If you find yourself shopping for a bike and become smitten with the Specialized Venge, one of the likely things you’ll hear at the bike shop is that it’s too stiff. Visit the message boards and you may read a lot 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 2014 Elite. The shop he was at told him he should be looking at a Roubaix or a Trek Madone instead (he’s a mileage cyclist like me – the shops almost always push the Domane* (Trek) or Roubaix (Spec.) for we long-range fellows). One of the younger guys at our local shop made the same suggestion in passing when I was looking to buy mine but the owner dismissed that adding that he thought I’d be perfectly happy with the bike. The owner was right.
I’m telling you right now, don’t believe the hype. The Venge, at least the Comp or Elite, is not too stiff. It’s not near as unforgiving as my Trek 5200 – and the geometry is so utterly spot on, I simply can’t speak highly enough about it without coming off like some kind of Kool-Aid drinking dope – it’s that nice of a ride.
Now, I am going to go off on something of a tangent at this point because I’ve read (and heard, from no one with authority) about a hypothesis that looks at the different frame grades: The S-Works frame and the standard frame are made with different grades of carbon (11R for the S-Works and 10R for the standard frames). The higher grade carbon fiber in the S-Works frame is said to make the frame stiffer, so my understanding is that the reputation for being stiff could come from the S-Works’ frame, while people who actually own the standard Venge frames are quite pleased. This would explain a lot but the hypothesis isn’t without its flaws. Either way, I’m going to try to get an answer from Specialized and I’ll amend this post if I get anywhere…
I own the 2013 Venge Comp and in my review I recommended upgrading the wheels. I still stand by that recommendation – I have a smoother, faster ride and knocked off almost a full pound (0.95 to be exact) for less than $400 with a pair of Vuelta Corsa SLR’s by switching them. I don’t know about the 2014 Elite’s Fulcrum s5 wheels – I don’t know how they ride or how heavy they are so if you pick up the ’14 Elite, do your research.
The Venge is awesome, and all kinds of comfy for a race bike. I’ve ridden somewhere near a dozen centuries in the last two years on my 5200 and the Venge is much better as far as comfort goes. Now this is an incredibly important distinction to understand: The Venge is Specialized’s Flagship race bike. It’s not supposed to be one of those squishy endurance bikes in the first place – but that said, I believe Specialized managed to come up with the perfect balance between comfort and speed.
At a little more than $3,000, if you’re willing to sink that kind of cash into a bike, you probably already love cycling and know at least a fair bit about the sport. If you’re relatively new and/or haven’t learned all that much about cycling, look at the two profile photos of my bike, you’ll notice the plane of the saddle is quite a bit higher than the plane of the handlebar – this is more of a racing position. Having the saddle up that high gets my head out of the breeze and reduces my profile – my body, when I’m riding, doesn’t so much resemble a big sail as it would if I were sitting upright. The trade-off is that this position is said to be less comfortable than having the saddle and handlebar closer to the same plane. My experience suggests otherwise (less pressure on the lower back) but I’m no pro so I have no problem deferring to better judgment. The importance here is that I knew what I wanted and what I was buying so my expectations were that I would be getting a stout bicycle to begin with – that’s what I wanted. Imagine how happily surprised I was when I found out the bike was vastly more comfortable to ride than I’d expected.
To wrap this post up, of my three road bikes, my Venge is, by far, the most comfortable. Short 25 mile ride, full century, it doesn’t matter. Just know that the Venge is a race bike first.
*Trek Domane: If you notice, I made a switcheroo earlier… I was talking about a guy who was shopping for a Venge and wrote that his local shop recommended a Madone or a Roubaix instead. This seems odd to me because the Madone is Trek’s race bike while the Domane is Trek’s “endurance” bike. Both the Roubaix and the Domane have special features built into the frame that offer a little more forgiveness on rougher roads than the race bikes. You lose a little power transfer to the crank but they definitely absorb road imperfections better.