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Vitus bikes have been part of Chain Reaction Cycles for the last few years and the range now carries four different models with varying kit levels on each. We were impressed with how the Dark Plasma rode, especially the frame when we tested it a couple of years back and on quick inspection the spec sheet for the Vitus Vitesse here doesn't look too shabby either.
So what are you getting for your £1799? A lightweight T700 HM-UD carbon fibre frame no less which weighs a claimed 950g. Looking at the tube profiles you might think you've seen it before and you'd be right, its a dead ringer for the Carrera Virago we tested last year and has similarities to some Trek models. The reason for this is that Vitus use generic moulds out in the Far East to keep costs down and it's a common practice undertaken by many bike companies. The Vitus R&D team have control over the layup and material spec though so while externally it may look the same, underneath its exactly how Vitus want it.
As soon as you hit the road a feeling of lightness and stiffness is apparent so the R&D guys obviously know their stuff. The front end uses a tapered headtube to match the steerer on the accompanying HM carbon fibre fork. Oversizing to a 1.5' bottom race has consistently shown a marked increase in stiffness and steering response on the various bikes we've tested in the past and its no different here on the Vitesse.
The downtube is a beefy affair too with a large triangular profile as it heads down to the BB area. There is no real benefit to a three sided tube over a round one but it certainly provides plenty of resistance to loads going in though the steering and pedals.
Vitus have stayed with standard external bearing cups at the bottom bracket rather than BB30 or BB386 which does mean that the frame was found lacking under harder efforts. We'll go into a bit more detail on that in a minute though.
The chainstays have certainly had plenty of material chucked at them in a bid to tame those pedalling forces, tall and narrow to give strength while still providing enough heel clearance.
The compact design of our 54cm means a seat-tube length of just 500mm which keeps the rear triangle small for stiffness. The slender seatstays and a decent length of seatpost counteract this by allowing for some compliance at the saddle.
The build kit is all tried and tested stuff so certainly shouldn't bring any surprises. The wheels are Mavic Equipe's which are the entry level to the highly regarded Ksyrium range. While not super light they are pretty much bombproof and roll sweetly for thousands and thousands of miles. Wrapped around the wheels are Schwalbe's superfast Ultremo ZX. Not one for the mile muncher as they aren't renowned for longevity but if performance is paramount they're always a good choice.
The gears are taken care of by Shimano and FSA, Ultegra for the mechs and shifters while 105 provides the 11-25t cassette and 10spd chain. FSA not only take care of the chainset with their Energy MegaExo compact (50-34t) but also the brakes with the Gossamer callipers.
FSA also muscle their way in on the rest of the finishing kit; bars, stem, headset and seatpost are all taken care of by the components company.
As I mentioned above, putting tyres to tarmac is a very pleasurable experience. The Vitesse feels very light, much lighter than the scales would have you believe with their 7.79kg (17.1lb) readout.
Vitus describe the Vitesse as being built for speed, a race-bred powerhouse and the response as you turn the pedals would have you agree. A 73° seat tube 73.5° headtube angles highlight the performance intentions plus the 410mm chainstays mean a short wheelbase for all round speed and chuckability. It accelerates quickly from a standstill and maintains pace with ease and can be ridden hard or if you're out for a more recovery style route it's happy to roll along as well. The Vitesse is also very comfortable meaning it's ideal for sportives or fast paced group rides where you are likely to find yourself in the saddle for a good few hours.
Hit the hills and the Vitesse really is a joy to climb on whether you are in or out of the saddle. When things get really steep though and the power increases you start to feel movement in the bottom bracket area. Its only noticeable under really high loads but does spoil what is otherwise a very stiff frame.
Descending is a pleasurable experience too with narrow shallow drop FSA Wing handlebars and tapered steerer making short work of any high speed technical sections. The steering is unflustered by rough road surfaces and remains precise and easily controllable. Add to that the grip level of the Ultremo tyres giving huge confidence in the bends - the Vitus is a bike you can make massive time gains on the downhills with.
The Ultegra shifting is as classy as ever with the gear change precise regardless of the load placed on it. The dark grey effect matches the stealthy look of the frame too. The compact chainset and 11-25t cassette provide a decent range of gears for a wide spectrum of riding with the 11t preventing you from spinning out too soon on the descents.
The Gossamer brakes work okay but don't offer the same level of performance as Shimano's 105 or obviously Ultegra. The pads are quite a hard compound and don't have much feel or modulation but they will stop you when asked. The problem is with a bike as light as the Vitesse its very easy to lock the rear wheel or even lift it off the ground without any sort of feedback from the lever.
The wheels and tyres really do compliment the frame though. The Ultremos absolutely fly while the grip levels let you bank the bike over without fear of it washing out from underneath you. Previous experience means I can confirm the robustness of the Ksyriums meaning there is little to fear with regards to build quality. In use though the Equipes manage to feel absorbent like a traditional 32 spoke with the performance of a racing wheelset. It's a comfort to know you can take a line through a corner no matter how rough and the Equipes will just shrug it off.
The bars, stem and seatpost are all alloy offerings and while nothing special it's all decent level kit that works well with the frame. The bars and stem are stiff working alongside the tapered headtube and fork for a tight front end.
The Prologo Scratch Pro saddle takes a fair few miles to bed in but once there it's relatively comfortable with a shape suitable to hard efforts.
If you want to go up a level in the finishing kit stakes the Vitesse VRi comes with Ultegra Di2 for an extra thousand quid or the Vitesse VR with Dura Ace 11 speed at an eye watering £3399.99; you do get a wheel upgrade to Ksyrium Elites as well though.
Overall the Vitus Vitesse is a competent road machine which only suffers at the extreme top end due to that flexible bottom bracket area. Vitus are looking at possibly a BB386 in the future along with their own moulds so the range is constantly evolving. If you aren't racing though and are after a quick road machine for club run duties, sportives and weekend blasts the Vitesse is worth a very long look. The kit level is decent with no need to upgrade anything and it's about on its money at eighteen hundred quid. On the whole it's a fast, comfortable performance machine which covers all bases including looks, as long as you don't mind the Sky-style paint job.
High performance, good looking, lightweight race machine slightly let down by average brakes and bottom bracket flex at top end efforts.
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Make and model: Vitus Vitesse
Size tested: 54
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame- High-modulus T700 HM-UD carbon - UCI Approved
Forks- High-modulus T700 HM-UD carbon - UCI Approved
Wheels- Mavic Ksyrium Equipe
Tyres- Schwalbe Ultremo ZX, 700x23c
Brakes- FSA Gossamer
Chainset- FSA Energy MegaExo, 50t x 34t
Chain- Shimano 105 5701, 10-speed
Cassette- Shimano 105 5700, 11t-25t, 10-speed
Rear Derailleur- Shimano Ultegra 6700
Front Derailleur- Shimano Ultegra 6700
Shifters- Shimano Ultegra 6700
Handlebars- FSA Wing compact
Stem- FSA OS-150
Handlebar Tape- Cork cushion
Headset- FSA Orbit C-33
Saddle- Prologo Scratch Pro
Seatpost- FSA SL-250
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?
"the Vitesse is built for speed, a race-bred powerhouse designed to be ridden hard in the most demanding of conditions without ever reaching its limits before you do." is how Vitus put it. I'll agree its certainly built for speed but also comfortable.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Overall the build quality looks impressive while being finished off with a decent paintjob. There was a small alignment issue with the rear triangle which didn't affect the ride at all but after a quick chat with the guys at Chain Reaction they confirmed it would be dealt with under warranty.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
High modulus carbon fibre is created by further processing to give higher torsional stiffness therefore using less fibres for the same level of stiffness equating to less weight. The UD is uni-directional meaning the fibres are laid in various directions to get the required balance of stiffness and compliance for differing parts of the frame.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
steep angled and short wheel base - http://www.vitusbikes.com/road-bikes-2013/vitesse-2013#geometry
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Very good, the 54cm has a 54.7cm top tube which is bang on what you want for this style of frame.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes. It's a stiff frame with quite a high degree of compliance which means you can spend plenty of time in the saddle.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Slight issues with BB flex when the power really goes down
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well. Initial acceleration is quick and speed changes are dealt with efficiently. Obviously though the BB flex mentioned above takes the shine off at the top end.
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 Vitus is unsettled by rough terrain or quick changes in direction and feels very stable and precise at all times.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The frame deals with the comfort meaning the components can be quite stiff without giving you a battering. The Prologo saddle takes a bit of getting used to.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The bars and stem work well in technical sections where you're really loading up the front end.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels and tyres compliment the frame giving it an all round performance feel.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
It all works well together. Ultegra is a joy to use and the FSA chainset compliments it.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Both the tyres and wheels are favourites of mine which I've happily spent my own money on in the past. The Ksyrium wheels have good performance backed up by great reliability.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The FSA bars have a very shallow drop so are ideal for riders that aren't as flexible as they might like. All the FSA kit works well even if it isn't that exciting.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 34 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Ribble Winter Trainer for commuting, Genesis Flyer My best bike is: Sarto Rovigo
I've been riding for: 10-20 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!