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Vitus Substance V2 review

18 Dec 2018
Verdict:

An affordable all-rounder that's ripe for tough riding

Cyclist Rating: 

This review was first published in Issue 50 of Cyclist magazine

Vitus has come pretty close to summing up the perfect all-rounder in their marketing blurb, stating that the Substance V2 helps you to ‘seek adventure, expand your riding horizon, and commute in comfort.’

It’s easy to talk the talk, but does it live up to the claim that your bike can ‘go anywhere and everywhere’…

Frameset

The Substance frameset is constructed from 4130 double-butted CrMo tubing – basically, steel alloy that’s been folded at both end of its tube junctions for extra bracing.

Buy the Vitus Substance V2 bike from Wiggle

With a fairly tall standover height, Vitus haven’t gone down the wildly sloping toptube route followed by Giant or Specialized, instead sticking with a more traditional frame silhouette befitting its steel construction.

Blue/grey two-tone paint lends the Substance a particularly classy touch, while practicality is provided by mounts for a rack and mudguards.

While the cables are routed externally along the underside of the downtube, they are at least coated with full cable outers to keep the worst of the elements at bay.

Carbon forks up front accommodate the 650b wheels by way of thru-axle (it’s the same deal at the rear), to eliminate any chance of the 47c (yes, 47) tyres rubbing the frame when the wheels are subjected to torsional forces.

It goes without saying that the frame clearance is substantial in order to accommodate 47mm tyres.

Groupset

It may have only a 1x front chainring but the 10-42 cassette gives a broadly comparable spread of ratios to traditional gearing – even if the jumps between them are fairly wild.

Switches between them are actuated by a Sram Apex rear derailleur. An Apex hydraulic disc brake system hauls everything up.

The 1X system means that the left-hand lever only controls the rear brake, while the right-hand lever deals with the front brake, plus up/downshifts by way of a smaller paddle inline with the lever.

Finishing kit

Vitus have equipped this any-road weapon with typically work-a-day alloy finishing kit from their own range.

What you get is a set of wildly flared drop bars, which flare from their across-the-top diameter of 420mm to 500mm at the end of the drops, and provide comfort and leverage in large amounts.

A 100mm stem secures this arrangement to the steerer. A 27.2mm seatpost holds a deeply padded own-brand saddle. It all works as it should, and the padded nature of the seat actually helps a lot with off-road comfort.

Wheels

WTB’s Frequency i23 rims (with an internal rim diameter of 23mm) are matched to WTB Byway 47 tyres – it’s a winning combination for off-piste fun.

The wheels are 650b, rather than the standard road fitment 700c. Put simply, a 650b wheel diameter measures 584mm while a 700 measures 622mm across, so by running smaller-diameter rims, you’re able to fit huge (hence the 47c WTBs) tyres to give a broadly equivalent overall wheel/tyre diameter.

This retains the geometry of a road bike while ladling on the ability to run pressures as low as a recommended 35psi.

The tubeless set-up on our test bike would cost you a further £28 on wiggle.co.uk for WTB rim tape, plus Lifeline valves and sealant, making it a very easy and affordable conversion for the benefits it offers.

First impression

Pass us the 650b catalogue… From the moment of the first pedal revolution, we were sold.

The fact that running a 650b rim with a 47c tyre gives the same rotational diameter as a 700c rim and road tyre means that there are no discernible differences in frame/steering geometry between this and a standard road bike set-up. The massive bonus is in comfort.

On the road

Given its billing, you wouldn’t expect this to be a machine that can thrill like a pukka race bike, and as long as that’s not what you’re expecting from the Substance, you’re in for a treat.

Where it does impress – hugely – is in its ability to propel you along tarmac, hard-pack, gravel, grass and trails at a more than reasonable rate, in no small amount of comfort.

We ran the tyres at 35-40psi, which was fine for the road; in fact, it almost gives the impression of a road bike with full suspension.

Progress is slowed once the road happens to ramp up, mainly due to the fact you’re hauling around 11.10kg of steel.

The high-volume tyres mask the fact that the chromoly frameset isn’t the lightest or comfiest in the world, and swapping between cogs on the 10-42 cassette doesn’t always result in the perfect road ratio.

However, once off the beaten track, slow your pace a little and revel in the straight-line grip and comfort of the tyres.

We haven’t ridden a bike that gave us this much confidence off-road in a long time.

More than able on tarmac, and revelling in urban and off-piste situations? Sounds like an all-rounder to us…

Handling

Confidence is supplied by those widely flared handlebars. An easy reach for our 5ft 8in frame on our size 54 test bike, they offer comfort and stacks of leverage on rougher terrain.

While the tyres offer surprisingly low rolling resistance on the road, they also inspire confidence in pock-marked town centre streets, as well as on various parkland forays we found calling us.

An easy-going steering geometry complements the wide rubber contact patch, and we dare say an absolute beginner rider could get just as much fun (and that’s the key word with this bike) out of the Vitus as an experienced road rider looking for a second (or third!) bike for occasional weekend adventures.

Sram’s hydraulic brakes require some careful metering in their application if you’re to avoid locking the rear (or, perish the thought, the front) on looser terrain, as they’re stopping force can be just the right side of ‘sudden’.

In all, the Vitus represents the more off-road-biased end of the all-rounder scale, but is none the worse for it. If that suits your intended riding, you’d be silly not to take a closer look – not least because it’s currently discounted to £999 from its original price of £1,299.

There’s no touching it for value for money, or to put it another, slightly cheesier, way, smiles per miles.

RATINGS

Frame: Hefty steel frame but well designed and built. 8/10 
Components: 1x groupset means some compromises but it works. 8/10 
Wheels: We love the 650b wheels and tubeless tyres. 9/10 
The ride: Handles all terrain well, on the road or off it. 9/10 

Verdict: In the right circumstances, Bianchi’s Aria lives up to its promise of being a serious road rocket.

Buy the Vitus Substance V2 bike from Wiggle

Geometry

                                     
Top Tube (TT) 548mm
Seat Tube (ST) 502mm
Stack (S) 566mm
Reach (R) 380mm
Chainstays (C) 435mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.4 degrees
Seat Angle (SA) 73.4 degrees
Wheelbase (WB) 1024mm
BB drop (BB) 70mm

Spec

Vitus Substance V2
Frame 4130 double-butted cromoly, carbon forks
Groupset Sram Apex
Brakes Sram Apex hydraulic discs
Chainset Sram Apex, 40t
Cassette Sram XG-1150, 10-42
Bars Vitus, alloy
Stem Vitus, alloy
Seatpost Vitus, 27.2mm
Wheels WTB Frequency Race i23 TCS 650B, Alex hubs, WTB Byway 650b x 47c tyres
Saddle Vitus
Weight 11.10kg (S)
Contact wiggle.co.uk
Price: 
£999.99

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