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Specialized Venge Comp/Elite 700 Mile Review: At Long Last


I’ve just turned over 700 miles on my Venge Comp and there’s a lot to love about the bike. Now, I did some due diligence and actually tried to consider a couple of other bikes, but in the end, the bike was so cool looking, nothing else in the price range had a chance. In my case, if I can afford a Ferrari, why settle for a Jaguar?
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Just before I was set to pick the bike up I read a review that sold me. In hindsight, the review was right on. As far as my personal background, I’m an avid enthusiast. I don’t race, but I’m fast enough to hold my own. I’m into long, fast rides, mountain climbing and enjoy, above all else, being fit. That said, I’m a sucker for a good-looking bike.

First, the styling is tops in the industry in my opinion, for straight-up race bikes and wastes nothing on unneeded flourishes. The stays are straight as is the fork… No silly flares, twists or bends where not absolutely necessary. If it doesn’t make the bike more aerodynamic, they didn’t bother with it – with the exception of red racing stripes:
IMG_3205

Now to the important meat and potatoes. The Venge Comp is amazingly comfortable, even on long rides. Though the Venge has a reputation on the message boards as being overly stiff, I humbly but vehemently disagree.  It doesn’t exactly smooth out really nasty roads, but it’s definitely not too stiff either, and on decent roads, it’s a flat-out rocket ship.  It’s smooth, quiet and a great rider’s bike.  Now, it must be said, I have gone on many slow rides with my wife, around 15 mph average and at slower speeds its critics have somewhat of a point.  It’s at speed that the Venge shines, especially over 20 mph.  The faster a rider can take the bike, the more forgiving it is over minor cracks and imperfections in the asphalt.

As far as cornering goes, with the Specialized Turbo Elite tires, it’s almost unfair. It’s so good I haven’t been able to find its limits yet. I’m vastly more comfortable hitting corners low and fast on the Venge than any of my other bikes, it flat-out hangs on like a roller coaster car. I’ve never ridden anything like it.

Next up is a great topic for the Venge Comp – descents. With the proper setup for the rider, it’s almost cheating. I’m a very light fella, 6′ tall, 159 pounds and I can coast by people pedaling down hills – and I still have the stock wheels on it (more on those in a minute).  Now, living in southeastern Michigan, we don’t have any great hills to descend but I have had it up to 40 mph a few times and it is absolutely solid and smooth… I can’t wait to take it down to the mountains next summer to cut her loose and amend this review.  UPDATE:  Took it down to the mountains in northern Georgia…  Had it over 55 mph and it was solid and steady.  I’m nervous when I get over 45 on my old 5200 but I wasn’t even slightly out of sorts on the Venge.  If I’d had a longer hill I’d have broken the 100km mark without a second thought.  It was exceptional and I still had a grin on my face two weeks later.  PS.  With speed comes risk.  Ride at your own.

Finally, we get to my favorite – climbing. When I ride in the mountains I look at the descents as icing – the fluff on top of the good stuff, the cake.  Before the Venge I had an excellent road bike with an Ultegra triple. The Venge, with its 52/36 Pro Compact can handle almost everything the triple can, without the cross-chain problems inherent in a triple.  In fact, I can climb most of the hills in my neck of the woods without ever shifting out of the big ring – and the two times I have used the small ring, on a 8,10 and 12% climbs, I had plenty of gears left for the 14-25% monsters I play on down south.
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Getting into the components, the Shimano 105’s are exactly what you would expect out of race ready components. They’re not Ultegra but they do exactly what they’re supposed to, and well.
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The crank operates nobly as well with one glaring defect: it is heavy . This will be the second thing to go from my bike. Also on the chop list when they wear out are the Tiagra cassette and chain. While they work exactly as they should, let’s face it, they’re on the bike to keep the cost down. Those will be replaced with 105 (or better) components to make the set complete.  As for the crank, I’m going to opt to stick with FSA so I can keep the Pro Compact 52/36 setup – I’ve grown exceptionally fond of that, but I’ll be going for a carbon crank.
IMG_3046

Now, I’ve saved the one trouble spot for last, the DT Swiss 4.0 Wheels.  Message board guesses are that Specialized assumed that everyone who bought the Venge Comp would have their own wheels to swap so they went ultra cheap on them (rather symptomatic from what I’ve read).  I, unfortunately, do not have a set of wheels to swap with those that came on the bike. First, they’re not made with cement, but they’re heavy!  At almost 4 1/2 pounds (just shy over of 2,100 1,900 grams), they’re obnoxious – especially considering I can shave off a pound and a half for less than $500 without even hitting EBay.  That said, they roll exceptionally well for what they’re worth.  Very smooth, very fast – it just takes a month of Sundays to get ’em spun up because they’re so heavy.  On the other side of that, once you get them going, it takes all of the 105 brakes to stop ’em.  Many of the other reviews I read prior to buying the bike mention something to the effect of; when the components wear out you’ll have an exceptional frameset and be able to upgrade some of the components that they put on the bike to keep the price down.  What that means, translated, is that there are a few components that you’ll want to replace right away (such as the crankset and wheels).

The Venge Comp is back for 2014 (they now call it the Elite) with a new Fulcrum s5 wheelset – if they’re like the Racing 5 wheels, the set will shave just shy of a full pound off of the overall weight of the bike.  I haven’t been able to find the wheelset online though.

Final Analysis

The Venge Comp is a very nice bike.  I love almost everything about it.  With 700 miles on it in the last month and a few days, I’d buy it again, no regrets.  On the other hand, it’s still a bike.  You still have to pedal it.  If you’re looking for a bike that will make you faster, work on the engine first.

Weight out of the box (without cages and Look KEO Classic Pedals):  18.2 pounds.  With another few thousand dollars to replace the wheels and other components, the crank, the handlebar, and the stem I’ve seen evidence that you can get it down to 14.5.  With a $400 set of Vuelta Corsa SLR wheels alone, I can get that down to 17 17.3 pounds flat.

UPDATE:  I picked up those Vuelta Corsa SLR wheels just a month and a half after I bought the bike and they made all of the difference in the world.  The Venge is now smooth as smooth gets for a race bike.  I’m exceptionally pleased with it.  If you pick up a Venge Comp plan on replacing the wheels immediately.  I can’t comment on the Fulcrum s5 wheelset*, but if they’re anything like the DT Swiss Axis 4.0’s, I’d broom them fast – I’d never pass up dropping a pound and upgrading the wheels for under $400.

I edited the weight of the wheels and the weight savings with the new Vuelta wheels…  It worked out to exactly 0.95 pounds [digital scale].  Put simply, the rear Vuelta is lighter than the front Axis 4.0 and the Vuelta hubs are a fantastic upgrade – much easier to spin up and the bike’s even faster on the descents and corners.

ADDENDUM 1:  If you’re looking at buying a Venge but have heard concerns or read comments that they’re too stiff, click here.
*ADDENDUM 2:  A Commenter who recently purchased the ’14 Venge Elite pointed out a note from Specialized’s staff that says the s5 wheels are along the same price-line as the Racing 7 line – this is Fulcrum’s bottom of the line racing wheel, but Fulcrum makes a pretty good wheel.  That said, if we assume that the same price-line means the s5’s on the Elite are the same quality/weight as the Racing 7’s, we can surmise that the s5’s weigh around 1,750 grams.  A pair of Vuelta Corsa’s will still save you a half a pound or more – and the s5’s would then be about 200 grams, give or take, lighter than the Axis 4.0’s.  After kicking it around with the commenter, I’d say my recommendation stands – if you can afford $400 for new wheels – even though it seems the s5’s are a step in the right direction, that’s the first thing I’d do. I’ll refrain from comment on the labeling of those wheels as s5’s rather than the more honest s7 that they should have gone with. Ahem.

My 3,000 Mile Review is here.

UPDATE:  The FSA Gossamer Pro Compact crank set ended up being a warranty casualty…  I noticed a clicking after maybe 5,000 miles on the bike as I pedaled but only under extreme power (out of the saddle usually, but not always, or into a stiff headwind)…  Several clicks in rapid succession from the top of either pedal stroke (left or right), down to about 4 o’clock – meaning right in the power zone.  I took the bike in to the shop after I took the crank apart, cleaned it and re-lubed it when the clicking didn’t go away.  Over the course of the next two months, during rainy days when I wouldn’t ride it anyway, the shop set to rebuilding the entire bike before we, on a fluke, checked the crank itself…  Sure enough, the drive side had a little play in it so it was clicking and resetting with every full revolution.  No amount of Loctite would make the sound go away for more than a few pedal strokes so we isolated the bad part of the crank and the shop sent it in to be replaced.  A minor issue for sure, but it drove me nuts until my bike was silent again.

2014 UPDATE:  Well, a lot has happened in the last year.  You can see from the photos above what the bike looked like when I bought it, here’s the bike now:
IMG_5184
I’ve swapped out the stem for a carbon wrapped FSA stem, changed the aluminum Tarmac bend bar to the S-Works Aerofly bar and, as mentioned above, the wheels were upgraded.  I’ve lowered the stem a couple of spacers and added a Specialized cycling computer.

2015 UPDATE:  I swapped out the FSA Gossamer crankset with Specialized’s S-Works hollow carbon crank and carbon spider, dropping the bike to 16.6 pounds (without pedals and cages).  Fortunately, with spacers for the spider bolts, I didn’t have to replace the chainrings just yet – you can use the FSA rings with the crank, so the S-Works was exceptionally reasonable when viewed against any other carbon crankset.  Not popular with mechanics, Specialized sells their S-Works cranks as separate components (Crank arms/Spindle, Spider and Chainrings).  However, when upgrading the bike, one can get a new, ultra light crank for around $400 if you can use the old rings.  I went with the carbon spider so it was $460 for the parts.

For those, like me, who don’t have metal cups to hold the bottom bracket bearings, you will need new cups to replace the old plastic ones and the epoxy is not easy to get or cheap (3M DP420 is recommended by Specialized).  Skip the $100 applicator and mix the epoxy yourself, if you’re feeling adventurous.  You’ll may also need those spacers mentioned above if the bolts don’t snug down on the chainrings.  Anyway, too cool:
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27 Comments

  1. cyardin says:

    She is sweet! And the red racing stripes have got to be worth at least 1/2 an MPH.

  2. Chatter says:

    Great ride. Love the review. I am still in engine building phase, will stick with my current ride. I think a tri-bike is next in the works for me though.

  3. […] bikes you’ll ever ride.  If you’ve never visited my blog before, I have been gushing effusively since I bought my Venge in August.  It is truly a top-notch bike and I’ve dubbed it the […]

  4. […] UPDATE 3:  My full 700 mile review is here. […]

  5. allenp109 says:

    Wow, my Secteur Elite is barely a month old and you have me wanting to trade up from my first entry level bike, lol. Spent all I could right now and got a sweet deal. Love to hear the truth about other bikes though.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I bought a 2010 Secteur Elite for my wife and she absolutely loves it. Don’t worry about trading up on it right away, the Secteur’s and Venge’s geometries are quite close if you can lower the stem and square up the handlebar.

      That said, I have an aluminum race bike and another (older) carbon race bike (Trek 5200) and the Venge shines above them, mainly in comfort. Enjoy that Secteur, it’s a great bike. Ride the wheels off, and when it’s time… 😉 Glad you liked the post.

      • allenp109 says:

        if you can lower the stem and square up the handlebar.

        Noobie question…I flipped my bars and raised them a little, felt more comfortable. What do you gain when you lower them?

      • bgddyjim says:

        Aerodynamics. The lower your front half (arms, shoulders and head), the easier it is to ride fast.

        The Venge is a pure race bike – it has no other purpose and it’s really not very comfortable at slow speeds (it’s a little stiff but that’s the idea). The Secteur’s geometry is surprisingly close but the entry-level bikes are set up more for comfort than speed. If you choose speed, the Venge is a fantastic bike. If you’re more into comfort, you’d choose the Roubaix or the Trek Domane… I wrote a post on entry-level bikes just last week. I’ll dig it up and reply with the link. It’ll clear some things up for you.

  6. taod3mon says:

    I read this review back when I was buying my first road bike (got the same model), which I road 930 miles in 41 days. Ended up I had to move continents so I sold it for about what I payed and picked up a 2014 105 elite. I went to Canada to pick it up because specialized wouldn’t ship the Canadian version (liked the colors much much better) down to the US.

    When initially shopping around locally for the new one almost every bike store I went to kept saying it was very stiff and not very comfortable, which I found funny. I had found it very comfortable for those 930 miles I had put on it, longest ride being 94.1 miles. Now the venge is the only roadbike I have owned so I really don’t have anything to compare it to other than the mountain bike I had before it but I was never uncomfortable on it.

    The stores usually said I should consider a roubaix or a trek madone as they supposedly are much more comfortable but I don’t think I would enjoy either of those nearly as much.

    While I liked the red of my 2013 comp I didn’t like it so much where I felt I would be keeping it for all that long, and it ended up working that way for other reasons, so I hadn’t bothered looking for upgrades.
    Now my new 2014 comp (elite) I love the colors on the frame and can see myself riding for years to come so I am in the process of looking for those upgrades you mentioned like wheels and a crank.

    I always had the venge in mind when I went to buy my original one (really liked the look of the frame and geometry), but when I came across this post it really cemented that so I thank you for that. From the pictures you had to the comments on comfort.

    I don’t understand why Specialized doesn’t have better pictures on their website, what they use really doesn’t do justice to the bikes. From the their website pictures I had always thought this one was hideous. Same for the new 2014 expert. Both are very nice looking bikes though if you see them live or in quality pictures like you used here.

    • bgddyjim says:

      I’m glad you conquer. I don’t know how the bike got a bad wrap but I’m here to tell you, after riding my 5200 all winter long, I finally got to take my Venge out again just today and it’s like butter comparatively.

      Thank you for coming back and sharing your experience. It does a fella good to here feedback like this. I appreciate it greatly.

      Jim

    • bgddyjim says:

      By the way… I picked up a Specialized Tool Keg that sits in the back bottle cage and broomed the saddle bag to keep the lines fresher (what a difference it made too – it’s SHARP now). I’ll be putting up a couple of new posts about that change and a few other tidbits in the next few days. Thanks again and enjoy yours.

  7. […] of comments that suggest it’s too stiff as well.  In fact, a guy just left a comment on my 700 mile review of my Venge that he was told the same thing after owning one when he wanted to pick up the new […]

  8. taod3mon says:

    While researching the new elite wheels I came across this response on the specialized support page mentioning that it was a custom built OEM wheel more in line with the price of the racing 7 and not the racing 5, which is a bit misleading since they named it the S5. Logic would follow that if the price is of the racing 7 then the specs themselves would be along the same lines.

    http://specialized.desk.com/customer/portal/questions/4450636-fulcrum-racing-s5-venge-elite

    I just upgraded my wheels to a set of HED jet 5 express so my fulcrum S5’s are leaning on a wall. I will see if I can get a digital scale in the next few days and to get the weight on them. Also found a great deal on an ultegra cassette but I have to wait a few more weeks before that arrives.

  9. […] was going to just leave my 700 mile review of my 2013 Venge Comp (same exact bike and components as the 2014 Elite) alone as my sole review […]

  10. Efraim Shaw says:

    I just placed an order for the Venge Comp 2013. I am swapping out all the components for Ultegra 6800. I also ordered a pair of Ultegra 6800 wheels for $350.
    Any familiarity with those wheels?

  11. […] Specialized Venge Comp/Elite 700 Mile Review: At Long Last […]

  12. […] any event, there are dozens of reasons to spend crazy money on a bicycle, here are some of […]

  13. denis says:

    hi, do you think this bike will be fine for a normal user, not racer? I’m interested, but i’m not printer…i like normal ride and like climbing…thank you! 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      I won’t lie, a Specialized Tarmac is WAY better for climbing. It’s a lot lighter.

      As for comfort, the Venge is a sprinter’s bike – it’s stiff, there are more comfortable rides out there, but I wouldn’t trade mine in for anything else on the market. It’s plenty comfortable for me (and I’ve had it up some pretty hectic hills too (20+%). Truth told, I bought it because it looks awesome. I only found out later that it lives up to the looks. Good luck!

  14. denis says:

    «sprinter»

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