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June 23, 2015 – 5:00. Five minutes, with a lot of help from some other Specialized components and apparel, is what the new 2016 S-Works Venge ViAS will save you over a 40K ride. That number was supposed to be a jaw dropper, but in today’s hyper aero world it comes across as a pretty reasonable assertion. When the frame, wheels, brakes, helmet, shoes and apparel are all working together to shave drag five minutes should be achievable over a standard road set up. If it’s not, what’s all the aero hype about?
I just takes a manufacturer with control of all the puzzle pieces, which these days includes a wind tunnel, to put it all together. Only one brand, Specialized, makes the bikes, the wheels, the helmets, the shoes and the apparel and can then walk down the street to its wind tunnel to test at will. Specialized summed the importance of aerodynamics up this way. No one would ever develop a performance frame or component without being concerned about weight, so why would you ever design a performance frame or component without being concerned about its drag? Aero drag is at play at all times, not just going up hill, and is the largest restive force we face on the bike.
The package includes the new S-Works Venge ViAS, new Evade skin suit, new Roval wheels, new W-Works shoes, new tires and the existing Evade helmet. For more details on the components and apparel read our story on the Five Minute Package. What we’ll concern ourselves with here is the big news, two minutes of those five minutes, the all new Venge.
We tended to agree with Mark Cavendish, who told a group of journalists at the bike’s unveiling to media in May, “ We had the same Venge for five years, I thought what the hell have you guys been doing over in Morgan Hill the last five years.” Quite a lot as it turns out.
The first thing to know is that the new Venge, and its two minutes of aero gains over a 40k, requires the complete system, from custom Aerofly ViAS cockpit to the new Roval CLX64 wheels.
The new frame is all about the right tube shape in the right place. The down tube is a prime example of this, its top half acts as the rear half of an airfoil created by the wheel and fork. As it flows down it becomes the front half of another airfoil that includes the bottles, seat tube and rear wheel. The seat stays have been dropped below the seat cluster, something Specialized initially tested by simply sawing the stays off a wind tunnel prototype and bonding them lower onto the seat post.
Of course what truly stands out on the bike is the new brakes. Like Cervelo, Specialized realized most custom aero brake solutions were no faster than standard calipers, but unlike Cervelo, which opted for traditional calipers on its S5, Specialized decided to rewrite the braking book. Both front and rear brake are extensions of the frame’s airfoils and add essentially no drag to the package. The true standout is the seat tube mounted rear brake. As Specialized’s Chris D’Alusio puts it, “You put the rear brake on the seat stays because it’s easy. You put it under the bottom bracket because you can’t see it, but you put it on the seat tube because it’s the right place for it.”
Beyond simply the aero advantage Specialized found the seat tube placement has another huge benefit. Everyone who has ridden deep carbon clinchers knows brake rub can be a significant issue, but Specialized found the new location eliminates it. If your wheel deflects 5mm to the left at the bottom bracket, it deflects 5mm to the right at the seat stays, which means in the middle of the seat post the rim is essentially not moving and brake rub is eliminated.
The new Venge’s Aerofly ViAS cockpit is the bike’s second visual signature. Cables are entirely hidden thanks to a new stem and steer tube design, but it’s the gull wing look of the new carbon bars that gives the bike much of its futuristic feel. To do away with a tall head tube, angled stems or stacks of spacers, all very un-aero, Specialized used the most efficient area of the bar to gain a realistic fit – the bar tops – too mimic a typical 6degree stem rise.
If all this sounds like it may compromise your fit the answer is, yes and no. Only the Aerofly ViAS bar and stem can be used with the bike, but seven stems and six bars are available, including gull-wing bars and flat bars, plus four seat posts. The flat bar mimics a -17degree stem and 65mm of spacers can be used. But, be warned, once you cut your steer tube, you can never go back up unless you were on a flat bar previously. Specialized is confident that whatever fit you run, the Venge can fit you. Specialized partnered with ReTul to create an app called FitFinder, but the name is a bit misleading since it is truly just a size finder. Specialized recommends a BG Fit before you start cutting steer tubes, so add another $250 to the price of the bike.
Ride quality was still at the top of the Venge’s priority list, so stiffness and a lively feel at the pedals was not forgotten. In fact, the bike’s bottom bracket and chain stays provide more stiffness than even the new Tarmac. What wasn’t high in the list, fifth according to Specialized, was weight – a race ready 56cm will be north of 16lbs. Quite surprising when the vast majority of bikes at this level easy fall below the UCI limit.
The new wheels, easily overlooked with all the frame’s technology, are a huge factor in the bike’s speed. 64mm deep, the Roval CLX64 is 28.8mm wide at the brake track and 31mm at its widest. Specialized claims two CLX64’s are faster than a Zipp Firecrest 404 and disc combination. The full carbon clinchers are also tubeless compatible. The tire is a new 22mm S-works Aero, which actually measures 24mm on the CLX due to it’s wide internal width, and a 24mm S-Works turbo in back.
How effective was all this aero sculpting and this new package philosophy? According to Specialized the new Venge is actually faster than the Shiv TT bike. Of course, the Shiv’s TT position more than makes up for that. The current Venge bars are not clip-on compatible, in case you were wondering, but look for a solution in the future.
While Specialized did all its aero testing at 50kph, it refrains from using the typical metric of watts saved, since those will be drastically different for every rider. Time is easily understood and surprisingly consistent over varied speed. In fact, a rider moving slower then 50kph (like you and me) can save slightly more than two minutes, it will just be a smaller percentage of over all time than the 50kph rider.
What is the bike tested against? A beach cruiser? Nope. All these numbers are versus a Tarmac SL4 with shallow alloy clinchers and Continental GP4000 23mm tires – not a package to be sneezed at. Specialized is confident saying the new Venge is more than just the fastest aero road bike ever made, it claims it is so fast it creates a new category of bike. Specialized does not give 40k time savings for other aero road packages, but claims to have tested them all extensively.
How this all plays out on the road will be interesting to discover, since we have not turned a pedal in anger on the new Venge. The numbers say it is fast, so fast that any weight penalty is more than mitigated, but we all know the road doesn’t always work that way. A race or ride isn’t completed at a steady effort over all terrain to accumulate aero savings. A race can be easy, the pack steady and rolling tempo, only to erupt over a steep pitch of 200meters on a final climb, will the Venge’s aero savings during the day mitigate any increased weight or has Specialized succeeded in providing such lively feel that the new Venge can climb with the best?
Look for a detailed review in the pages of peloton magazine very soon.
RELATED: Learn about the rest of Specialized’s 5:00 aero package.
The S-Works Venge ViAS will be available with limited supply in August of this year. Two options are on offer – a complete Dura-Ace Di2 build with Roval CLX64 tubeless clinchers and a module, which includes frame set, stem, handle bar, brakes and seat post. You’ll pay $12500 for the complete bike and $5800 for the module. The original Venge will continue in Specialized’s line up for time being at the PRO and lower levels.
Sneak peek from the wind tunnel here…