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Vitus ZX-1 EVO review

8 Oct 2021
Verdict:

The ZX-1’s price is way below its competitors, but its performance isn’t far away at all

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£5,399
For 
Perceived aerodynamic efficiency • Well thought-out spec • Comparatively good value price
Against 
Heavy • A little harsh • Quirky handling

The Vitus ZX-1 is by no means a new name in the aero road bike game, but this latest version ups the ante to deliver impressive performance for an even more impressive price.

Vitus is a near-100-year-old company with a storied past. It has changed names and ownership, nationalities and business models and has even been brought back from the dead.

However, throughout all of these ebbs and flows the brand has consistently produced well-regarded bicycles and can boast a number of formative innovations. But for me one bike stands out as a particularly important design: the ZX-1.

Released in the early 1990s it was one of the very first carbon fibre frames to be produced using the monocoque (made in one piece) construction method.

It had internal cable routing and an aerodynamic form (finished off nicely by the ray-like Corima Manta bars) that still looks radical today. It ostensibly laid the foundations for modern aero bike design and fabrication.

This year Vitus has released a new version of the ZX-1. It takes over the reins from the last iteration launched in 2018 and according to Vitus is anything up to 45% more efficient  depending on yaw angle at 45kmh.

The project, says Vitus, started ‘with a blank piece of paper’. In the cliché stakes this is up there with ‘redeveloped from the ground up’ or ‘going back to the drawing board’, but I couldn’t help thinking that here it was justified.

 

There has been no simple tweaking of tube profiles or merely a change of logo typeface. The new bike is unrecognisable. Or rather, it is compared to the previous generation.

Its seat tube bears more than a passing resemblance to that first ZX-1 from 1992, which suggests a certain amount of validation for the aerodynamic efficiency of both designs: drag hasn’t changed, so why should the shapes that cheat it?

But I digress. The new ZX-1 has received quite the overhaul in design, although its monocoque construction method and Vitus’s focus on keen pricing remain.

Vitus ZX-1 EVO: wind-cheating changes

Across the frameset, round tubes have been stretched and snipped to become truncated aerofoils. The seatstays have dropped down low on the seat tube to tuck them out of the wind, with the top tube becoming horizontal for the same reason. The front end has had a tidy-up too – it is all clean angles and smoothly integrated componentry.

Vitus has FSA to thank for some of that. The Italian component specialist has devised a neat ACR headset/cockpit routing system that bike brands can make use of.

 

I think it’s a superb option for budget-conscious brands, who get all the aesthetic and performance benefits of FSA’s finishing kit and entirely hidden cables without having to go to the costly lengths of developing and producing proprietary components.

It does impose some limitations, though. The frame has to house a 1.5in upper headset bearing, which means the frontal profile of the head tube may be wider than it would otherwise ideally be from an aerodynamics standpoint, although Vitus has cannily waisted the head tube below the upper bearing to minimise any impact.

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I can’t say it did anything to harm the feeling of efficiency I got from the bike – it seemed to hold on to speed as well as any aero bike in the market – but it perhaps contributed to the pretty clear feedback I got from the road.

The solid forks, beefy head tube and huge Vision (FSA’s aero-focussed sub-brand) Metron 5D cockpit did little to filter rough road surfaces, although considering the bike’s racy remit this directness is hardly a deal-breaker.

 

Vitus ZX-1 EVO geometry

The ZX-1’s geometry has undergone a similar level of revision to the tube shapes. The handling has been kept fast, but in general, things from the bottom bracket forward have been lengthened and lowered, creating a 1,012mm wheelbase.

As the chainstays have been brought in to a short 410mm, that means the bike has a notably long front-centre (the dimension from bottom bracket to front wheel axle).

I found that at lower speed, for example when climbing, this created a palpable sense of the front turning and the rear catching up.

 

Bikes with shorter front-centres relative to overall wheelbases tend to manoeuvre in a more cohesive fashion in this situation, but I raise that as a quirk rather than a negative, for it paid back with interest when I was going downhill. The bike imparted a distinct sense of stability and confidence when descending.

Just as with the FSA ACR front end, it’s an example of Vitus making another pragmatic compromise that helps ensure this latest incarnation honours the legacy of the ZX-1 name.

It’s perhaps half a kilo heavier than the lighter bikes in the genre, but for around half their price the ZX-1’s performance makes the necessity of dropping that weight hard to justify.

Pick of the kit


Isadore Climber’s jersey, £135, isadore.com

Isadore has left this jersey largely unchanged for over five years and I’m not about to question why. The look and finish remain as classy as ever.

The body is made from a merino ‘bi-component’ material and the sleeves are cut from lightweight Lycra. I’ve found these fabrics combine to make the jersey both airy (the merino body breathes excellently) and comfortable (the long sleeves are snug but light). It has been a summer staple of mine for a number of years and will continue to be so in future.

Alternatively…

High speed, low price

The entire ZX-1 lineup has astute spec lists and keen pricing. The ZX-1 EVO CR 105 is the most affordable version at £2,799.99.

Vitesse finesse

If well-rounded performance is more your thing than flat-out speed, the Vitesse Evo CRX eTap AXS is Vitus’s top-end lightweight racer at £4,799.99, featuring SRAM’s excellent Red eTap AXS groupset.

Spec

Frame Vitus ZX-1 EVO CRX
Groupset   SRAM Red eTap AXS
Brakes SRAM Red eTap AXS
Chainset SRAM Red eTap AXS
Cassette SRAM Red eTap AXS
Bars FSA Metron 5D ACR cockpit
Stem FSA Metron 5D ACR cockpit
Seatpost Vitus ZX-1 EVO Aero
Saddle Vitus Race Performance
Wheels Reynolds AR 58/62 DB, Schwalbe One Performance 25mm tyres
Weight 8.1kg (XL)
Contact vitusbikes.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

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