We review the Specialized Venge Expert Di2 aero road bike
Specialized Venge Expert Di2
When the Venge first arrived on the market with its radically different aero shaping and bold red-and- white livery, to say it polarised opinion would be something of an understatement. But as the model has evolved, and more aero road bikes have appeared, its looks seem less outlandish. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that the Expert, with its minimalist black and grey colour scheme, is a fine looking machine.
FRAME AND FORK
The upward arch of the top tube, combined with Specialized’s adjustable Comp-Set stem set to a negative angle, looks positively aggressive and we think this Venge package is the US company’s strongest yet. The FACT IS 10r carbon frame is more forgiving than the 11r S-Works variant, without incurring too much of a weight penalty – our 58cm model weighed 1,106g.
We’ve always appreciated the silent speed of the Venge – a by-product of its aero styling is a quiet stillness when riding – and the aero benefits of this chassis (especially when supplemented with a set of clip-on tri bars) make it one of the best choices for the rolling terrain of most UK triathlon courses.
The Venge’s gearing offers plenty of scope for speed. The combination of a ‘pro’ 52/36T compact chainset up front and an 11-28T cassette out back gives the bike plenty of low-end power gears, with the 52/11T bottom gear all you’ll ever need. At the other end, the 36/28T top gear will see you over the highest of alpine passes. This is all driven by a flawless combination of Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 electronic transmission and a classy all-carbon FSA SL-K Light chainset. We’d have expected a cassette and chain from a little higher up the food chain than Shimano’s mid-range Tiagra groupset, though.
The Venge Expert rolls on Specialized’s own Roval Rapide SL35 wheels, which sell for £400 on their own, and Turbo Elite BlackBelt tyres. Spesh also provides its full and comfortable Romin saddle, and thick, plush Pro D2 bar tape. The excellent contact points and good tyres add to the overall high watermark of what’s a truly exciting bike to ride.
We’d never describe the Venge’s character as ‘comfortable’, but while it’s still not as supple as Specialized’s cobble-gobbling specialist, the Roubaix, the addition of the Roval wheels with their broad 22mm rims and the soft-but-tough Turbo tyres adds a huge waft of cushioning. Specialized have suddenly arrived at a bike that spends as much time reducing rider fatigue as it does pursuing out-and-out speed.
Get out on the road on this new Venge and the familiar feeling of pace returns. The bike’s willingness to accelerate on the flat is intoxicating and further enhanced by the new wheel package. The 35mm-deep Roval Rapides are suitably stable in crosswinds and their broad profile gives the tyres a shape that happily copes with poorer surfaces. The rims aren’t quite as wide as the latest designs from Zipp, ENVE or HED though, and while the tyres are 23mm wide, we’d be interested to see if moving to 25mm would add even more smoothness to the ride. If you intend to compete on the Venge, then an upgrade to a deeper, more aero wheel would be advised.
The Expert retains the pinpoint handling and sheer stability we’ve always respected the Venge for, and can, with the addition of a set of tri-bars, be turned into a slippery aero bike. But the increased comfort means it’s now a great choice for the endurance end of the scale too, so if you favour longer rides or entering the occasional sportive, you’ll be in good hands.
It’s not just flat, level, straight-line speed that the Venge excels at either – we were hugely impressed with the balance of stability and sharpness through the bars. Power the Venge up to speed and into successive corners, and it hits the apexes with race-car precision. The subtlest of inputs are all that are needed for corrections, and the grippy tyres encourage more and more extreme lean angles, helping to maintain higher speeds for longer. It’s no wonder Cavendish looks happier than ever racing this year.
- Frame and fork
Size tested 58cm
Sizes available 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
Weight as tested 7.95kg
Frame weight 1,106g
Fork weight 393g
Frame Specialized Venge, FACT 10r carbon
Fork Specialized Venge Pro, FACT carbon
Chainset FSA SL-K Light, carbon, 52/36T
Cassette Shimano Tiagra, 10-speed, 11-28T
Chain Shimano Tiagra
Derailleurs Shimano Ultegra Di2
Shifters Shimano Ultegra Di2
Front Roval Rapide SL 35
Rear Roval Rapide SL 35
Tyres Specialized Turbo Elite BlackBelt, 700x23c
Wheel weight 833g/1,018g
- Other components
Stem Specialized Comp-Set, alloy
Bars Specialized Tarmac Expert, alloy
Saddle Specialized Romin Comp
Seatpost Specialized Venge Aero, FACT carbon
Brakes Shimano Ultegra
+ Perfectly pitched handling
+ Smooth and comfortable ride
– Tiagra parts on a £4,000+ bike
– Still warrants some upgrades