The Venon EVO-RS Force AXS headlines Vitus' latest all-road lineup, and it is an incredibly capable road machine with a forgiving ride and quick, no-nonsense handling that really lets you exploit its speed. The real beauty is that it works just as well away from the road too, and with the ability to run up to 45mm tyres your adventures aren't limited by the terrain.
> Buy now: Venon EVO-RS Force AXS for £4399.99 from Chain Reaction Cycles
If you are looking for a new road bike, do check out our best road bikes buyer's guide, covering machines from just £300 up to £13,000-plus.
Being inspired by both the ZX-1 EVO (Vitus' aero road bike) and its Vitesse EVO lightweight all-rounder, the Venon EVO already has a great head start in terms of performance and ride quality. I reviewed both of those bikes a couple of years ago and was massively impressed with both.
The Venon uses the sleek aero lines of the ZX-1 at the front, while the comfort-boosting slender seatstays and general rear-end design is influenced by the Vitesse. This isn't just a cut-and-shut of two road bikes and some bigger tyre clearances for gravel, though – the Venon EVO very much has its own identity.
It's easy to dismiss the all-road category as just another industry ploy to get you to buy another bike, and I'm not really disputing that – after all, that is how they make money. But in fact, something like the Venon should actually mean you need one less bike, even if you just like to dabble occasionally in one surface or the other.
It does this by covering a large chunk of middle ground with its high-performance road ride – it's great for everything bar racing – while also satisfying the off-road interests of anyone on the lightweight side of bikepacking or adventure riding.
The beautiful thing is it manages to spread this wide ranging capability without any noticeable compromise. In fact, in many ways it's a specialist bike for those with no speciality in mind.
The Venon is available in two personas. The EVO-RS models are biased towards the road, while the EVO-GR builds focus more on gravel riding.
At a smidge over 8kg the EVO-RS is light by today's standards, and that is probably the defining factor in how it behaves. It always feels responsive, eager to get a move on and it is a great climber too.
I'm not a climber myself, but even I wasn't put off seeking out the hills. The huge stiffness of the wide, 386EVO-compatible bottom bracket shell makes the Venon rewarding to pedal hard, whether out of the saddle or in it.
While the geometry may just take the Venon outside of the racing arena, its efficiency certainly doesn't. It may not be as sharp in the corners as a full race machine, but on the straights or those hills, the frameset never gives anything away.
Hard accelerations feel great, and even banking the Vitus hard from side to side as you hammer down the road doesn't overwhelm the fork legs.
You certainly won't be left wanting on the club run, and the Vitus will feel right at home on the chain gang when the pace picks up.
Despite angles and tube measurements more akin to an endurance road bike, the Venon EVO is still a very capable bike to ride fast. There certainly aren't any compromises – you never feel like you're riding a gravel bike with skinny tyres.
The handling is quick with loads of feedback from the front end; it certainly isn't shy about letting you know what the front tyre is up to.
It's a smooth-handling machine, a bike that allows you to ride quickly in an unflustered kind of fashion, with only the fastest technical sections testing its ability to change direction in a nanosecond.
On my favourite challenging test descent it was only though the tricky, fast chicane that I had to work hard to keep it on the ideal line. Part of it is off-camber and tries to push the front end wide, and I've used the verge as a berm a few times to avoid going through the barbed wire fence and over the drop the other side... but that wasn't necessary with the Vitus.
It wasn't as stable through here as the V4Rs was a few days before, but neither should it be considering the racing pedigree of that Colnago. It wasn't far off, mind, and the Vitus gave me the feedback to know I was going to have to work to keep it on the road.
The wheelbase required for the Venon's larger tyres also brings stability in the corners, which is a bonus on rough back lanes. It's less twitchy than a race bike, and in these kinds of situations it is probably faster too; you can just let the bike get on with it.
With the 28mm tyres pumped up hard the way I like them, the ride quality of the frame and fork is even more noticeable. There is a noticeable plushness that allows you to cover big miles in relative comfort, and those slender seat stays definitely take the sting out. All of this works well away from the road, making the Venon a fun and fast gravel racer.
Vitus also sent us an EVO-GR, which uses the same frameset but (as I mentioned earlier) a gravel-focused build.
The full review will be up soon on off-road.cc, but I will say that on its 40mm Michelin Power Gravel tyres it behaves very well off-road.
The length in the wheelbase keeps it planted on loose surfaces, and while the steering is quicker than most traditional gravel bikes, it never feels twitchy or out of control.
Bear in mind the Venon is designed as a gravel racer, so it works best on those fast, flowing and relatively hard-packed trails or on wide-open fire roads. If you like the technical stuff – twisty singletrack or tricky rocky sections – you'll be better served with something more adventure focused, with slacker angles and even larger tyre clearances.
For the riding it is designed to do though, the EVO is very good indeed. On my favourite mixed terrain loop it was a lot of fun, felt well within its comfort zone, and is actually rather flattering to ride.
Frame and fork
Thanks to its SL UD (uni-directional) carbon fibre construction, the Venon's frame and fork has a claimed weight of just 1kg in a size medium. That's pretty impressive for a bike designed to take on a bit of the rough stuff.
It's no off-the-shelf frame either, as the EVO was designed by Vitus' in-house team in Belfast and then manufactured in the Far East using Vitus' own moulds.
It looks high quality throughout from what I can see, with a clean finish on the inside of the frame when looking down into the seat tube. The paint job is deep and luxurious too, and it stood up well over the review period.
The main thing that differentiates the Venon EVO from most other all-road bikes is the tyre clearance, which at 45mm is bigger than both the Ridley Grifn recently reviewed (38mm with a 2x chainset, 40mm with 1x) or the Fara Cycling F/AR which will take 38mm slicks max.
This makes the EVO as capable as many gravel bikes, and for the type of gravel riding I do it's as big as I'd need to go. I routinely run 40mm gravel tyres, or 45mm when the conditions are wet and muddy. Anything wider and the rotating weight starts to sap the fun out of the ride for me, so with that in mind I'd say the EVO ticks the 'gravel' box better than most.
In a road build you can ride pretty much any tyre size you want, as most slicks top out around the 38mm mark. Plus, even with those fitted you could run full mudguards – something that the Venon is happy to do thanks to a removable rear brake bridge. The mounting points aren't exactly in the position to fit most guards straight out of the box, but with a bit of fettling of the stays they'll go on.
This really adds to the versatility of the EVO-RS. With big tyres and mudguards you've got an ideal lightweight tourer, audax machine or year-round commuter.
Beyond the mudguard mounts though, you won't find much in the way of 'utility' features, as befits its light and race-ready persona. However, if you do want to run a top tube bag, frame bag or bar bag then you will like the internal routing, as there's no cabling to get in the way.
Well, the brake hoses run internally here at least – with this SRAM AXS groupset there are no cables or wires anyway. To complete the smooth look, the front mech mounting plate is easily removed if you want to go 1x.
It is one very smart-looking road bike in my eyes, and I think Vitus has done a great job – build it with gravel components and it's a convincing gravel bike instead. It never looks like some kind of crossover, or a bike trying to be too many things.
Vitus has managed to keep the chainstays quite short at 420mm which stops the Venon looking long, even with narrow race rubber fitted. The arched cutout of the seat tube allows for that shortness, and Vitus has also dropped both chainstays for maximum clearance.
The Venon is running a press-fit 386EVO bottom bracket, which allows for the bottom bracket shell to be wider than one that has the bearing cups screwed into it. The Q factor – the distance between the pedal faces – doesn't change though. The wider shell means that the chainstays can still be chunky enough to resist pedalling loads while giving that extra tyre clearance.
Vitus is confident it has perfected the carbon layup and wall thicknesses around the bottom bracket, so there should be no creaking from the press-fit system.
The Venon EVO comes in six sizes, ranging from XS to XXL, with top tubes of 515mm to 605mm. There are recommended heights and leg lengths on the geometry chart to help with sizing.
This medium has a top tube length of 551mm, with a seat tube of 500mm. The head tube is 143mm tall including the top cap which fills the recess above the top tube.
The fork rake is 50mm, while the head angle sits at 71.5° and the seat angle is 71.8°. The wheelbase is 1,020mm and the bike has a front centre measurement of 609mm. The bottom bracket drop is 70mm, while the stack and reach figures are 560mm and 387mm.
Vitus is offering the EVO-RS in four build options, and the EVO-GR in three. You can also buy a frameset for £1,799.99 should you want to build your own.
The model here is the RS range-topper, and comes with SRAM's completely wireless AXS Force groupset. Unlike other brands you use both shifters for changing gears on the cassette; the left shifter moves the chain up the cogs, while the right moves it down. Push both together and you change between the front rings.
As a groupset I think it is great, and I especially like the ratios. You get a 46/33t crankset paired to a 10-33t cassette. That may sound low, but that 46t paired with the 10t still gives plenty of top-end speed, while the 33/33 gives you low enough ratios for climbs. There are other Force options, but this setup works really well on both road and gravel.
Shifting at either end is impressively quick and precise, plus you can tweak all sorts of things in the app.
The braking from the hydraulic callipers is sharp, with loads of power and excellent modulation. You can really grab the levers hard and feel if and when it might lock up. Vitus has gone for 160mm front and 140mm rear discs, which is ideal for this kind of bike.
The front end consists of an FSA NS SMR stem (LOL FFS) and FSA headset, which work together to route those brake hoses into the frame and fork directly from the handlebar. That bar is a Prime Primavera Aero Carbon, which has a great shape and plenty of comfortable hand positions.
The seatpost is from Prime too, also called Primavera and made from carbon fibre.
The saddle perched above is a Vitus Race Performance model which I found comfortable enough, although I prefer something a little shorter if I'm being picky. Saddles are very personal though, so go with whatever suits you if the Vitus doesn't.
This EVO-RS gets a set of aluminium wheels. WHAT, I hear you cry – at this price...?!
They may be alloy, but they are light at 1,522g including tubeless rim tape (sub-1,500g without), and their 25mm depth makes them great all-rounders.
Aero versions of each build will be available soon, with deep section wheels for an extra £300.
Michelin supplies the tyres with a pair of 28mm Power Cup Classic TSs, and they look great with their tan sidewalls. I found their performance good, with decent rolling resistance and plenty of grip from the tacky-feeling compound.
This model comes in at £4,399.99, while the entry-level EVO-RS is £3,599.99 with Shimano 105 Di2.
That Ridley Grifn I mentioned earlier is nearly six grand in the GRX Di2 build with carbon wheels. Ridley doesn't offer a Force build on its website configurator, but there is a Rival AXS version with alloy wheels and similar components that's £4,565.
The EVO-RS with the Rival AXS groupset is just £3,699.99.
The Fara F/AR may be limited to those 38mm slicks, but it is a lovely bike on the road and capable on hardpacked trails. The build we reviewed was also based around a SRAM Force AXS groupset, and came with carbon Fulcrum wheels for £4,644.
Fara Cycling currently doesn't offer Force as an option, but does do a Rival AXS build. With a set of Fulcrum Rapid Red 500 DB wheels it costs €4,699, which at the time of writing worked out as £4,079.
What I love most about the Venon EVO is that, when it's set up like a road bike, it feels and looks like a very fast road bike. And when it's set up as a gravel bike, it feels like a fast gravel bike. There are no compromises at all, and that is a very impressive thing to achieve.
All the versions are also stunning to look at, and are very well built. When taking everything into account – the spec and overall weight too – the Venon is great value for money.
Great interpretation of 'all-road' – exceptional performance and handling whatever the terrain
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Make and model: Vitus Venon EVO-RS Force AXS All-Road
List the components used to build up the bike.
CHAINSET: SRAM Force D1 DUB - 46/33T, XS:165mm S:170mm M:172.5mm L:172.5mm XL:175mm XXL: 175mm
TYRES: Michelin Power Cup Classic TS TLR, 700c x 28c, Tubeless Ready
BOTTOM BRACKET: SRAM DUB BB386
FRONT DERAILLEUR: SRAM Force eTap AXS, 2 x 12 Speed, Braze-On
BRAKES: SRAM Force eTap AXS D1 Disc, Hydraulic Disc, Flat Mount
REAR DERAILLEUR: SRAM Force eTap AXS, 12 Speed, Short Cage
BRAKE ROTORS: SRAM Paceline, Front:160mm, Rear:140mm
SHIFTERS: SRAM Force eTap AXS, 2 x 12 Speed
HANDLEBARS: Prime Primavera Carbon Aero, UD Carbon, Reach: 78mm, XS:380mm S:400mm M:420mm L:420mm XL:440mm XXL:440mm
STEM: FSA NS SMR Aluminium, Bar Bore 31.8mm, - 6 degrees, XS:90mm S:100mm M:110mm L:110mm XL:120mm XXL:120mm
CASSETTE: SRAM XG 1270 D1, 10-33T, 12 Speed
HEADSET: FSA, Sealed Bearings, OD46, 1 1/8" – 1 1/2", 41.8 / 28.6 – 52 / 40
CHAIN: SRAM Force D1, 12 Speed
BAR TAPE: Vitus Super Grip Anti Slip
WHEELSET: Prime Attaquer V2
SADDLE: Vitus Race Performance, Ti Rail
SEATPOST: Prime Primavera Carbon, 27.2mm, 10mm Offset, XS/S: 300mm M/L: 350mm XL/XXL: 400mm
SEATCLAMP: Venon 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, "The Vitus Venon EVO-RS Force AXS is an all-road bike to be reckoned with. Built for speed, efficiency, and versatility, the Venon borrows engineering proven in our high-performance family of road bikes and applies it in a new platform capable on any road surface. This is road, unlimited.
"A chameleon at home on gravel or tarmac, the Venon is an all-road platform made in two flavors: the EVO-RS and EVO-GR. This specific bike, the Venon EVO-RS, is specced with road-specific components hung from a frame that smartly balances comfort and speed. Its sibling, the Venon EVO-GR, comes with components more typical of a gravel bike. The frame is the same, but we give you the choice to pick your poison – are you more the type hungry for washboard and dust, or do you prefer big days pounding pavement? Or, with a second set of wheels you can have the best of both worlds. The choice is yours.
"As a member of our EVO family of bikes, the Venon EVO-RS is a high-performance carbon all-road bike that places a premium on speed and efficiency. Here, aerodynamics matter – at the front of the bike you'll find tube shapes and integrated cable routing borrowed from our ZX-1 EVO aero road bike. At the rear of the bike, you'll find inspiration from our Vitesse EVO all-rounder, with dropped seatstays and a forgiving carbon layup for additional give when the road surface is less than ideal.
"This Vitus Venon EVO-RS Force AXS is built up with SRAM's 2x Force AXS 12-speed electronic drivetrain. It uses an internally routed cockpit, custom headset and integrated fork for maximum efficiency and comes stock with Micheline Power Cup 700x28c tyres that roll fast and are a little wider for comfort and grip. The Venon EVO frame can accommodate up to 45mm tyres, but we've paid special attention to its rear end to ensure the bike's snappy race bike-like feel wasn't sacrificed in the name of clearance.
"In recent years we've seen the lines between gravel bikes and road bikes begin to blur. Riders are demanding more – more speed, more clearance, more versatility, and less fluff. The Venon EVO-RS is our answer to those demands."
The Venon EVO is a bike that works on the road and off of it without any compromises.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This bike sits at the top of the range of four EVO-RS models. The line-up starts with a 105 Di2 model for £3,599.99, a Rival AXS option costs £3,699.99, while the Ultgera Di2 costs £4,099.99.
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Built to a high standard and finished with a luxurious paint job. There are some great colour options through the range too.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
FRAME: Venon EVO Carbon, SL UD Carbon,
FORK: Venon EVO Carbon, SL UD Carbon,
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is similar to that of an endurance road bike, with a few tweaks to make it compatible with wide tyres so it can be ridden fast on loose surfaces.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach figures are fairly typical for a bike of this ilk and size.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's comfortable as the frame and fork have a relatively plush feel considering how stiff they are.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The Venon EVO feels very stiff, especially around the bottom bracket.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The Venon feels efficient overall, thanks to the low weight and wide spread of gears.
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? On the fun side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling is well balanced and quick enough for fun in the bends.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Personally I prefer a slightly shorter saddle, but I'm a big fan of the Prime aero handlebar. I found it comfortable whether on the tops, hoods or drops.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The handlebar displays great levels of stiffness, as does the wheelset.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The spread of gears created by the Force groupset gives great efficiency.
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Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The Force AXS groupset works exceptionally well, and the ratios of the smaller chainrings feel very efficient.
Rate the wheels for performance:
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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?
A good all-round set of wheels that sits well with the versatility of this EVO-RS build.
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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?
Grippy with a low rolling resistance.
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Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
It's an impressive finishing kit for the money with the aero carbon handlebar, and the stem looks great thanks to its ability to hide any hoses or cables.
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?
Compared to two high-end all-road bikes (the Ridley and Fara) we have recently tested, the Venon EVO is great value.
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Use this box to explain your overall score
In this build the Venon EVO-RS is an exceptional road bike for those who want speed, comfort and great handling. The fact it can do it off-road too with just a change of tyres means it's a very complete package. It's also well specced for the money.
Age: 44 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
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,
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