results in a less than ideal hose alignment onto the Shimano caliper – this is also a function of the connection style (threaded vs banjo). The net effect is that the supporting grommet is partially misaligned and is not visually pleasing. A ‘raised hood’ type exit would be a neater solution and present a better hose entry to the caliper.
The same style of frame cable/hose entry/exit ports works well for the gear cable entry (on either side of the enormous downtube) in the frame, as they keep the gear cables from rubbing the beautiful glossy silver finish on the head tube. These powers also save you from having apply some form of frame protection that ultimately detracts from the great styling of the bike.
Thru-axles are now becoming the adopted ‘standard’ when it comes to disc brakes (100x12mm for the front and 142x12mm for the rear), and for many riders the difference is probably not that noticeable but Thru-axles are a far better engineering solution. My issue lies within the type of Thru-axle that was selected. There are many standards that could have been used, but the Vitus solution is a curious blend of threaded thru-axle and quick release (QR) all in one. I am actually happy with the ‘performance’ once tightened correctly, but it takes practice getting the right amount of threaded tension before doing up the QR. I found that it took several goes to get the QR lever tension right, which is just frustrating as I know there are much better systems out there. This quibble is very easily overcome by purchasing an alternative, the DT Swiss RWS system is a good example of a better skewer and this simple upgrade will keep you sane.
I have already raved about the chain catcher, close to it is the BB386 bottom bracket coupled with generous tube sizing. I have no doubt that this contributes significantly to the frame responsiveness and rigidity.
The FSA Vision Team 30 Disc wheelset (what a mouthful) is a good example of the “light, strong, cheap – pick any two” adage. The redeeming features the sturdiness, good sizing (external width of 23.7 and internal of 18.9mm) which provides a good profile for the 25C tyres are offset by their listed weight of 2,100g (Front – 906g, rear 1179g). I admit that I never really noticed the inertia during my rides, but they performed their duty without fuss. This is a budget wheelset, coupling a non-disc rim to a disc hub stood out for me, but the subtle dark grey graphics helped disguise this quirk.
Pièce de résistance – what a frame!
This bike is essentially defined by the glorious frame. The rest of the ensemble only serves to connect you and the road. I have ridden plenty of nice bikes and it is not small feat to try and articulate how the Vitus EVO differentiates itself from all of the others. The enormous downtube didn’t seem particularly aero, but didn’t slow me down. It has a sculpted and non-symmetrical seat tube and tall chain stays coupled with the generous and sturdy seat stays. There is the monster bottom bracket and head tube junctions that had me wincing and thinking ‘harsh’ before I climbed aboard. But after riding I wouldn’t describe the EVO as harsh, rather ‘taut’ and ‘responsive’ are far more apt not to mention that the bike simply made me feel happy while riding because it wasn’t holding me back.
In the 58cm size that I rode, the overall weight of 8.3kg (including pedals) could draw some criticism against comparative bikes such the Trek Emonda SL6 and the BH G7 Disc which are (listed as) lighter but more expensive. I haven’t ridden either but if I had to decide between the ride characteristics of the Vitesse EVO and a lighter bike, I would go for the ride. It struck the right blend of feedback, handling, directional stability and stiffness that kept me riding as hard as I could for longer.
The styling and dimensions of the frame are devoid of any outlandish or quirky fashion-chasing aero features or claims. Instead, what you get is a more angular semi-sloping frame with a simple and effective paint scheme, tied to effective geometry and features that do just one thing – perform without fuss.
Buying a bike online – easy or risky?
The major drawcard of buying a bike from a local bike shop is that you can see the bike in the flesh, they may even let you test ride. A brief test rides can provide some indication as to what the new bike feels like which is benefit that an online purchase can’t provide. You may be able to haggle at the shop, rarely will they drop they price of the bike unless they are trying to move-on the stock, but sometimes you can get accessories at a far better price. Of course, the world of online shopping can deliver a lot of great deals as long as you go for the trusty retailers.
The moment of truth, are you prepared to make big purchases online?
The fact is, some people won’t like the idea of buying online or the uncertainty in frame sizing can put you off. Compared with buying directly from a bike shop, you also have more responsibility for the setup and if you are uncertain, it is worthwhile enlisting the help of a friend or seeking out a mechanic. Some bike shops can react poorly towards customers who bring in gear purchased online but the end up missing out on the mechanical and servicing and push more business over to the growing army of independent mobile mechanics.
For sizing, the geometry charts for the Vitus bikes are pretty comprehensive and include some height guides as well as frame stack & reach and all the critical angles, which are important to determine the best size. Missing is important details such as crank length, handlebar width and stem length, these are crucial measurements for me and affects my confidence. If you are uncertain, I recommend first going to a professional bike fit to tie in your sizing and measurements as well as asking Wiggle or CRC through their online support. Another downside of online purchasing is the lack of flexibility to make minor alterations such as cassette ratios. If I had the choice I would swap the rear cassette to 11-28 and change the handlebar width. Wiggle confirmed that the Australian braking can be specified when order as that was not apparent when I looked. For Australian bikes, the front brake is on the right so you get into all kinds of strife if you unwittingly get a bike with the reverse braking.
The flipside of online purchasing is availability of brands / options / configurations which are not otherwise available in Australia. This means you can stand out from the crowd.
Returning the focus back onto the Vitesse EVO Disc, this bike is currently available for A$2,735.99 on Wiggle for the Ultegra setup which is 14% off the list price. As the bike costs over $1000 and is an import, there is additional GST and Customs duty and processing fees. However as a complete bike it is actually exempt from customs duty so you just pay the GST and processing. This can become a little complex so to find out more, read the BNA Ultimate Guide on Customs for Overseas Orders.
As a rough calculation, the overseas online retail price is A$2,735.99 and delivery to Australia is A$178.40. With the duty exempted the landed price would be roughly $3,260 but the exact cost can vary depending on processing fees. If you were charged for duty, it would be over $3,400 and you would have to try and claim the difference.
Next year Wiggle / CRC will go through some big changes that will mean that it is a local order with bikes assembled locally and no import charges or shopping fee. For now, customers can get a free first service however in Australia this is limited to one mobile mechanic in Sydney and a repair service near Port Augusta in South Australia.
UPDATE 22.11.2019 – Service Points are no longer operating in Australia.
Alternatives if you have $3,400 to spend
Based on the mechanical specification of the Vitesse EVO and the key features, some of the alternatives are Giant Defy Advanced Pro (RRP is $4,299) or Trek Emonda SL6 Disc with new Ultegra R8000 (RRP is $3,999). Other online options were a 2016 Boardman Elite SLR Endurance Disc 9.0, (ca. $3,500) BH G7 Disc Ultegra ($2,999) or a Cannondale SuperSix EVO Ultegra. ($3200) These are just some of the alternatives to highlight the myriad of options in the hot market of affordable carbon fibre road bikes with discs.
If you wait till October, the Vitus bikes will be released with the newly released Shimano Ultegra 8000 groupset, and Wiggle have indicated that the upper level models are likely to get the in-house Prime wheelsets , which means better value for performance.
The end result is a bike that I genuinely want to keep. The Vitesse EVO helped me ignore the trashy winter weather and maximise my time on the bike. I was fired with desire to chase some Strava segments PB’s on the segments achieved quite a few. By the end of my time with the bike, I’d covered 500km, climbed 4,836m, claimed 106 cups (in Strava) and ridden in rain and sun enjoying my time riding the Vitesse EVO Disc.
Of course there are a few parts which I would tweak or tune over time to better suit my personal fit (such as slightly narrower bars), but with the price of the bike landed in Australia, I’d seriously consider a 38mm or 50mm carbon wheelset. Another BNA reviewer, James Hutchison has just reviewed the in- house brand prime wheels which are the type of wheels that would really lift this impressive base package by trimming off some of the weight and adding more speed and responsiveness for a feisty race bike.
Even if you save up for a wheelset upgrade later, the Vitus Vitesse EVO Disc provides that it delivers a great ride quality and performance that you would typically find from bikes in a higher price category. But as I mentioned, for me this bike was not so much as a comparison of spec or squeezing the maximum value for money out of each part, rather it defines itself as simply being a really enjoyable bike to ride.
Details and Specifications: Vitus Vitesse EVO Disc Road Bike
Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles No longer available for purchase
Disclosure: Wiggle is a long-term advertiser with Bicycles Network Australia. This review is independent of advertising and (like all BNA reviews) is not paid. Advertising is not a requirement for reviews on Bicycles Network Australia.