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This new Energie EVO CRS from Vitus is their World Cup level cyclo-cross race bike, and it's a belter. With aggressive, race orientated geometry and a low weight, it's an absolute blast to race or just take out for a spin. With large tyre clearances and mudguard mounts you're just a few tweaks from a competent gravel bike or year-round commuter, too.
The EVO range sits above the standard Energie line-up, and for 2021 it has had a complete rethink from the ground up. It's one of the best off-road racers I've ridden.
The biggest highlight for me is the handling. This thing is really quick through the bends, and not just thanks to its rapid steering, which is good for getting you out of trouble. There's fantastic feedback coming up from the tyres. It allows excellent precision, letting you keep the power on even when sliding your way out of a tight corner.
The 33mm Vee XCX tyres (the UCI restricts the maximum width, and this is aimed at racing) can feel skittish in wet mud, and the bike slithers a fair bit under power or braking, but that feedback and responsiveness just lets you ride through it.
With a slightly longer top tube matched to a relatively short head tube, Vitus has created a low-slung race position. The 90mm stem is shorter than you'd find on a road bike, but that helps keep that handling lively.
The head down, low barred position feels just right for tackling anything the terrain is throwing at you. Even in the drops on fast gravel descents, the Vitus feels planted, while the 8.12kg weight keeps it responsive, especially when accelerating hard or climbing.
The EVO is stiff. Beefy tube profiles that chunky bottom bracket shell means little of your power is wasted, certainly not that you can detect. But what if you don't want to race?
Well, that's probably the best thing about the EVO. You don't have to. With a maximum tyre clearance of 45mm, the Vitus can easily live as a very capable, fun gravel bike.
I spent a fair amount of time on gravel tracks – long, steady miles of three to four hours – and found the EVO CRS very comfortable indeed, especially once rolling on wider tyres. It's happy for you to just enjoy the scenery for hours, then go for it when you fancy some fun on a steep, tricky descent or a flat-out blast.
Gearing is a contentious issue when it comes to gravel riding, with many riders choosing 1x over a double chainring. But not everybody. Vitus has gone for the 1x, which makes a lot of sense for cyclo-cross thanks to increased mud clearance and greater chain security. It won't please everyone with its relative lack of low ratios, though.
The gearing is very much aimed at racing, with a 40T front spinning a 10-32T cassette. That 40/32T bottom gear isn't that low, and while I found it ideal for racing speeds, long, steep gravel climbs in non-race mode could use something a little lower.
This is a race bike, mind, so that's an observation rather than a criticism. Those ratios also work well on the road, as there's much less chance of spinning out on the downhills than with a typical gravel bike. Should you still want to swap, the Energie Evo has the front mech mount to take a 2x chainset.
In fact, the EVO is quite capable on the road. Its sporty nature transfers over, and the riding position works well for getting a shift on. With 32mm slicks fitted it rolls along nicely, and the handling is still fun even on a firm surface.
You can also run mudguards too, should you fancy it for the commute during the week and adventure/touring at the weekends.
Both the frame and fork get a 'refined' carbon fibre lay-up, according to Vitus, which it says makes this its lightest, stiffest cyclo-cross frameset yet – 880g for a painted medium.
For racing, weight isn't just important when pedalling, as there are times where you're carrying it while running or jumping. And while cable routing used to be a big consideration for frames that need balancing on shoulders, like most carbon frames these days, the Energie EVO buries all its cables and hoses internally. So that's fine.
Vitus has hidden the seat clamp too, using an expanding wedge inside the seat tube, and even shaped the underside of the top tube (where it meets the seat tube) for comfortable carrying. Neat.
One thing that won't sit well with everyone is the press-fit BB386 EVO bottom bracket, due to the design's tendency to creak once the elements (read: watery filth) get in there. Something that's inevitable in a CX race.
To be fair I didn't have any issues with the Vitus throughout testing, even after a washout week with three days of continuous rain. As I mentioned earlier the mud clearance on frame and fork are very good, aided by the dropped drive-side chainstay which gives room for the chainring.
The paint job is a thing of beauty, flipping from purple to blue and a few colours in between as the sunlight shifts. The subtle graphics set it off well.
There are five frame sizes with effective top tube lengths from 517.8mm to 601.8mm, and this medium model offers a wheelbase of 1,030mm, a top tube of 560.1mm, a head tube at 142mm and a fork length of 400mm. The head angle is 71.5° and the seat is 73.8°.
All this adds up to a stack of 565mm, and a reach of 396mm.
There are four specs of Energie EVO, with this CRS being one down from the top. It's based around a SRAM Force groupset, which means you get carbon cranks, an 11-speed cassette and hydraulic discs paired to DoubleTap shifters/levers.
It's a good system with loads of power and modulation from the 160mm rotors, while shifts are crisp and quick. The hoods are quite tall compared to Shimano's offerings, but feel very secure off-road, especially when braking hard or descending technical sections.
The Doyenne handlebar and 90mm stem come from Prime, while the seatpost is Vitus branded. While there is no carbon fibre in sight, it's all good quality stuff.
The only thing I'd change this were mine is the bar tape – I'd prefer it full width – as the flats can get slippery in the rain and the bar is quite firm. The extra grip and comfort on long rides would be welcome.
Atop the seatpost is a Vitus Race Performance saddle. I won't lie, it's not my favourite seat to spend time on, but I didn't find it uncomfortable either. It's just not my shape.
It has a good balance of padding for firmness and comfort, though, and you get a decent rail length for adjustment fore and aft.
This EVO model rolls on Prime Baroudeur wheels, which is a good thing – our Liam gave them the full five stars back in April.
Their aluminium alloy rim is 30mm deep and has a 19mm internal width, which sits well with the 33mm tyres – although gravel offerings around 38mm to 40mm work fine too.
With 24 J-bend Pillar double-butted spokes laced in a 2x pattern to Prime's own hubs, it's a solid build which takes plenty of abuse. Crashing over tree roots, rocks and potholes throughout testing caused no harm, and at just under 1,600g performance is pretty good too.
The Vee XCX tyres are tubeless-ready with a fair bit of edge support and pretty good performers, especially in dry conditions, but you'll probably need something gnarlier for the wet seasons as the minimalist centre tread isn't great in sloppy mud.
Vitus has always been good at delivering quality builds for strong prices, and at £2,499.99 the Energie EVO CRS does nothing to buck that trend. A few years back we tested the Canyon Inflite CF SLX 8.0 Pro Race, which had a very similar spec and price to the Vitus.
That build is no longer in Canyon's catalogue, though – the closest thing now is the Inflite CF SL 7 with an Ultegra RX800 GS groupset and DT Swiss wheels for £2,599.
Meanwhile, something like the Specialized Crux Elite will set you back £2,600, but with a groupset mix of SRAM Apex, Praxis and Sunrace it can't match the specs of the EVO CRS.
I think Vitus have nailed it when it comes to the Energie EVO CRS. If you want a sweet handling, light and flickable CX bike that won't let you down for efficiency and stiffness, then this is for you. And if you want a capable gravel machine with a racy edge... it won't disappoint you then either.
Fast, precise and a light frameset makes this a hugely competitive CX bike or gravel racer
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vitus Energie EVO CRS
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAME: Energie EVO Carbon
SL UD Carbon, UCI Approved, Internal Cable Routing, Removeable Seat-Stay Bridge, Removeable Front Deraileur Mount, Integrated Seat Clamp, Integrated Mudguard Mounts, 12mm x 142mm axle
FORKS: Energie EVO Carbon
SL UD Carbon, Tpered Steerer, 100 x 12mm, Integrated Mudguard Mounts.
CHAINSET: SRAM FORCE 1 Carbon
X-SYNC 40T, XS:165mm S:170mm M:172.5mm L:172.5mm XL:175mm
TYRES: Vee XCX, 700c x 33mm, Tubeless Ready
BOTTOM BRACKET: TRiPEAK 386-24, BB 386EVO for 24mm axle
BRAKES: SRAM FORCE HRD Hydraulic Disc
REAR DERAILLEUR: SRAM FORCE 1 Long Cage
BRAKE ROTORS: SRAM Centreline, Front:160mm, Rear:160mm
HANDLEBARS: Prime Doyenne 6061 Aluminium, 78mm Reach, 125mm Drop, 4 Degree Flare, XS:380mm S:400mm M:420mm L:420mm XL:440mm
SHIFTERS: SRAM FORCE 11spd
STEM: Prime Doyenne Lightweight, 6061 Aluminium
Bar bore 31.8mm, +/- 5 degrees, XS:70mm S:80mm M:90mm L:90mm XL:100mm
CASSETTE: SRAM PG-1170, 10-32T
HEADSET: ACROS Aix 322 R3
Sealed Bearings, OD48, 1 1/8' – 1 ', 41.8 / 28.6 – 52 / 4
CHAIN:KMC X11, 11 Speed
GRIPS: VITUS SuperGrip, Anti Slip
WHEELS: Prime Baroudeur 700c, 24 Hole Front and rear
SADDLE: VITUS Race Performance, CRN-Ti Rail, Pressure Relief Channel
SEATPOST: VITUS 6061 Aluminium, 27.2mm x 350mm, 15mm Offset
SEATCLAMP:Energie Evo Integrated Internal Wedge System
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Vitus says it's an: "All new World Cup-ready cyclocross race bike," but also that it's "An evolution. The new Vitus Energie EVO carbon features a ground up rethink on what's required from a World Cup level race bike. Refined Race-Fit geometry including a longer top tube and shorter stem giving the perfect balance of fit and control, whatever the conditions. Anatomically contoured tube profiles for carrying, and a refined carbon layup result in Vitus' lightest and stiffest CX frameset ever. Build in the class-leading mud clearance and modern look, and this bike just wants to go fast."
The Energie EVO is race focused, which makes it an absolute blast on fast and technical CX courses, while delivering enough versatility to be a thrilling gravel bike or winter commuter.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This is the second tier model in a line up of four. The entry level 'C' version comes with an Apex groupset for £1,799.99. Next is the £1,999.99 Sram Rival CR model, followed by the CRS we have here.
Topping things off are the CRS eTap AXS option which also comes with carbon wheels for £3,499.99.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The overall quality of the frame and fork is very impressive indeed. The graphics are quite understated and the paintjob constantly changes colour in the sunlight.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Full carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
As it's a top level cyclo-cross race bike, the geometry is much more aggresive than a gravel/adventure machine for fast handling and a positive feeling in the corners.
A full geometry table can be found on the Vitus website.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack height is quite low due to the short head tube, allowing you to get low on the bars. The reach is quite long, which helps that aggressive race position.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very impressive considering how stiff it all is.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness is excellent throughout.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Efficiency is exactly what the Energie Evo is all about. It's quick out of the corners thanks to excellent stiffness, and the gearing is specced for racing.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling is quick which makes the Vitus very good on technical routes, plus there's loads of feedback which really allows you to fine tune the steering to make sure the bike goes where you want it to.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I would change the saddle, personally. I prefer something with a little more shape on the top.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Prime handlebar is very stiff, which is great for accelerating hard out of the bends.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Vee tyres roll quickly on and off-road, while the gearing gives a fair amount of top end speed for a 1x system.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The 10-32T cassette gives a good spread for top and bottom end speeds, although some might find it a little tall in very hilly terrain.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
The Prime wheels are robust and can take plenty of knocks, plus the fact they come set up tubeless is a real bonus.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
UCI regs limit tyre widths for cyclo-cross racing, which is why the Vitus comes with 33mm tyres as standard. Their narrowness can make them a little twitchy, especially in deep gravel or mud. Large tyre clearances mean you can fit much wider replacements if you're not a pro racer.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Decent enough finishing kit for this price level. The flat tops of the handlebar are comfortable, although the stiff bar makes well-padded gloves a must.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Given the quality of the frameset, the weight, and the overall spec, the Vitus is competitively priced against the Canyon and Specialized mentioned in the review.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Fast handling and aggresive geometry make this Vitus a very fun bike off-road, whether that's in competition or purely for fun. The frame and fork are very good indeed, and the finishing kit is solid. There's little not to like – it's fantastic, and a nine.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!