Three months with the Specialized Venge Elite

The Venge Elite is a carbon aero bike from Specialized. The FACT 10r carbon frame utilises less high-modulus carbon fibre than the range-topping S-Works, making it less stiff and slightly heavier although tube profiles and wind-cheating shapes stay the same. It sports aero-optimized tubing, a compact race design, and a tapered head tube and was designed to provide the ideal blend of light overall weight, stiffness, and responsiveness.

The frame and fork spent time in a wind-tunnel to optimize their aerodynamic shapes. Frame details include neat internal cable routing, a two-bolt seatpost clamp design, an aero seatpost (that can be flipped around for either 0mm or 20mm offset), and a BB30 CeramicSpeed bottom bracket.


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The build

We recently reviewed the bike's SRAM RED eTap with Quarq DZero power drivetrain, so I won't go into detail here again, other than saying that it has been bombproof, performing flawlessly throughout the test period.


Saddle: Astute Italia Skycarb VT

The Skycarb VT is a 140g race saddle from high-end saddle manufacturer Astute Italia. The saddle is surprisingly comfortable considering its low profile and weight. The Skycarb uses a pair of ultra thin carbon shells and 3k carbon rails with triple-density memory foam as well as a shock pad absorber system for damping that is sandwiched between the rails and base. The triple-density memory foam gets progressively softer from the back to the front, with an extra insert adding more cushioning near the nose. Dimensions are in line with its racing pedigree, but they are still sensible at 135mm wide and 275mm long giving the saddle enough real estate to offer good support.


My go-to saddle is a 143mm Specialized Power and I can certainly feel the 4mm missing from each side, especially when jumping from bike to bike. Out on a ride, this does not translate into discomfort and I have grown to love the Astute saddle with the biggest adaptation having to get used to a longer saddle compared to the shorter Power. The saddle does a great job to absorb road chatter.


Much has (and will be) said of its high asking price. The big difference with Astute saddles is that they are handmade in Italy by craftsman. This obviously adds time and expensive labour costs which in turn mean a higher asking price. Not everyone needs or wants a handmade product, but for those who are looking to round off their Italian steed with a top-notch saddle, the Skycarb is worth a look. Compared to some other saddles we have had on test bikes, the attention to detail and quality craftsmanship on the Skycarb is evident. You won't find any staples near an Astute saddle.


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Handlebar & Stem: ITM X-One

ITM is another Italian company known for their quality products. The ITM X-One road handlebar is a full carbon bar with an anatomic flat top that allows the palm of the hand to lie naturally on the grip. This shape helps to relieve strain from your arms and hands when riding. The handlebar is mounted to the bike using ITM's carbon wrapped AL 7075 T6 alloy X-One stem and is extremely comfortable even on the longest of rides.


There is compliance built into the handlebar which takes the edge off vibrations, yet it is still stiff under load, which is noticeable when pedalling out of the saddle. The shape is well thought out with no dead or uncomfortable spots.


Special mention has to go to Specialized's S-Wrap Classic, triple-density, synthetic leather handlebar tape. It is such a small, but very important part of the build. The grip is tacky with just the right amount of squish under my hands to make them comfortable.


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Wheelset: American Classic Argent Tubeless

"Strong, light, cheap - pick any two", so the saying goes. At 1392g for this R9,995.00 wheelset that is rated to carry a 107kg rider to the finish line, the American Classic Argent wheelset bucks that wisdom. Add tubeless, a wide (19.4mm internal) profile, and disc compatibility to the specification list and you have a winner on your hands.


When I was looking around at options while planning the custom build I was very tempted to go with mid-depth carbon wheels for their looks (let's get that out there), competitive weight, and stiffness, but I stumbled upon the Argent wheels and from that moment very little else made sense.


At a fraction of the price, I could get a light wheelset that comes tubeless ready out of the box. It helped that I had recently suffered two punctures on one 70km ride and was fed up with changing tubes next to the roadside. I still have an urge to get something that is blacked out, but options are limited and expensive. I also considered the Argent's aero properties, but I am of the opinion that unless you are in front most or all of the time or riding straight into the wind, aero has diminishing value to most riders and I was more than happy with the on-paper balance between aero, weight, and width.


Specialized's 700x23/25c Roubaix Tubeless tyres complement the wheelset well and have allowed me to run them at the maximum allowed pressure without sacrificing comfort, thanks to the wider profile. Grip has been good in all conditions with a solid feel through corners and around sharp bends. Jump on the pedals and they surge forward and keep momentum well.


The freehub body makes a satisfying noise when you are coasting and engagement is good, if not stellar compared to more high-end offerings from some other manufacturers. To date, I have not suffered a single puncture and have only needed to top up air every so often to keep it at the desired pressure.


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Full Specifications:

  • FrameSpecialized Venge Elite
  • ForkSpecialized FACT carbon, full monocoque
  • WheelsetAmerican Classic Argent Tubeless
  • TyresSpecialized Roubaix Tubeless, 700x23/25c
  • HandlebarsITM X-One Bar 44cm C2C, 68mm reach, 138mm drop, 215g
  • StemITM X-One Alu Stem, 80mm, 0 / 10° rise, 144g
  • Headset1-1/8" upper, 1-3/8” lower, steel bearings, 20mm alloy cone spacer, w/ 20mm spacers
  • BrakesSRAM RED Mechanical
  • ShiftersSRAM RED eTAP
  • DerailleursSRAM RED eTAP
  • CassetteSRAM Force 11-28
  • CranksetQuarq Dzero Power Meter, 172.5mm
  • Chainrings50/34T
  • ChainSRAM RED
  • Bottom BracketCeramicSpeed
  • PedalsShimano 105
  • SeatpostS-Works Venge, FACT carbon, flippable 20/0mm offset
  • SaddleAstute Italia Skycarb VT
  • ComputerGarmin 820
  • Bottle cagesSpecialized Zee Cage II
  • MountsK-Edge Garmin/GoPro combo mount
  • Handlebar TapeSpecialized S-Wrap Classic
  • Weight7,25 kg all in


On The Bike

To say that I have enjoyed my time on the bike so far will be a mild understatement. Every part works seamlessly with the frame to yield a satisfying and rewarding ride. The bike's geometry has been crafted for maximum confidence, speed, and comfort - a seemingly impossible task but well executed on the Venge. There is also no need to ride at maximum effort all the time for the bike to make sense: it is comfortable enough to just cruise along or head for a relaxing ride with friends. Push the bike hard and it responds: whether that is around corners or stomping on the pedals. All effort goes straight to the rear wheel.


Around sharper corners, the Venge does not feel like the front wheel wants to tuck in under the bike. This boosts confidence when descending a pass and even more so when the road is wet. There are no cold-sweat reminders that this is a race bike that can chuck you over the bars if you don't concentrate 100% of the time, which adds to the bike's balanced feel. The AMC Argent wheels play their part by offering good stopping power in the dry and wet (with a drop in wet braking performance what one would expect of a rim brake wheel).


In the end

The Specialized Venge is proof that you can have a comfortable and fast aero bike, and that the days of aero bikes being guaranteed to be a heavy, harsh ride are over. The complete bike weight also shows that it can be built light without having to refinance your house or skimp on durability. With the borders between light "made for climbing" race bikes and aero road bikes becoming more blurred, it will be interesting to see how the Venge evolves over the next couple of years.


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rider#35, Aug 11 2017 10:30

i like the way BikeHub is taking all their pics either at Zandvlei, or some other seaside location if not possible!

Nick, Aug 11 2017 10:51

i like the way BikeHub is taking all their pics either at Zandvlei, or some other seaside location if not possible!


BoatHub isn't far off from launching  ;)