Venon EVO; Evolving Through Time: The Remarkable Journey of Vitus Venon
You might recall the name Vitus Venon from the past decade, though only in name. The bike, akin to a two-wheeled Orlando, has been rebranded and time-traveled to the 2020s to align with the current cycling trend – gravel riding, yet it still retains its ability to traverse the more traditional roads. “This is our vision for the future,” remarks Jodie Shann, Senior Product Manager at Vitus, who has spearheaded the transformation of the Venon.
The Evolution of Road Biking
Roughly five years ago, a conventional road bike lineup from a brand comprised three models: the aerodynamic road bike, the lightweight versatile bike, and the endurance bike. The original Venon was slotted in this latter category. However, the cycling landscape soon started to undergo a noticeable change.
The Pause and Re-evaluation
“We ceased the production of Venon in 2018 and didn’t rush into redesigning it as we observed the shifting focus towards gravel riding,” Shann elucidates. “Gravel riding was still a somewhat nebulous concept in the UK and Europe. Over in the US, there were pure gravel races on pristine gravel roads, extending thousands of miles, a phenomenon quite unique to the region.
On the flip side, there emerged an adventure cycling scene, embracing diverse elements like luggage, mountain bike drivetrains, materials ranging from steel to aluminum to carbon, and riders in casual attire like baggy or denim shorts…”
The Rebirth of Vitus Venon
Shann carries on, “We took a pause, aiming to discern what the future held, and finally embraced this version of the Vitus Venon. While racing bikes focusing on aerodynamics and lightness would continue to have their place, we anticipated a fusion between the road endurance category and performance gravel. Riders were seeking similar attributes: enhanced tire clearance, greater bike capability, better stability and handling, yet retaining the race bike feel.
A Unique Position in the Market
“Nobody else was doing it,” he reflects. “Most brands had a gravel bike in their repertoire, but many featured 650b wheels and were centered around accommodating the largest possible tires and carrying luggage. The realm of performance gravel was left unexplored—the folks I raced with predominantly used road or cyclocross bikes.”
Crafting a Unique Design
Shann and his team embarked on crafting a new design brief for the Venon, cherry-picking features from other models that suited it well, and initiated the R&D phase. “It’s an amalgam of our existing bikes,” Shann remarks. “It embodies the front end of the ZX-1, while employing the same FSA ACR internal cable routing system. We’ve also integrated some aerodynamic insights.
The bike underwent CFD aero testing – it’s optimized to a great extent without making aerodynamics the prime focus, hence it sits between the ZX-1 and the Vitesse in terms of aerodynamic efficiency.
Balancing Act: Road and Gravel
In the backdrop, there’s a touch of Vitesse and the [cyclo-cross specific] Power contributing to a lighter weight and enhanced comfort.” This isn’t just a mere cut-and-shut endeavor as it might sound. Shann elucidates that the paramount technical hurdle was melding a road frame with its sporty, brisk vibe, agile steering, and rapid acceleration, with the prerequisites of a gravel bike that demands more stability, an extended wheelbase, and more reliable foundations and steering.
Tire Clearance and Frame Design
The aspect of tire clearance presents implications for frame design – longer spokes affect the bike’s feel and handling. At 420mm, the Venon’s spokes are short enough to retain a playful feel, yet long enough to ensure it doesn’t get bogged down in gravel, and can accommodate a 45mm tire.
Innovations in Chainstay Design
Vitus has opted to forego what Shann dubs the “big dropped unit side chainstay” utilized by former gravel bikes, inspired by XC mountain bikes. “We prolonged the downtube through the bottom bracket to uphold a straight chainstay, rendering the aesthetics of a performance road bike. Appealing visuals were a priority.”
Monocoque Construction: A Singular Approach
The Venon EVO is forged in a one-piece mold as a full monocoque, which according to Shann is quite distinctive. “This approach has been employed for all our EVO bikes, enabling us to minimize weight since there’s no need to broaden areas where two pieces join.
This also offers superior control over stiffness attributes as there’s no addition of a second layer of carbon. Concurrently, the frame sports a 386 EVO bottom bracket shell ensuring stiffness during pedaling and efficient power transmission, while rider comfort is sustained via dropped seatstays and a sloping top tube, allowing the seatpost to be longer hence more flexible.
A Comprehensive Frame
“The frame’s weight is favorable, it boasts aerodynamic prowess, ample tire clearance, mudguard mounts…it’s a comprehensive package,” Shann reflects.
Redefining Endurance Biking
As for terminology, if the new Vitus Venon EVO transcends the classification of an endurance bike, what exactly is it? “We’re approaching it from an all-terrain angle. It’s a performance road bike adaptable to various surfaces, albeit not singletrack. It’s designed for a brisk pace, not for navigating over tree roots, which is perhaps the only limitation.
“The conventional endurance road bike just doesn’t measure up anymore. I foresee most brands adopting this versatile approach for off-road endeavors in the upcoming 18 months,” Shann predicts.
Road and Gravel Bike Configuration by Vitus
Venon EVO Models: Dual Purposes Met
Vitus presents the Venon EVO in an array of configurations to cater to its dual purposes. The model is labeled “RS” for road configurations and “GR” for gravel configurations, albeit the frameset remains consistent across both. The RS road configuration offers four electronic builds, namely two by Sram (Force and Rival AXS) and two by Shimano (Ultegra Di2 and 105 Di2). On the other hand, the GR gravel configuration has three builds, comprising two electronic and one mechanical: Sram Force AXS, Sram Rival AXS, and Sram Rival.
Gravel Build Component Alterations
According to Shann, the gravel builds entail some component modifications. The Sram drivetrains utilized are the expansive XPLR versions, coupled with distinct wheels and tires – the gravel version showcases a 40mm tire which is believed to hit the sweet spot: Providing adequate volume for the intended biking experience while maintaining a low weight. Additionally, a 16-degree flared carbon bar is included for enhanced off-road stability.
Emphasis on Value-for-Performance
Shann emphasizes a solid specification that delivers good value, underscoring the company’s focus on value-for-performance. The existing sales model, being part of a larger group, enables them to provide the benefit of direct-to-consumer sales. However, they still retain the support of bike retailers such as Wiggle, Chain Reaction, ProBikeShop in France, Bikester in Germany, alongside the newly established direct-to-consumer operation in America, facilitated through the Vitus website.
Vitus’ Evolution and Future Vision
Much like the Venon model, Vitus as a company has undergone a metamorphosis over the past two years. Previously perceived as Wiggle’s house brand, it now operates under the new ownership of German holding company Signa Sports United, proclaimed to be the largest sports e-commerce platform across cycling, tennis, outdoor, team sports, and other sports categories.
Vitus has now carved out its own identity. The Venon EVO mirrors Vitus’ vision of the future, marking merely the inception of more innovations to come.
Final Thoughts on Vitus’ Dual Configuration Offering
Vitus has carefully curated the Venon EVO models to cater to both road and gravel biking enthusiasts, offering a range of configurations that not only match different preferences but also uphold a high standard of quality and performance. The thoughtfulness in component selection, especially in the gravel builds, showcases a keen understanding of the riders’ needs.
Additionally, the company’s focus on value-for-performance, backed by a solid sales model, further accentuates its customer-centric approach. As Vitus continues to evolve under new ownership, the Venon EVO presents a promising glimpse into the future of the brand. We invite you to share this article or express your thoughts in the comments section below. Your insights and engagements are much valued and will contribute to the ongoing discussion on the advancements in bike configurations.