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Specialized Venge Pro review

19 Dec 2020
Verdict:

Fast, comfortable and good looking: the Venge Pro is an incredible bike, as long as you block out the sound of the bottom bracket

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Same frameset as the S-Works • Rapid • Little compromise on comfort • Looks great • A joy to ride
Against 
Only a dodgy bottom bracket stands between it and perfection

I'm of the opinion that a review of a bike should never been based on less than 500km and over the course of several weeks or months, and that's certainly the case for my experience of the Specialized Venge Pro. That's because, whatever some in the industry will claim, I don't believe that you can properly know a bike after just a couple of rides.

The first few times I rode the Venge Pro I wasn't all that keen, by the time I was packing it into a box to go back to Specialized's UK office I considered 'accidentally' putting my home address on the label and feigning ignorance when it didn't turn up where it should have.

First impressions matter but shouldn't hold any greater influence over a final analysis than any other ride on that bike. In fact, fail to set the thing up properly – the saddle a little bit too high, the gears not indexed properly – and the resulting discomfort or frustration are hardly a fair reflection of the bike.

In the case of the Specialized Venge Pro when I started with the front end too high and as a result couldn't get into my usual riding position.

Once the fit was dialled – thanks to my colleague Stu for some inventive use of round spacers above the stem in place of the proprietary oval ones they replaced below, and I let a bit of pressure out of the rock hard front tyre to suck up any increased road buzz, I was enamoured with this bike over all terrains and road surfaces.

Ride

I don't mind admitting that I loved this bike and from about the third ride onwards – fit dialled and feeling familiar with it – I enjoyed pretty much every one of the 2,900km I rode on it (which included, say it quietly, a couple of triathlons).

Fast on the flat, comfortable on the climbs and aesthetically pleasing, this bike encouraged me to get out and ride when my motivation might otherwise have been lacking.

The climbing ability has been boosted from the previous Vias version thanks to a significant drop in weight, down 460g for the frameset. But it also comes from the comfort of the bike; thanks to a good bit of seatpost protruding from the compact geometry of the frameset, the flex helps neutralise road buzz and keep as much energy propelling you forward as possible.

I'd say the main reason for the speed of the bike – and it's certainly not this rider – is thanks to the work of Specialized's engineers in the brand's 'Win Tunnel'.

Specialized says that every part of the bike has been checked for its efficiency, with aerodynamics pitched against weight, so the frameset left the wind tunnel as fast as Specialized could make it. For now. The industry doesn't stand still, and will always need to give us new reasons to buy, so expect to see yet more gains to the next Venge or even the next Tarmac, rendering the Venge unnecessary.

Frameset and components

Unlike the rest of the Specialized range, the second tier Venge has the same frameset as the S-Works version. Beyond the change of decal, it's the build specification that sets the bikes apart. The Venge Pro comes with Ultegra Di2 rather than Dura-Ace Di2 and Roval CL50 instead of Roval CLX64 wheels.

However, anyone claiming to be able to differentiate between Ultegra Di2 and Dura-Ace Di2 in a blind test is delusional, while for many of my rides on Venge Pro I would not have wanted to test my nerve any further in the crosswinds by riding deeper rims.

The frameset's aero credential mean it whipped along the flat like few bikes I've ridden while no quarter was given when climbing on it. My rides were limited to southern England's short and sharp ascents but I would gladly have taken this bike to the longer climbs of Mallorca or the Alps.

The only major flaw I could find with this bike was one of the components: the bottom bracket. The bike came with a Praxis Works press fit BB30 and it wasn't long before it made its presence known. A creak soon developed and steadily increased in volume over the months I had this bike.

This had little or no impact on performance but climbs became all the more arduous with the addition of an irritating soundtrack.

Really so different?

Price and value

As mentioned above, and unique in the bike models from Specialized, the Pro-level Venge has exactly the same frameset as the S-Works. Same carbon, same lay-up, just different decals.

The differences between the S-Works and the Pro, arguably, serve to show that the latter is probably the better value offering. Whether that means it's good value overall is another matter, but I am inclined to say it is. But with an RRP of £5850, it's for anyone looking to buy a new bike to decide if that's how much they want to spend.

Make the Tarmac ever more aero and there might not be a need for the Venge

This town might not be big enough for the both of us...

Specialized's marquee offerings – the Venge and the Tarmac – have been creeping closer and closer together, getting ever more similar over the past few years thanks to changes to both models.

The Venge has dropped weight and got more comfortable while aerodynamics, Specialized's key consideration with regards to all its top end bikes, has improved vastly on the Tarmac.

Add into that mix the Roubaix, which is claimed to be as fast and aero as the Tarmac but with the added comfort provided by a front suspension system that can be turned on and off, and it starts to look like Speciailized is crowding itself out of the market before competition from rival brands is even considered.

As such, speculation turns to which – if any – of the bikes would be culled should the similarities get ever closer, and it's hard not to see the Venge reaching its natural conclusion sooner than the others – certainly the Tarmac.

The S-Works Venge is popular with pro teams but it feels unlikely that many WorldTour riders would opt for the out-and-out aero machine when offered a lighter option on a mountainous day at a Grand Tour. Take that theme to the next level - with an even more aero Tarmac, and the Venge's niche will have been sufficiently encroached upon to potentially make it obsolete as teams opt for one model for all parcours.

Speculation, conjecture, rumour. Based on my time with the Venge Pro I'd be quick to point out that the end of this model would be a shame, but if the Amercian mega-brand did decide to trim its offering I really can't see the Tarmac being discontinued.

Summary

When lined up next to other bikes – whether that's the S-Works version of itself or top-tier offerings from other brands – the Specialized Venge Pro is able to hold its own in both performance and looks.

Bikes are pricy these days, and this follows that trend rather than bucking it, but anyone who buys the Specialized Venge Pro is unlikely to regret it – especially if they service their bottom bracket regularly.

Photos: Alex Wright; Laura Fletcher; Jack Elton-Walters

Price: 
£5850

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