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The all new Specialized Venge

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3 Aug 2018
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When Specialized first introduced the Venge seven years ago, it was the realisation of the aim to produce the brand’s fastest ever road machine.

Developed through extensive testing in Specialized’s state-of-the-art ‘Win Tunnel’ at company headquarters in California, the result was at the time Specialized’s most aerodynamic road bike ever made.

Seven years later, Specialized has taken a completely different approach in developing the third-generation Venge.

Aerodynamics remains a crucial part in the never-ending quest for speed, but this is far more than an incremental evolution of the existing Venge ViAS; it’s a complete rethink of Specialized’s aero platform from the ground up.

It’s an approach that reflects the changing perspective that, while aero is as important as ever in producing speed, it can be achieved without sacrificing on weight or handling.

To realise that goal in front of the fans in the Californian wind-tunnel would have involved months – or even years – of prototype production and testing time, in which time the relentless march of technology could potentially leave Specialized behind in what is a fast-moving industry in more than just the literal sense.

Instead, Specialized developed proprietary software aimed at revolutionising the entire process of bicycle design, capable of generating tens of thousands of tube shapes in a timeframe simply not possible in the real world, modelling each tube for the best combination of three key characteristics: aerodynamics, surface area and stiffness.

The result is what Specialized terms the FreeFoil Shape Library, and it’s this that forms the building blocks of the brand new Specialized Venge.

These shapes can be plotted on a graph – picture it as a scatter of dots on three axes, where a dot at the highest point on one axis will necessarily result in a reduced position on one or both of the opposing metrics.

The FreeFoil Shape Library allows Specialized’s engineers to calculate the perfect shapes to achieve the desired stiffness, handling and weight characteristics of every point on the frame.

The end result is a bike that is both faster than the Venge ViAS it replaces and lighter than the Tarmac SL5 Disc while delivering perfectly tuned handling characteristics because each part of the frame is the precise shape it needs to be.

Getting there was no easy task, however. It took Specialized three to four months to develop the software in the first place, then a further month of actually using it to produce the library of shapes.

Yet when it was finally realised in physical form, even the initial prototype of the third-generation Venge proved faster than the existing Venge ViAS in its very first wind-tunnel test.

At this point Specialized knew that all its hard work had paid off.

Further validation of the design process used in developing the new Venge is the frame’s 960g weight (size 56cm), a remarkable 460g reduction on the Venge ViAS. This is a disc brake road bike that can be built to hit the UCI lower weight limit of 6.8kg.

Part of this dramatic weight saving is made possible by Specialized’s decision to fully turn its back on even the possibility of fitting the new Venge with rim brakes or mechanical gearing – this bike comes only with discs

and electronic shifting in the form of either Sram’s eTap or Shimano’s Di2 platform.

‘In our view, we likely won’t develop another performance road bike with rim brakes,’ says Chris Yu, Specialized’s director of integrated technologies.

This, combined with the overhauled Aerofly II cockpit, sees all cabling completely hidden inside the frame, except for tiny sections that protrude from the fork and rear stay.

The direct impact on aerodynamics, and therefore performance, is obvious enough. But it also gives the Venge an aesthetic edge, where the clean lines afforded by the hidden cabling combine with tube shapes already optimised for peak performance.

It’s another example of how the third-generation Specialized Venge has seen the platform evolve far beyond simply a focus on aerodynamics and pure speed: it’s a bike where wind-cheating design is just the start, not the end, of the story.

The new Specialized Venge in focus 

Junction box

Thanks to feedback from WorldTour teams and mechanics, Specialized has built the Di2 junction box into the Venge’s seatpost.

It’s a vast improvement on placing the device in a bar end, where it is easily damaged and hard to service, and gets the junction box out of the rider’s way while leaving it easily accessible for the mechanic.

The impact on the seatpost’s shape and weight is minimal, while the improvement in performance and rider experience is significant.

Head tube/fork junction

The head tube and fork is probably the area of the new Venge where the precision afforded by the FreeFoil Shape Library is most clearly seen.

Narrower than on many bikes yet with no ground given on front end stiffness, the completely clean lines of the fork are only broken near the bottom to accommodate the disc brake calliper.

Entirely internal cable routing leaves the front end free of cable inlets. Behind the head tube, the frame shape flows smoothly into the down tube and top tube.

Every shape is new and is optimised for its place on the frame.

Rear triangle

The back end is the closest resemblance to the Venge ViAS. The seat tube curves around the shape of the wheel to reduce drag, while the stays are dropped down away from the top tube junction to reduce weight and improve stiffness, and are designed to push air away from the bike and rider.

This is an aero bike that will also excel in the mountains and takes a leap forward to a point where such a machine becomes a rider’s go-to, everyday bike, rather than a specialist option.

Following the recent trend towards wider tyres, the tube shapes have been altered to accommodate greater tyre widths.

Cockpit

As it’s the part of the bike that hits the wind first, it’s essential that the cockpit cuts through the air cleanly. Added to the standard troika of weight, stiffness and handling, however, is a fourth consideration – cable routing.

The new Venge accommodates only disc brakes and electronic gears, which allows for a simplified design and manufacturing process.

The Aerofly II cockpit on the new Venge is flat, which saves weight and allows the cables to flow in straighter lines, while the grippy dimpled surface on the flat top of the bar means only the drops need to be taped.