We review the Stevens Ventoux Ultegra road bike
Stevens is a new brand to the UK. It’s German, so no doubt you already have a few preconceptions about it. But is the Ventoux more like our cliched ideas of German fashion and rock music (appalling) or those of German sportscars and classical music, which are venerated the world over?
FRAME AND FORK
Stevens made its first carbon fibre frame back in 1991. That bike used dead-straight carbon tubes that were joined with lugs and at the time it was regarded as cutting edge. Since then, a lot has changed, but not everything. The Ventoux – named after the huge, treeless mountain in Provence made famous by the Tour de France – is made from high-modulus carbon fibre and is close to being as advanced now as its ancestor was in 1991.
Despite the altitude-seeking name, Stevens describe the Ventoux as being ‘comfort-optimised’. The seatstays are very skinny, as is the latest convention, to allow some give and save weight. The seat tube has an interesting asymmetrical shape that flares out towards the non-drive side of the bike. This creates a larger junction area at the press-fit bottom bracket without creating a bigger Q-factor, the horizontal distance between the pedals. For sharper handling, the head tube tapers from 1.125in at the top to a huge 1.5in where it meets the full-carbon fork. To ensure that stiffness isn’t wasted, the down tube has the longest possible join with the head tube, coming right up to meet the top tube to form a much stiffer front end.
The Ventoux frame is a semi-monocoque. The front triangle is made in one piece as a monocoque and the rear half is joined using a tube-to-tube process of carbon-wrapped junctions. The frame features several classy details, such as the internal cable routing for the rear derailleur, which emerges just above the dropout, and also the seatpost clamp, which is partially integrated, smoothly shaped and forward facing so that it doesn’t fill with road grime. We weighed the frame and fork respectively at 984g and 360g. Those are impressive numbers, even for an upper-mid-range bike.
The Stevens employs a full Shimano Ultegra groupset. Our Ventoux test bike came with standard gearing, although compact is an option. The wheels are from Mavic: lightweight Ksyrium Elites, which feature several proprietary technologies including the Isopulse rear spoke pattern and ISM machined rims. An Oxygen Speedlite saddle sits on a high quality Ritchey WCS carbon seatpost that was selected by Stevens for its vibration absorption ability. A Scorpo stem holds a deep-drop anatomic bar.
German bikes have picked up a reputation for riding harshly. In some cases it’s true but the Ventoux immediately proves that such a generalisation is unfair. It takes the sting out of sharper hits and road vibration well. We’ve ridden smoother bikes but they’ve either been twice the price or sacrificed all lateral strength.
Manufacturers would like us to believe we must choose between pedaling stiffness and ride comfort but it is possible to have both, it’s just difficult. That’s why there are many good bikes and only a few greats. The Ventoux has decent power transfer for its comfort level. There’s no tangible flex but it doesn’t have the rock-solid feel of the stiffest bikes in its category.
The weight saving that the Mavic Ksyrium Elites deliver is clear and they help the Ventoux to climb in a manner befitting its name. As you’d expect from the incredibly beefy front end, the steering is very precise and the bike feels rock solid when descending at speed.
Stevens haven’t made the head tube too tall so, while you can still set it up for comfort by raising the stem on the spacers, you can also get quite low. If you want a really aero position with clip-ons, though, you may need a more angled stem. The anatomic bars have deep drops, giving a wide range of positions.
We don’t recall seeing an Oxygen saddle before but it’s comfortable whether you like to sit on the back or perch on the nose. The Ultegra kit all works very well, brakes included, but shifts require a lot of lever movement compared to SRAM. If you agree with us that the Ventoux looks a bit dull in this colour, check out the crisp white alternative.
+ Light and well equipped, with particularly good wheels
+ Comfortable frame with numerous intelligent details
– Lacking in ultimate stiffness for aggressive riding and steep climbs
– This colour scheme is dated but at least the white version looks better