The Specialized Venge Expert aero road bike ridden, reviewed and rated
Specialized Venge Expert
The Venge has been around for a few seasons now and in typical Specialized style it’s a really well-rounded and easy to ride complete bike option. But how does it perform at the sharp end?
Frame and fork
The Venge frame comes from the classic, curvy-organic school of aerodynamics. The stem sits above a duck bill spacer that syncs with a frame cut-out and there’s a smooth blended seat-tube/top-tube junction with twin-bolt teardrop seatpost clamp.
The seatpost can also be reversed to give a steeper effective seat angle for a more tri-bike style, ride-into-run-friendly, open-pelvis position. The Press-Fit BB30 bottom bracket section is really deep too, extending upwards into a round-backed wheelhugger that still leaves plenty of room for bigger tyres. The rounded tubes also include fully internal cable routing and upgrade ports for a Di2 battery mount.
As Shimano doesn’t make a fat axle-crank compatible with the BB30 bottom bracket, it’s another FSA carbon-armed chainset transferring foot push to forward motion. Otherwise it’s a full suite of 11-speed Shimano Ultegra shifting quietly between the close-ratio gears. The brakes are the excellent new cam-enhanced Ultegra callipers, way more powerful and controlled than previous versions.
The rest of the kit list is almost entirely Specialized’s own-brand equipment, but that’s no bad thing. The wheels use a semi-carbon rim to provide a hint of aero gain without any handling downsides on windy days. The BlackBelt-protected Turbo tyres tread a good line between keen pace and daily durability too, although a set of the excellent S Works Turbo tyres would certainly inject a bit more enthusiasm and subtle smoothness if you can barter a good price when you buy.
The bar and stem were universally praised by all our riding crew. The stem also benefits from Specialized’s unique eccentric shim, which lets you change the stem angle without altering the spacer stack and the Romin saddle is super comfortable, with Ti rails to keep weight down.
Overall bike weight is good for an aero road bike too, considering the frame and wheels aren’t particularly light.
The welcoming front end and early rides experience ranks the Venge as one of the friendliest bikes we’ve ridden for a while. Fine stem and seatpost angle adjustment makes a perfect fit easier to achieve than most bikes. Specialized stores also have in-house Body Geometry staff to help if you don’t know what a perfect fit feels like.
Once fitted, the whole bike has a very well balanced, vice-free feel. Handling remained stable and predictable even when we tried it with deeper wheels and clip-on tri-bars during some grievously gusty testing days.
Even though the tyres are only adequately grippy rather than amazingly surefooted we never felt nervous at wet corners. While bars and saddle certainly help reduce fatigue, the Venge chassis is also distinctly smoother and more vibration damped than other bikes on test. In fact all the contact point, ride feel and smoother ride factors meant we noticeably relaxed jumping onto the Venge when swapping from other test rides.
We could also take a more liberal attitude to line choice knowing any rough patches weren’t going to beat us up as badly as the other bikes. This reduced mental and physical fatigue as ride distances increased. Our Venge rides were always a head up, smiling, rather than head down grimacing experience even at the end of a long day.
The mid-height head-tube means you can still get good and low. And, as far as you can tell without a wind tunnel, the frame doesn’t feel dramatically draggy even compared to the Felt AR2 or Cervélo S5.
The calm, almost soothing ride (for an aero road bike at least) does come at a dynamic cost though. While it cruises well whatever the wind angle, it’s definitely a bike that’s best coaxed up to speed rather than bullied. Despite the big frame tubes and oversized crank axle there’s a discernible loss of power snap compared to the stiffer frames at full gas, particularly in a lower rev/higher torque situation.
Stay in the saddle and spin though and it’s light enough to respond keenly over a tapered pace increase. It doesn’t drop speed as fast as the Wilier Cento 1 Air or the Cervélo S5 on prolonged climbs either, as long as you rely on tempo not torque.
+ Friendly fit with smooth, balanced handling and an aero edge
+ Reasonably light and very well-balanced complete bike
– Noticeably soft though if you kick really hard
– Reasonably light and very well-balanced complete bike