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The Hylix Specialized Venge Seatpost: It FITS, and I Like The Saddle Attachment Bracket Better Than The Original…

I cracked my Venge seatpost during a seated sprint late last season. I heard it go as I passed 33-mph trying to hold off a friend going for the Durand City Limits sign. It was actually quite the excellent battle. I didn’t have time to stand when I noticed my friend trying to pass on my left. I’d started ramping the pace up a more than a mile earlier, expecting I’d have dropped everyone (or at least convinced them not to bother trying to come around). Jonathan, however, had been busy much of the summer and hadn’t been riding much – he was feeling spunky. I put everything I had into the pedals. It was about the third revolution I put some serious @$$ into it and heard the faint crunch. I did pull away from him well before the line but there was damage…

The owner of our local shop had a look at it and said as small as the crack was, it’s orientation on the seatpost, and with all of the good surrounding fiber, it’d likely last me decades without a problem.

So let’s say it lasts a decade. How many Venge seatposts are going to be floating around out there in a decade, now that the entire line has been discontinued? That’d be approximately zero. A few weeks ago I decided to try to locate a replacement. I struck out with a Chinese exception on eBay. My extensive search produced the Hylix Carbon+Ti Seatpost for my bike and a couple of others.

I hesitated to pull the trigger for more than a week, hemming & hawing about whether or not to risk it. I imagine I could have gotten an original from Specialized for a few Hundred Dollars, but the allure of saving more than $200 and wondering if I’d someday have to mothball my favorite bike finally proved to be too much. Even if I doubted it would fit properly.

I bit the bullet and ordered the Hylix and crossed my fingers. The link above is to the seller I bought mine from. 100% flawless sale.

It came in the other day and I dig it immensely. The saddle clamp is tricky at first glance, but once I figured out how to use it, I like the idea better than the original. We’ll have to see how it works out on the road before I’ll render final judgement. After the visual test came the fit test. It fits exactly as well the original. The carbon layup is sharp and it’ll do nicely once it got its Punisher sticker.

The packaging was more than adequate and the matte, naked finish is quite cool. On the other hand, it won’t quite match my bike as it is, no matter how cool that may be…

I’ll have to think that a bit, though. The naked, no paint look is growing on me… it matches the wheels, too. I ended up swapping out the seatpost last night after looking closer at the crack in the original with a magnification app on my phone. It looks like the damaged area was growing. I may try to have the original repaired, though I think that’ll take a little more than some epoxy… In any event, the new seatpost is on the Venge and the saddle’s been dialed in and I gave it a go on the trainer last night to make sure the saddle clamp would hold the saddle solidly. The only minor wrinkle is that, unlike the original saddle clamp which is self-centering, you have to watch to make sure the Hylix mounting system holds the saddle straight. Mine was off by a lot the first time I set it… it won’t self-center perfectly. That said, once it’s in and cranked down it’s solid. I didn’t experience any problems with the saddle moving throughout my 45 minute workout. There is also one component that the replacement post exceeds Specialized’s: The Hylix’s 7x9mm oval mounting clamp better fits the rails of a carbon saddle.

In any event, you can see more care went into the layup and construction of the original Specialized seatpost (lower right photo, the original is on the left). The side wall on the original goes thin while the Hylix sidewalls are almost the same thickness as the ends. Interestingly, the layup for the outer layer is quite close to the original.

The important part is, the Hylix seatpost fits as well as the original. The only question that remains is how well it holds up to my @$$ on the road. If it’s near as good as the Ican wheels I’m rolling on my good bikes, I’ll be a happy cyclist.

A Long Awaited Rain Day – The Perfect Excuse to Tinker with the Venge’s Cockpit

Technically, I was hoping for snow, but it’s a little early for that down here. Rain will do, though. These are my favorite days of the winter – days no sane human would go out for a ride. My buddy Chuck likely will, though did… dude is freaking nuts – I actually passed him on the way to pick up pizza last night. He’s admirably nuts, but nuts nonetheless. It was raining and just barely above freezing (37 F or 2 C).

These days are the days I tinker with bikes.

Oh, there was some general maintenance to take care of first, things like cleaning drivetrains and such. I rolled the mountain bike out to clean it as it’s been on a few dusty rides of late but it was surprisingly clean. I did adjust the rear brake a little bit after tinkering with the rear derailleur’s adjustment that was just a touch off. I didn’t know it, but when I had my ear down by the rotor at high wheel speeds, there was a slight rub in the rotor and the inner pad. That took all of two minutes.

I put in an hour on the trainer, with my wife while we watched Iron Man. Then I took a nap around between 2 & 2:30. Oh how I love weekend naps! Then I turned my attention to the Venge.

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Now, this is going to be exceptionally nitpicky, but we all know, if anything, I’m that. When I look at the lines on the Trek, I see fantastic. Smooth, crisp, aggressive… the bike simply looks sharp. The Specialized is superior to the Trek in every single way but one. It’s got a better drivetrain, a better crankset, better pedals, brakes, handlebar, stem (both bikes have the same saddle)… it’s lighter, faster, sleeker, quieter and quicker (yes, quick and fast are two different things) than is the Trek. But the stem and handlebar angle just don’t look right on the Venge. They’re not right. Something is hinky. Wonky.

I took a trip to the shop and borrowed a 17° x 110mm stem from their stock to kick the tires on… to see if I might want to change stems.  I swapped out the old stem and had it on the trainer in short order (with my trainer wheel, of course – because the Trek and Venge both have 10-sp transmissions, I can swap wheels between the bikes).  The front end went from slightly raised with the 6° stem (flipped) to dead nuts level with the ground with the flipped 17°…  and I hated it.  Not, “I simply didn’t like it”, hated it.  It just didn’t look right, like the “organics” of the bike were just completely… off.  The 6°, the way it follows the slope of the top tube, looks like it belongs, at least.  The flipped 17° looked like it belonged on a different bike.

The problem, I think, is last year I rotated the handlebar forward a little bit during one of my tinkering exercises to maximize my drop to the hoods.  I was under the impression the hoods, where my hands rest, should be level with the ground.  I’ve since found out that was a mistake.  So yesterday, when I put my old stem back on the bike, I rotated the bar back up a little bit to where I once had it back in 2018:

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Now, you may not see a difference, but I do.  The easiest “tell” is the bottom of the handlebar drop.  In reality, we’re only talking maybe a centimeter’s difference in the height of the hoods, but I think the looks were cleaned up substantially – and my hands will likely be a little happier after next year’s centuries.

I’d noticed at the end of last season the front brake had developed a bit of drag in the line.  This presents itself with just a few millimeters of play in the lever when the brake is applied and released.  The lever should have a little bit of snap to its rebound.  No snap?  You’ve got drag in the line.  On close inspection, the angle that the angle that the housing entered the brake caliper was slightly off.  The housing was too long (btw, too long is good… too short is a much longer post).  If the cable housing is too long, especially for the front brake, it puts a strain on the cable to make the odd turn into the brake caliper.

To fix this is quite simple.  I took off the cable end, disconnected the cable from the brake’s lock nut, threaded the brake line out the hood to a point I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t be trimming the brake cable, then trimmed the end of the cable housing off, pushed the cable back through, reconnected everything, set the brakes, and presto.  Perfect braking.  The interesting part in the last two paragraphs is the length of the piece of housing that had to be removed:

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To demonstrate size, I’ve got an end-cap to a presta valve innertube, the lock nut, a pair of needle-nosed pliers and my housing/cable snippers. The length is about 10mm, maybe a half-inch. I probably could have taken a little more but I didn’t want to run into issues with the housing too short for the handlebar to be turned. Probably a touch over-nervous, but I can wear that.

And with that, I’m done with the Venge till 2021’s Venge Day. I’ve cleaned and lubed everything that can be cleaned and lubed, fixed the fork length, taken apart the headset for its yearly cleaning, and attended to even the tiniest of issues to make sure the bike’s good to go for next year.

… Although, thinking about it… maybe I shouldn’t close the door on a 100mm 12° S-Works stem for the Venge.  Hmmmm…

An Ode to Joy, An Ode to My Venge After A Fantastic Tuesday Night In Lennon

No, I’m not going to drop a true ode to my bike… maybe a sonnet…

I tried to downplay the awesomeness of the new wheels I bought for my Specialized Venge.  Surely, they can’t be that much of an improvement!  My old alloy wheels were put through a lot and they’re still pretty fantastic.  Then, my original set of Ican carbon wheels were (and still are, on the Trek) stellar…  Truly, after all that masterful piece of carbon fiber and epoxy and I have been through, it can’t have gotten that much better over time, could it?

It most certainly has.  Vastly superior wheels, astoundingly more wonderful crankset, better gears, upgraded drivetrain and shifters, better brakes… they’ve all contributed to a ride quality so stellar, it’s hard to believe how much fun it is to throw my leg over the top tube and clip in.  Sure, all of those people saying, “Don’t worry, you don’t need all of that stuff” was cool, it made me feel like I had a fighting chance, but in the end, I can do things I could never do before I put the goods on the bike.

We rolled out last night with a whole lot of new blood.  Guys from the C Group giving us a try, a few new guys, and even the wife of one of the regular B’s on her brand new Bianchi decided to give it a try.  It was a little sketchy at times, but it remained calm and collected up front until one of the new guys, pushing way too easy a gear (maybe a 120-130 cadence), decided he couldn’t keep up so he tried to come off the front through the middle of the double pace-line.  I saw it coming three bikes back of him.  It goes to the excellent professionalism of our riders that someone didn’t get taken out, but we navigated around him without incident.  I let him know that we most certainly don’t do that as he dropped back (later, after the ride, I took the time to explain pace-line do’s and don’ts in great detail).

The pace was a little subdued starting out last night, and that was surprising.  With only a slight breeze and reasonable temps, I was expecting it to be fast right out of the gate.  Instead, other than a few instances where the speed spiked, we kept it between 22 & 24-mph.  After the hills, we were passed by two A guys and we let them go.  A few minutes later, a good chunk of the A Group passed us and we did latch on to them – and the pace got fun.  The pace bumped up to 24 to 28-mph.  We crossed the line in a big bunch, smiles all around.

So here’s my schpiel (or spiel, depending – I’m particularly fond of the “ch” version) one more time…  I am, without question, faster on the Venge as it is now, contrasted against when I brought it home.  Some of my fastest rides, however, are on a non-aero Trek 5200 (though it does have 38 mm wheels finally).  In other words, and on one hand, it’s definitely the engine that matters most.  On the other, all of that aero makes fast easier.

On the Venge last night, with an average of 22.7-mph over 28 miles, I never dropped more than five riders back in a pack of 20 in a double pace-line (10 each side).  I was always up in the rotation, pushing hard – often driving the pace.  I was never, at any point, close to my red line (with one exception; when I jumped two places in line and drove the pace up from 25 to 31-mph on a flat section leading into a sprint – I drove the pace).  On the Trek, with a pace like that I have to be a little more judicious with my effort.  I can still play cat and mouse a little, but I have to be careful.  In other words, speed, on the Venge, is easier.  And that, in a host of reasons, is why I’m grateful for my Venge.

That bike is fast, baby… and those Ican F&L 50’s are freaking spectacular.

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The Tale of Two Specialized Venges

I made some big changes to my 2013 Venge this year. First, I grew tired of the 52/36 chainset so I swapped the chainrings for a compact 50/34 combo just into winter. After trying the 50/34 combo on my ’99 Trek with an 11/28 cassette and I absolutely loved it. I had enough top end for sprints and plenty of low end for climbing up the hardest hills I have to deal with all year easily (well, easily-ish – 22% is still 22%). I also chose anodized black chainrings over bead-blasted aluminum (a change I like a lot):

New:

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Old:

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Next, I swapped out the Blackburn bottle cages for some lighter cages I picked up that, to tell the truth, looked better on the Venge than they did on my Trek – the newer styling just didn’t fit on my classic Trek.

Next up, I had to finally change out my pedals after six years. I’d worn the Look Keo’s out. I upgraded (and down-priced while dropping weight) to a set of iSSi carbon road pedals. With several hundred miles on them, they’re exactly as pedals should be – I don’t ever think about them.

Another new change for this season is a saddle upgrade. I switched from a Specialized Romin to a Selle Italia SLR Tekno Flow:

This decision was a little trickier to make. A Specialized Romin saddle was my first fitted road cycling saddle.  I’ve ridden one since I bought my Trek 5200… like mid-season 2012, and I love that saddle. The Romin is heavy, though, and I wanted to give a svelte little carbon number a second chance. Its first, last summer, crashed and burned. Now that I’ve got a little bit of experience, it wasn’t the saddle that was the problem, it’s how I had it dialed in that was problematic.

After dialing it in, I’m glad I made the change. I’ve ridden it on short, 20-mile rides, a couple metric centuries, several 40-50 mile rides and one 104-miler. I still have to get a lot more base miles on it, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the saddle while getting those base miles.  Of 199 weekend miles I rode 155 on the new saddle.

And after all that, I took the bike from 15.8 pounds down to 15.5

Perfect.

CoVengeCation-2020; The REAL Venge Day Finally Arrives!

Dear God, thank you for spring and some time off!It was cold yesterday morning – cold because there wasn’t a cloud within a hundred miles of us – and it warmed up quick. Mrs. Bgddy and I rolled out yesterday morning around 11 and it was still a little nippy out, but the temp was climbing rapidly. We’d decided on headwind first and chose our route accordingly. My Venge was built for days like these and I rolled it out the door with a smile on my face.Within a mile I knew tightening the chainring bolts the day before did the trick to take out the little tick the bike had developed. And I think that was the last negative thing to enter my gray matter for the next two hours.I took the first twelve miles into the headwind, paying attention to keep the pace within a certain range of effort that would get us to tailwind, but not so fast that I’d burn my wife up getting there. It was a firm northwesterly wind but certainly not brutal – just 10-mph, but enough to require some wattage to the pedals to overcome it. We hit the tailwind 17 miles in and it was smooth sailing after that. The temp climbed from the mid-40’s to mid-50’s and a couple of miles after we hit that tailwind, I had to shed my vest. It was too perfect out.My wife and I laughed and played around, enjoying the Zombieland car-free roads… minus the zombies, of course (it wouldn’t be much of a vacation dodging zombies, now would it?). We stopped to take a couple of photos, one at a bridge we’d crossed over, and one at a City Limits sign to taunt my buddy, Mike with. Messing around killed our average pace but I didn’t care (and I know my wife didn’t care). It was a perfect April day – a rarity for the month, normally we get a perfect half day if we’re lucky. After our little photo session, we hit the road and headed home, letting the tailwind push us home. We pulled into the driveway with 37 glorious miles and smiles on our faces.I had to clean up in a hurry to pick my daughter up from work, and I picked up a Big Mac guilty pleasure lunch… but I called my buddy, Chuck in the meantime to find he hadn’t ridden yet. I asked if he wanted some company.Yep. It was too perfect a day. I went out for another twenty miles. CoVengeCation regulations demand one spend as much sunny time on the bike as is possible. I complied. Happily.Stay safe, my friends – and know that when I talk about riding with my buddy, Chuck, we go beyond the rules of social distancing to take wind speed and direction into account so we’re not “in each others air”. Riding with my wife, well, we draft each other everywhere we go… that’s a luxury we get living under the same roof.

Guess what day it is! Guess what day it is!!!

Venge Day!

Anyone who tells you a normal road bike with a decent set of alloy wheels is the same as riding a sweet aero bike with a decent set of aero wheels, well they haven’t spent enough time on an aero bike.  The difference is astonishing.  In all fairness, though, a great bike won’t make a cyclist faster; a great aero bike makes fast easier.

That’s right, my friends.  I carted the Venge out yesterday for my ride with Chuck. Technically, Venge Day should have waited for another couple of weeks, but as you can see, it was beautiful outside.  Maybe not as warm as I’d have liked, but 50° (10 C) will do.

Having the Venge out was fun right from the first shift, after having perfected the cable routing over the winter.  I don’t remember the bike shifting that well right out of the box!  Part of the enjoyable nature of the ride was having completed all of the maintenance over the winter – the bike feels new.  Everything is tight, there are no creaks or squeaks… no clicks… just a whoosh through the air and that telltale sound carbon fiber aero wheels make when you’re pushing the pace out of the saddle.

We headed into the wind to start, taking it a little easy which was exactly what I wanted… Chuck and I are rarely in sync with easy days – either he’s pushing the pace or I am, but yesterday we just took it medium into the wind.  After a bonus 2-mile loop, the real fun started and we pushed the pace all the way home with a tailwind.  With the Trek, I’ve really gotta put some effort into getting the most out of the bike.  With my Specialized, I can literally feel it slip through the air… and that first time I feel it after spending the first weeks of the new year on the Trek, it always puts a smile on my face.

Venge Day was glorious this year.

The 1st Generation Specialized Venge; The Perfect Balance Between Aero and Weight

The first generation Specialized Venge is no more. Up until two years ago (2018) you could buy the first gen. Venge as an entry-level “Elite” that went for $2,500. I paid $3,100 for my Specialized Venge “Comp” back at the end of 2013 and that was Specialized’s end-of-season sale price – the full MSRP was a whopping $3,700 and the “Comp” (changed to the “Elite” in ’15) was the lowest class of Venge. It came with Shimano 105 ten speed components and brakes with a cheap chain and a Tiagra 10 speed cassette. The Axis 2.0 wheels that came on the bike were spectacularly heavy for a $4,000 bike and they rolled like ass. A $300 set of Vuelta Corsa SLR wheels later and I saved a full pound. The upgrade was worth about about 1-1/2-mph in improved roll, too.

On the other hand, the paint job was stunning.

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My 2013 Venge Comp with the Vuelta Corsa SLR wheel upgrade
There was a reason the Venge commanded such a premium early on. New in 2012, the Specialized Venge was one of the very first “aero” road bikes to hit the market. Rather than simply tapering off the fork and easing some leading edges, the Venge reinvented the game in leading edges. Even the seat stays were turned into blades to better cut through the wind along with the down tube, the seat tube and seat post, even the head and top tubes were modified to channel or better cut through the air. Specialized consulted with McLaren (the hyper-car manufacturer) to come up with the carbon lay-up innovations needed to manipulate the frame shapes.

The Venge exploded in popularity. All of a sudden it was in the top of the heap in tour wins (or just behind the perennial first place Specialized Tarmac) and they began popping up in everything from local crits and road races to club rides. We have six regular 1st Gen. Venge riders on our Tuesday night club ride (and one 2nd Gen. Venge ViAS), no other make/model comes close.

In 2016, Venge ViAS came out taking aero to the next level, times two. Two things happened when the ViAS came out: 1. The price went up. Big time. 2. The weight went up by four pounds over the 1st Gen. Venge. Nowadays, you’ll have to part with a cool $8,000 to sit atop a new Venge. And the new rigs come with a stiff penalty. Just a couple of years ago, a top-of-the-line ViAS would run you more than $12,000 and weighed in at a bulky 18-1/2 pounds. Today, it’s my understanding that the T-o-L ViAS has been slimmed down to the 16 pound neighborhood (possibly as low as 15.8 pounds).

Where this gets interesting is in the 1st Gen comparison. My $3,000 Venge comp was 18-1/2 pounds out of the box. I upgraded the wheels, stem, handlebar (S-Works), crankset (S-Works), brakes, and drivetrain (from mechanical 105 to mechanical Ultegra) and dropped three pounds.

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…And that’s where the 1st Gen Venge buries new bikes; weight. If you look at newer aero bikes, they’re generally heavy. The Madone SLR 9 with all of the bells and whistles comes in at 17.3 pounds ($12,300). If memory serves, the ViAS is 16-ish ($12,500). The Scott Foil (top end $9,000) is comes in at 16.6 pounds. The Giant Advanced SL 1 is 16.4 pounds ($12,200). You can see where this is going, I hope. I’ve got decent components on my 1st Gen. Venge, but I’m a far cry from Dura Ace and I come in a pound under the $12,000 monsters. Throw Dura Ace components on my bike and one more upgrade in wheels, with better brakes and I know for a fact I can get my bike down to a slender 14-1/2 pounds. I’ve seen one on the scale.

The point is, at a svelte 14-1/2 to 15-1/2 pounds, the 1st Gen Venge is aero and light by today’s standards. We 1st Gen owners get the best of both worlds, an aero bike that’s light enough for extended climbing. In my case, I’ve got $3,100 into the purchase of the bike, new, and another $3,000 into upgrades. For $6,000 I’ve got a legit aero race bike I can climb with.

They say aero trumps weight everywhere but in the mountains… but First Gen. Venge owners can have their cake and climb a mountain pass, too.

Important Question of the Day: Should a Grown Man Take the Time to Wax and Polish a Bicycle?

The obvious answer to that most important question; should a grown man take the time to wax and polish a bicycle?

No, of course not, because your bike is likely powder coated, it won’t need to be waxed. Also, if you own a matte finish, such as the one on my Specialized, without question, no.

However, should you just happen to own a badass vintage bike that was stripped, painted, and shot with enough clear coat your Floridian grandma would be comfortable in Siberia, then the no-brainer is yes…

Sometimes you have to see just how deep you can make that black look.

Jesus Built My Road Bike; My Love Affair with Speed… and a Specialized Venge

So there was only one thing that I could do
Was ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long

One of my best riding buddies, Jonathan, just picked up a 2012 Venge, and got a smokin’ deal on it… Then he went to work on it. The bar tape is new, the wheels are new, even the drivetrain is new (it had SRAM Red and was upgraded to eTap).

That got me to thinking about mine, of course… because, like Jonathan’s Venge, mine is far from stock. The frame, fork, and chain rings are about the only original parts on the bike. The saddle is the same model as the original, but a year older… it matches the color scheme a little better.

I ended up taking the Venge out the other day for what was supposed to be a recovery ride day – typically not a good idea because I have a tendency to push the speed a little too much to be able to call it a “recovery” ride. My target, as I was standing in the driveway waiting for traffic to clear was 19 (ish) miles at 17-1/2-mph… I ended up doing 19.75 in just over an hour (19.3-mph average when the dust cleared).  So much for a recovery ride.

Everything on my Venge is in perfect working order. Nothing squeaks or creaks (with the exception of the cleats if I forget to lube them up now and again). When I get out of the saddle, the only sound is the whoosh – whoosh – whoosh distinctive to carbon fiber wheels and the subtle hiss of tires on asphalt. The shifts are clean and crisp. My Venge is a lot like a fifteen pound Ferrari.

In addition, everything on my Venge is color coordinated as perfectly as I can get it.  I went through a great deal of effort and money to make sure everything was right… and anything that was only close got changed out.  From the brakes, to the saddle, and the bottle cages to my Garmin, everything was chosen to get that bike as close to stylistically perfect (without going overboard to gaudy, say by adding red bar tape and red cable housing…).  I did the best I could with the money I had.

The Specialized Venge is the best-represented make and model on our Tuesday night club ride by more than threefold, and for good reason.  The Venge, especially the first generation, is the quintessential aero race bike.  Pure racing geometry, stiff as a board, exceptionally light at the Ultegra+ model (mine is 15 pounds – 16 with pedals and cages included), the Venge is all go and no slow, baby.

My Venge is no longer the newest, most “aero” thing on the road… but it’s hella-fast and it’s me, right down to the red and black, purposely mismatched carbon fiber bottle cages.

Standing there, sweating in my driveway, uploading my ride from my Garmin to the interwebs, I couldn’t help but think back to one of my favorite Ministry songs…

Jesus built my road bike
It’s a love affair
Mainly Jesus and my Venge

Just a Little Bike P○rn for a Cap to 2018