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Calling a hybrid bike the 'Mach 3' might suggest the kind of speed-orientated performance that it could never live up to, but actually, it's closer than you might imagine. OK, you're not going to break the speed barrier thricefold, but the Vitus Mach 3 is quite an impressive flat-bar mile-muncher. Vitus markets it as a fitness-orientated machine and that's fair, but it does fall down just a little on luxuries such as bump insulation, and more agreeable gearing wouldn't go amiss.
We don't really do group tests here at road.cc, but I tested this Mach 3 Claris back-to-back with the Vitus Dee VR City Bike, so it's hard not to compare.
While there are notable differences in the spec between the two models, in theory, they come in at a similar kind of point in the market and are both part of Vitus's 'City' range. However, while the Dee is very much an urban runaround, the Mach 3 is more of a serious fitness machine for people wanting to rack up decent mileage, but who don't necessarily want drop bars.
I thought the Dee was an eager little beaver that enjoyed weaving its way through urban rat runs, but it's clear once you hop aboard that this Mach 3 is an entirely different proposition. First of all, it just seems like a bigger bike and it doesn't feel quite so well suited to being thrown around, in and out of gaps.
There's certainly no issue with stability – you can place this confidently wherever you want it. At speed it is particularly proficient and sure-footed. I found myself riding along at a fair pace, perhaps just a little closer to the kerb than I might otherwise because I had complete faith the Mach 3 was going to track straight and true.
Getting up to speed is efficient if not quite as enjoyable as the Dee. As with the steering, this Mach 3 doesn't feel quite so sprightly under acceleration, but it's utterly satisfying once up to cruising velocity.
If I had to sum this bike up with a quick cliché, though, it's 'a game of two halves', or 'every action has an opposite reaction', so the trade-off for that high-speed competence is a slightly bumpy ride quality. It's not uncomfortable when the road is smooth, but you start feeling things when road surfaces become pockmarked.
Hybrids are as prone to specialism as any other type of bike and range from, effectively, skinnier-tyred rigid 29ers, to road bikes that have swapped out their drop bars for flat bars. The Mach 3 Claris is heading much more towards that latter camp.
Funnily enough, there's a bit of slight swan-necking to the down tube and top tube; any curving of the top tube puts me in mind of late 00s Specialized Roubaixs, and the performance is sort of similar, at least in spirit and if you make a few allowances.
The first of those allowances is that this is a full-aluminium frame and fork – not carbon like a Roubaix, and it doesn't even have the steel fork of the Vitus Dee – so there's no real nod to any sort of anti-bump engineering.
The aluminium fork and tapered headset is on point for control, though, and I actually found the rear was the biggest problem when it came to long-ride comfort, possibly thanks to the Mach 3's on-trend but undersized rear triangle.
It's all very nicely finished with internal cable routing and, while I think the kink in the top tube is aesthetically just a little too pronounced, it's a serious-looking option.
Should you want to turn this into a speedy and fitness-enhancing weekend long-rider or even an extended-distance commuter, there is provision to fit two bottle cages, as well as front and rear mudguards and a rear rack.
In terms of positioning and geometry, I felt like I was sitting very slightly on the high side of middling, so the view of the road is good. Ironically, the Vitus Dee seemed to have a marginally more head-down enthusiasm, but positioning on the Mach 3 is certainly comfortable and, overall, this XL model fitted my 6ft body really very nicely.
There's one ingredient that I haven't mentioned yet that really does lend itself to long-distance rides: the Shimano Claris drivetrain. The 11-28t cassette allied with the compact 50/34t chainset means you've got a fair range of ratios to choose from among the 16 available gears. Look, I'm getting older and fatter, so I would have appreciated the setup a lot more if the cassette went north of 28t, but again, as a fitness-orientated bike, it's fine.
The Claris kit works really well. Gear changes are assured once it's all set up properly, and it's a silent operator, so you can be confident there are no mechanical inefficiencies.
I have to say, I've always been a fan of the Claris chainset's looks, too – for an entry-level option, non-cyclists would never tell it wasn't top kit. And in action, the front derailleur in particular is a little gem.
Remember I said this bike is a game of two halves? Well, for all the proficiency of the Claris gearset, we have the slightly less competent performance of Tektro mechanical disc brakes.
Actually, I'm being a little unfair there because, while I think Tektro's hydraulic discs aren't a patch on Shimano's equivalents – such as those found on the cheaper Vitus Dee – these cable-operated discs are actually far easier to make allowances for. They're decent enough at scrubbing off speed, and while outright power and modulation, or 'feel', is a little lacking, it's all relative and you'll quickly come round to the idea that these are good enough.
One thing I really like about this bike from a speccing point of view is that little surprises keep coming at you. For example, the wheelset might 'only' be own-branded Vitus stuff, but the semi-deep-section alloy rims are quite pretty. I don't think they add anything to the ride quality, but they aren't a massive hindrance either.
From a performance point of view, the tan-walled Vee G-Sport tyres are much more impressive.
The 38mm width does offer a bit of cushioning but it's the ultra-low tread that I like particularly – they grip well to the road, but you're never feeling like you're having to work extra hard to overcome resistance. Fit these to the Dee, please, Vitus.
Speaking of the Dee, one area I really liked was its choice of finishing kit, which was understated and certainly not overbuilt. Things are a little different here, starting with the quite chunky Vitus Integrated Flat Bar and Stem. As I said, the Mach 3 fitted me like a dream from the off, but if you're particularly pernickety about positioning, you might find that an all-in-one stem and bar is a little restrictive.
The grips are a bit chunky too and, all-in-all, the front end component choices probably play some role in my perception that the Mach 3's control is assured but not especially lively.
Like the Dee, though, there's a decent saddle. It's only a Vitus-branded, run-of-the-mill sports saddle – rather than the Dee's sexy Nukeproof option – but it does the job well and I wouldn't be in any rush to swap it out other than for accessorising reasons.
A while back, I tested the Bergamont Sweep 4 which matches the Mach 3 in a number of ways – most notably the speed-focused alloy frame and Shimano Claris gearset. It even comes with Shimano M200 hydraulic discs, but it's not quite as rewarding to ride and has risen to £799.
More recently, we also tested the Merida Speeder 200, another great flat-barred road bike that comes with a carbon fork, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and a higher-level Shimano Sora gearset, but also an asking price that's gone up to £865.
However, the nearest threat to the Mach 3 Claris probably comes from the enemy within. For example, the Mach 3 Sora is £170 more at £749.99 but comes with better gearing, Tektro hydraulic discs and a Shimano wheelset. Or the range-topping Mach 3 Apex has SRAM's well-respected 1 x 11 Apex gears, Shimano hydraulic discs and a special build wheelset with WTB rims for £899.99. And for urban duties only, there's that fun hub-geared Vitus Dee VR City Bike for £429.99.
In fact, that's probably the Mach 3 Claris's biggest downside – there's no end of other options you could compare it to. As a first 'serious' bike for somebody wanting to improve their fitness, it's a fine choice. You get all the thrill of speedy performance and decent comfort and componentry, with the only downside being a slightly uninsulated ride quality. But for riders who have been around a while, and especially those whose speed kicks come via a drop-bar bike, it's probably not quite so appealing.
Good flat-barred road bike that will help riders who are scared of drop bars to rack up decent mileage
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vitus Mach 3 VR Urban Bike Claris
Size tested: XL
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: 6061-T6 double-butted aluminium, internal cable routing, QR, flat mount, mudguard mounts, rack mounts
Fork: 6061-T6 aluminium, tapered steerer, QR, flat mount, mudguard mounts
Chainset: Shimano Claris 50/34t
Cassette: Sunrace R86 8-speed, 11-28t
Shifters: Shimano Claris
Rear derailleur: Shimano Claris
Front derailleur: Shimano Claris
Brakes: Tektro C130 mechanical discs
Rims: Vitus Shining
Hubs: Vitus KT
Spokes: Stainless Steel
Tyres: Vee G-Sport 38mm
Handlebar / stem: Vitus Integrated Flat Bar / Stem
Saddle: Vitus, steel rail
Seatpost: Vitus aluminium 27.2mm
Grips: Vitus Ergo
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?
Despite being labelled as part of Vitus's Urban range, the Mach 3 is more of a flat-bar sports bike, designed for relatively long-distance riding at some speed. Vitus says: "The Mach 3 is a modern 700c wheel hybrid bike, capable of challenging your fitness.
"The striking looks and lightweight 6061 T6 double-butted aluminium frame, provides guaranteed comfort and versatility. Whether you ride the Mach 3 VR around your local forest loop at the weekend, or load it up with panniers for your regular commute to work, this bike delivers. The geometry supports a more upright, comfortable and accessible riding position.
"An aluminium fork and steerer with tapered head tube, combined with flat bar specific stem lengths result in confidence-inspiring steering. With fully integrated cable routing, this bike keeps everything nice and tidy, allowing you to make the most of the bikes rack and mount capabilities. Fitted with a reliable Shimano Claris R2000 8-speed groupset and TRP mechanical flat mount disc brakes.
"Vitus's own wheels come fitted with Vee G-Sport 700 x 38 tyres, equally at home on tarmac or towpath. The extra tyre volume gives a super plush ride and deals with poor road surfaces or extra weight from the pannier rack. Fit mudguards to keep you dry, and a rear luggage rack to carry anything from your laptop to your shopping. A sporty saddle and integrated bar and stem make this bike a real head turner."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This Claris model sits at the bottom of the Mach 3 range. The Mach 3 Sora is £170 more at £749.99 but comes with better gearing, Tektro hydraulic discs and a Shimano wheelset. Or the range-topping Mach 3 Apex has SRAM's well-respected 1 x 11 Apex gears, Shimano hydraulic discs and a special build wheelset with WTB rims for £899.99.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Build quality and finish isn't bad at all – this is a perfectly acceptable aluminium bike with some smart features, such as internal cable routing.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both frame and fork are made from 6061-T6 double-butted aluminium. That means they're both pretty stiff!
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
For a stiff and speedy bike, the geometry is fairly relaxed. It's not super easy like a cruiser, but it's not quite head-down enthusiasm either.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
For me, at bang on 6 foot, height and reach of this XL test model was perfect.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Ride quality was a bit tough at times. It's a stiff bike, so there's no hiding from bumps. It's perfectly plush enough on smooth surfaces, but it does get a little unsettled otherwise.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
I'd say this bike was about as stiff as I expected. It's really pretty good if performance and efficient mileage is your goal.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Absolutely – I have no criticism in terms of power delivery. It seemed to be very, very efficient.
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? Fairly neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The steering was certainly not unresponsive – possibly a just tad slow at lower speeds but very surefooted when cracking along at pace. Handling overall was very assured, and the higher the speed, the more stable it felt.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I'd say most of the difficulty in terms of comfort is caused by the fork and frame (particularly the rear triangle), so there's little that speccing can do about it.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I'm not sure about the wheels – they felt good enough but an upgrade wouldn't hurt. Similarly, bolt-through rather than QR hubs would make things stiffer yet, although I don't think they are necessary.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Tyres seemed a nice mix of low grip but efficient rolling.
Very rewarding power transfer.
In terms of performance, acceleration and sprinting were the Mach 3's weakest points.
Getting in a climbing rhythm while seated is easy and rewarding.
Claris obviously isn't going to compete against Dura-Ace in ultimate performance and weight, but it's really very good for the money.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Personally, I'd have liked a wider ratio cassette for climbing. But then I am old and tired.
Wheels and tyres
Wheels were fine, if not massively inspiring.
They look likely to last.
Pretty much what you'd expect at this price.
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?
Interesting that they had semi-deep-section rims, but otherwise fairly unremarkable.
I really like these – good enough grip but speed-friendly rolling performance.
'B Proof' Aramid belt should help with puncture protection.
38mm width means there's a bit of cushioning.
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?
Excellent on dry roads and even damp surfaces. Wouldn't swap out anytime soon.
Controls all just felt a bit chunky.
I found the Ergo grips less comfortable than the thinner grips of the Vitus Dee.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The Mach 3 Claris also comes with Tektro mechanical disc brakes. Although they are an obvious step down from hydraulic discs, if you make allowances for this, they're actually perfectly fine and an improvement on rim brakes, especially in wet weather.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Middling
Would you consider buying the bike? No
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Possibly
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Bergamont Sweep 4 matches the Mach 3 in a number of ways – most notably the speed-focused alloy frame and Shimano Claris gearset – though it also comes with Shimano M200 hydraulic discs. But it's not quite as fun to ride, and costs £799.
The Merida Speeder 200 is another great flat-barred road bike that comes with a carbon fork, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and a higher-level Shimano Sora gearset, but also an asking price of £865.
From Vitus, the Mach 3 Sora is £170 more at £749.99 but comes with better gearing, Tektro hydraulic discs and a Shimano wheelset. Or the range-topping Mach 3 Apex has SRAM's well respected 1 x 11 Apex gears, Shimano hydraulic discs and a special build wheelset with WTB rims for £899.99. And for urban duties only, there's a fun hub-geared Vitus Dee VR City Bike for £429.99.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Vitus Mach 3 Claris is a fine bike on its own terms – it's quick and efficient, and it would prove to be a fine fitness machine for new cyclists who are serious about putting some miles in. In my opinion, it's not quite comfortable enough to use for relaxed pleasure cycling, and there are some competitive other options available, not least from Vitus's own stable.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure