Forget all about the rim-brake Venge ViAS bikes. They may have had the most aero brakes ever made, but like every other integrated brake in the peloton, in practice they were underwhelming. With the launch of the Specialized Venge ViAS Disc disc, we learned why those rim brakes may not have been ready—they were never supposed to exist.
That’s right, the Venge was never supposed to be a rim- brake bike, but with the UCI dragging its feet on disc integration Specialized couldn’t mothball years of R&D, so a rim version was rushed into production. One glance at the disc Venge ViAS and it’s clear this is true. The bike’s lines now flow beautifully. The sculpted down tube shadowing the front wheel, and the seat tube tucked up against the rear wheel are now unfettered, giving the Venge ViAS the lines it was always supposed to have.
The Venge features the hybrid airfoils we’re used to seeing in today’s aero bikes. The seat stays have been lowered significantly versus the original Venge, with two benefits, better aero and more compliance. But the real aero gains, and the low-hanging fruit almost every aero bike has gone for, come from the integrated cockpit. The high-end Venge models feature bespoke stems for the new Aerofly bars. The gullwing-style bars come from a finding at Specialized’s wind tunnel. A minus-17-degree stem produces less drag but is not compatible with most riders’ fit. The gullwing bars create a higher position with less drag than a minus -6-degree stem.
With Venge’s shapes dictated by airflow, Specialized engineers relied heavily on Finite Element Analysis to create stiffness. Initially, aero road bikes were thought of as niche items for breakaway artists, but the focus on aero for bunch sprinters has seen aero road bikes put under the most powerful riders in the world. Every Venge ViAS uses Specialized’s top-of-the-line Fact 11r carbon recipe—no low-mod bargain frames here.
So how much do discs impact aerodynamics? Initially, the reports suggested that discs cost about 10 seconds at high wind angles over 40 kilometers. But those were post-mount discs. With the extra development time due to the UCI delay of discs, Specialized switched to flat mount and claims any difference is now within the margin of error at the wind tunnel.
The $4,500 Venge ViAS Expert Disc is built with Ultegra, and uses a standard stem with S-Works Aerofly bars. The hit on front-end aero is surprisingly large: the exposed cables on the Expert cost 18 seconds over 40 kilometers according to Specialized. The Expert also comes with shallow alloy clinchers to achieve the price point, but we tested with Roval CLX64 clinchers. This bike deserves deep carbon. While it impresses in the tunnel, it is not a standout on the scale—17.4 pounds for our 58cm test bike. That’s just heavy. However, an S-Works 56cm with tubulars is reported to be within spitting distance of the UCI limit.
Good Lord. This bike is stunning on the road. Forget counting grams of drag or calculated 40-kilometer times, the Venge ViAS is noticeably faster in almost every situation. Need help hanging onto the lead group on the club ride? Get a Venge ViAS. Torsionally, the bike is incredibly stiff. Jump on the accelerator and it’s like hitting the launch button on an ICBM. The power rumbles to the wheels—the deep rims and big tube shapes letting it echo—and the thrust builds and builds as numbers on your Garmin tick over. The Venge ViAS is empirical evidence that aero matters more the faster you go. It excels in big wind-up sprints or high-speed jumps.
The rear end is a bit longer than a Tarmac Disc to fit the discs without any non-standard parts. It gives the bike a very planted feel under big power, with a stable rear wheel and true track. It holds speed like only one or two other platforms can. Of course, on steep hills or in accelerations from slow speed, the bike does not feel as lively as a Tarmac. It’s a bit wooden, without the high-strung feel at the pedals. This could be the longer rear end, the extra pounds or the stout carbon lay-up, but who cares. Want to climb? Get a Tarmac.
Want to descend? For our money, nothing beats the Venge ViAS disc. Like a Trek Madone or Canyon Aeroad, the bike forces you to recalibrate on descents, building speed incredibly quickly, but, unlike the other bikes, the discs allow you to let it roll and push those limits with a big insurance policy. The bike remains beautifully composed during high-load, high-speed cornering, going exactly where it is pointed. Despite the stiff ride, it has just enough compliance to keep that composure over rough roads— the longer rear end and through-axles helping as well.
It’s undeniably one of the fastest bikes ever made, and the first one with the stopping power to let you truly take advantage of it. Designed for the biggest, fastest, most powerful riders in the world, the Venge ViAS disc pays off for the rest of us that just need a bit of help sticking with the front group on the club ride.
$4,500 (tested with Roval CLX64 clinchers: $2,675);
17.4lbs / 7.9kg 58cm w/o pedals and cages; Shimano Ultegra with Hydraulic braking, FSA SLK Light cranks, Specialized S-Works Aerofly bars and alloy stem with BG Power Expert saddle, DT R460 wheels with S-Works Turbo 24mm tires