- The Tour de France, the world’s greatest race, runs July 7-29.
- The most advanced performance road bicycles will be on display during the three-week event.
- Curious what a fully loaded Tour bike would be like to ride, I rode one of the fastest for a year.
- The Specialized S-Works Venge ViAS Disc e-Tap shines at high speed, in sprints, on flats and descents, and in windy conditions.
- It isn’t the lightest bike, but with aero wheels, disc brakes, and wireless electronic shifting, it’s at the cutting edge of superbikes.
It’s not every day you get to drive the fastest car or fly the fastest plane, so when a leading bike brand agreed to let me borrow its fastest bike, I got plenty excited.
The California-based Specialized sent an S-Works Venge ViAS Disc, a whole lot of bike that has won stages in the Tour de France and countless other top races. It’s an aero road bike built to do one thing: go fast.
I’ve been riding this impressively equipped Venge — with wind-cheating ZIPP wheels, the novel electronic shifting eTap, and powerful SRAM disc brakes — for the better part of a year.
Swapping my regular bike for a superbike was like going from a Civic to a Corvette. Here’s what it was like.
First impressions: wicked fast, technically crisp, surprisingly comfortable, supremely balanced.
The aero road bike became a thing around the mid-2000s. The new kind of bicycle had a single purpose: to go fast in a straight line.
Engineers tested lightweight carbon-fiber tubes of myriad shapes and sizes to help riders slice through the wind, reduce drag, and go faster. But while the early aero bikes were significantly faster, they handled like time-trial bikes. Over bumpy roads they felt harsh, the handling twitchy. They were not fun to ride.
Thankfully, aero bikes have a come a long way, as has the Venge. Specialized’s fastest offering, which has now seen a few iterations, inspires more all-around riding confidence and feels comfortable for a carbon aero bike.
When Specialized rolled out this version of the Venge, in 2016, it said it was the fastest bike it had ever made, as well as “the stiffest and most aerodynamic.” That meant something, given that Specialized has its own “Win Tunnel” and for years has been making some of the most sought-after bicycles, which have won just about every race you can name, including world championships, the classics, and grand tours. In fact, the current men’s world road champ — and one of the best bike racers of all time — counts a Venge among his quiver.
But let’s be clear: You buy an aero bike to be the fastest on your group ride or the first across the finish line. At least now you can have your speed and enjoy it, too, because the dragster has evolved to Formula One.
When it launched this Venge, Specialized claimed the bike would save a rider a whopping 45 seconds over 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) compared with the Tarmac, the company’s climbing bike, which itself has since been updated.
More stages were won at the 2017 Tour on a Venge ViAS Disc than on any other bike.
Germany’s Marcel Kittel, one of the world’s fastest road sprinters, won a whopping five stages at the 2017 Tour aboard a Venge ViAS Disc. In fact, Kittel made Tour de France history by becoming the first rider in the world’s greatest race to win a road stage on a bike with disc brakes.
All around the Venge is an emphasis on integration of aero shapes that help limit wind resistance.