Reviewer Stu is currently hammering around Salisbury Plain on a Vitus Substance CRS 2 gravel/adventure bike so you can expect to see our full write-up in the next few weeks; in the meantime, here’s a quick look at the highlights.
We’re excited to find out how the Substance CRS-2 rides because when we reviewed the Substance CRX a couple of years ago we said, “It's an absolute cracker off-road, offering a fun yet stiff ride, plus it rolls surprisingly well on the tarmac too.”
We praised it as an all-rounder that could work just as well on the commute as it does off the beaten track.
Vitus’ Substance bikes cover prices from £899.99 right up to £2,499.99 – although availability is limited right now, as it is across much of the bike world. The more accessible models are built around aluminium frames while carbon fibre takes over at £1,799.99.
The £1,999.99 Vitus Substance CRS 2 has a tapered head tube that houses a 1-1/8in upper bearing and a 1-1/2in lower bearing, the idea being to provide extra front end stiffness. The fork that slots in there is full carbon.
Both the frame and the fork are equipped with mounts for attaching luggage and mudguards, and you get extra bottle cage mounts on the underside of the down tube, these options offering plenty of versatility if you want to head off on a multi-day adventure.
The Vitus Substance CRS-2 is built up with a mix of Shimano’s mid-level GRX 600 and top-level GRX 800 gravel-specific groupset components.
Although GRX is available in 1x (single chainring) formats, Vitus has gone for a 2x set up here with a 46/30-tooth chainset matched up to an 11-34-tooth 11-speed cassette to give you a wide range of gears, including enough small ones to keep you moving on the steep stuff – even if you’re loaded up and it’s late in the day.
Unlike the GRX 800 chainset, the GRX 600 version doesn’t feature Shimano's weight-reducing Hollowtech II hollow crank arm technology but it’s a reliable and durable option.
From experience, the GRX 800 derailleurs are excellent. All GRX rear derailleurs use Shimano's Shadow RD+ technology which is designed to stabilise the chain on rough terrain by minimising the amount of unwanted derailleur arm movement.
The idea is that this provides more secure chain retention, reduces the amount that the chain slaps on the chainstays, ensures a quieter ride, and results in an uninterrupted shifting performance. A stabiliser on/off switch allows you to change the chain tension and minimise bounce on rough roads.
The 650b wheels are from WTB, as are the Byway TCS Road Plus tyres. These come in a 47mm width and when Dave Arthur reviewed them for our sister site off.road.cc he said they were “a decent choice providing… fast-rolling speed on road and hardpack gravel, with only wet grass and mud finding the limits of [this] slick tyre for off-road duties”.
Essentially, WTB took its popular Horizon tyres and added a meaty shoulder tread pattern to provide more traction when you’re drifting through the bends. They’re tubeless-ready so you can adjust pressures depending on the terrain for grip, comfort, and luggage weight without fear of pinch flats.
The aluminium handlebar is Vitus’ own with a 3° flare to provide a little extra stability and control over bumpy surfaces. In other words, the drops slope outwards from the vertical to give you a slightly wider stance than usual. Some gravel bars flare much more than this, but then they can feel out of place on smooth tarmac.
As mentioned, the issue at the moment is availability – there just aren't enough bikes to meet current demand. The same frameset is now available built up with SRAM’s new Rival eTap AXS groupset – with wireless electronic shifting – for £2,499.99. Not surprisingly, this model is also proving extremely popular.
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.