CHPT3 has partnered with Vielo for a limited edition version of the second generation V+1 gravel bike that the British bike brand released earlier this year, and follows on from the original launch back in 2018. We got the chance to try out the CHPT3 x Vielo V+1 and we were pretty impressed. It’s a racey gravel bike, for having fun at speed off-road.
While there may only be a limited run of 50 bikes in CHPT3’s build with Campagnolo’s Ekar groupset and Eduard’s rugged artistic finish, Vielo’s V+1 will still be available in softer pastel shades and the choice of Shimano, Sram and Campagnolo for the groupset across two frame levels: the Alto which is 890g, and the Strato at 1100g.
CHPT3 and David Millar invited me out to Girona, Spain and I got to try the second gen Vielo V+1 on a couple of rides.
For the first with David’s wife Nicole we went north out of the city up before twisting round to the west for a coffee stop on the edge of the water at Lago Banolas - this stop is a must, the views across the lake are stunning. The ride included wide sandy/dusty trails and rocky roads, with sections on the Vías Verdes. These are old disused railway lines that have been recovered and reconditioned for use by cyclists, and other users.
With David we headed out east on the narrow, twisty cobbled walkways through the old town, passing by the steps at the bottom of the Cathedral of Girona before popping out onto dirt roads; much sooner than I expected I’ll add.
At the lower slopes of Els Angels here, there’s a maze of more technical single-track to explore. In the more exposed sections, large loose rocks topped the red clay soil, with smooth and wet rocky slabs more prevalent when under the cover of trees. Across both rides there were some steeper climbs and fast descents to put the bike through its paces.
The only thing I didn’t get to test the bike on were twistier sections with tree roots, which are more commonplace in the English gravel scene, with tame local woods which are easily sanitised by overbuilt mountain bikes.
The frame of the CHPT3 collab bike is the second generation of the 1,100g Strato frameset Vielo launched earlier this year.
What’s special about the British brand’s bike is that they’re designed with specificity in mind. “It’s not just a frameset that takes 1x, the whole frame has been engineered around 1x,” says Ian. This means there’s no space to fit a front mech to the V+1 at all.
“Without having to accommodate a front mech and a second chain ring, we’ve got the space to bring the downtube completely symmetrically down into the bottom bracket area,” Ian explains.
Both of the chainstays are also fully symmetrical. “By following the way the bottom bracket runs along the chain stays we can keep the stays completely symmetrical, rather than having to go to a dropped drive-side chainstay like most manufacturers do if they are running a 2x system.”
Tube transitions to the bottom bracket area are no longer compromised and as a result of this, Ian claims, lateral stiffness is increased considerably, by about 32%, compared to a 2x version of the frameset.
“It also allows us to keep the standard road bike bottom bracket width, we’re not messing around with the Q-Factor.”
The equipped Ekar groupset also keeps a narrower Q-factor, one that is much more in line with a standard road bike set up.
Q-factor is the distance between the outside face of each crank arm at the point where the pedal attaches, and this affects stance width which is the distance between the centre of one pedal to the centre of the other. The appropriate stance width ensures proper hip and knee alignment in each pedal stroke, to optimise performance as well as reduce the chance of injury.
Protecting the carbon frame are stainless steel scratch guards to avoid any accidental damage when putting the wheels in and out. It is clear Vielo has given attention to all the small details with the building of this frameset.
Subtle changes have been made to the geometry of the bike, but “we still wanted to position the bike as a fast race gravel bike rather than going down the route of a bikepacking bike,” Ian Hughes of co-founder of Vielo notes. “It will take some day packs but it’s not the drop bar mountain bike kind of scene.”
There are mounts on the top tube for a top tube bag, and also some underneath the down tube for a third bottle cage for carrying another water bottle, or perhaps a tool keg. There aren’t triple fork mounts though, but this isn’t surprising, as Ian said, this is a fast race off-roader.
Back to the geometry, Vielo has increased the seat angle, which brings the rider slightly further forward to help open up the hips a little bit more and get your weight further forward to quell any front-end wandering on steep climbs.
The bottom bracket has been dropped to lower your centre of gravity and lastly the top tube length has been increased so you can pair it with a shorter stem for agile handling at the front end.
At the rear, the 435mm chainstays are relatively long for a race-orentiated offroader. Mattia de Marchi’s Badlands-winning 3T Exploro Racemax is, for example, 415mm and generally makes for a more nimble feeling bike.
Handling wise, it felt steady at the front end and planted at the rear. It made for a stable feeling platform which was a great combo on Girona's gravel, giving the confidence to really let loose on the descents. I suspect going about my twistier wooded trails back home it may not have quite the maneuverability I’m after in the sharper turns.
The integrated handlebar and stem is designed and produced by Vielo themselves, and is available in a range of bar widths from 38 to 44cm and stem lengths from 80 to 110mm to accommodate all riders’ fit needs.
For strength, the clamp to the steerer tube is made from CNC machined aluminium, which is wrapped in carbon fibre for a seamless transition and some added comfort.
The flat aero shaping of the bars is not too wide, it’s very comfortable holding the tops. The slight six degree flair of the drops gives easy access when shifting into the lower position for aero gains and greater control.
Now onto Millar’s spec choices for the CHPT3 version of the V+1. He opted for Campagnolo’s 1x13 Ekar groupset, partially down to nostalgia reasons with his first pro racing bike being equipped with Campag. It's also because he sees the Italian brand as the pioneers, from the start and still today, with the only 13-speed mechanical groupset on the market.
Ekar is claimed to be the lightest gravel-specific groupset in the world at 2385g and the ergonomics are excellent.
“There’s something beautifully mechanical and analogue with Campagnolo that fits our vision for CHPT3 Dirt,” says Millar. “Robust and elegant.”
As you’re navigating the rough and varying terrain, the simplicity of a 1x setup is something to be grateful for. You just shift, there’s no need to think to yourself, ‘am I cross-chaining?’. Then there’s the weight savings from dropping the front mech too, as well as, according to Vielo, lateral stiffness gains that come with the 1x optimised frame. It all adds up to a bike that responds immediately when you stamp on the pedals.
It was my first time specifically riding the Ekar groupset, and I was particularly impressed with how intuitive the Lever 3 thumb shifter is to use. Having the up- and down- shifting on opposite sides of the hoods feels satisfying and straightforward. You’re not shuffling your fingers between the two small paddles. The thumb lever design is easier to access when you’re down in the drops too.
I found the brakes were powerful, and have excellent modulation. To put it simply, they just work. It’s your own skillset that’ll be holding you back rather than any issue with confidence based on the stopping power of these.
Gearing wise, you’ve got a 42T front chainring paired with a 9-42T cassette. I didn’t notice any large jumps between the gears, there’s even five single tooth jumps. With 13 speeds the range was great, although it does lean towards going fast. There was one climb I could have done with knocking it back into something a touch easier, and if I had the bike loaded up with daypacks I’d imagine this would have been a more noticeable thought.
Campagnolo also supplies the Shamal Carbon Gravel wheels too, that come in at a claimed weight of 1,585g for the pair.
The relatively deep rim profile of these wheels differs, with 35mm at the front and 40mm at the rear. The idea behind this being the shallower 35mm front rim “ensures the best possible rideability, in all conditions.”, while the 40mm rear rim has been used “to guarantee maximum responsiveness and complete power transfer”.
Fast and smooth rolling, these are then wrapped in 45mm wide WTB Riddlers with small knobs down the centre for speed on the tarmac, and more aggressive ones on the shoulders for grip when cornering.
The Riddlers feel quick and smooth across the road and onto the rough stuff, gripping confidently in the dry. However as I hit some damp slabs of rock, I was much less confident. The compound isn't super tacky and had a tendency to slip on the smooth surface.
The 700c x 45mm wheel/tyre setup certainly rolls very well over the loose, large rocks, and the wide tyres soak up the bumps with ease, resulting in a fast and comfy riding experience. With the relatively slick centre tread they don’t feel sluggish on tarmac either, which was a surprise given the relatively generous width for a race-focussed gravel bike.
Vielo introduced a new fork with the Gen2 release to increase clearance for up to 50mm on 700c wheels, so you could go even wider than the 45mm tyres specced as standard. Given the rest of the bike is built so much around specificity, this versatility is a little bit of a surprise, but a welcome one as it really allows you to match your tyre choice to the terrain.
The seatpost has an updated clamp which means you can position the saddle further forward for better weight distribution up challenging steep ascents.
Fizik’s gravel specific short-nosed Terra Argo saddle has a carbon shell, and this is claimed to help dampen some of the vibrations from the uneven terrain. Its raised tail holds you in position well as you pace it up steep climbs covered with loose gravel, while the wide pressure-relieving channel down the centre does its job - it even has its own vented mudguard to prevent tyre spray and muck from getting through, although in sunny Girona I didn’t get to test this aspect (thankfully).
Millar enlisted Eduard, who has painted his bikes and frames for years, to give the CHPT3 V+1 it’s distinctive look.
No two frames are painted quite the same. Multiple thin layers are lightly removed to reveal CHPT3’s dirt colours, and this creates a disruptive unique identity to each frame.
“I wanted the CHPT3 Vielo V+1 to look dirty when it was clean and smart when it was dirty,” Millar says.
If this finish isn’t for you, Vielo’s own paintjobs are quite the opposite, with gentle pastel shades.
Overall, the CHPT3 x Vielo V+1 gravel bike feels like a wonderfully fast and fun 1x optimised racer with a unique finish. The ergonomics of the Campagnolo groupset with its thumb shifter are excellent, and the range will suit if you’re attacking the off-road terrain and mixing in tarmac sections.