Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2013 Specialized S-Works Venge with Campagnolo EPS Electronic Shifting

We recently built up the most expensive custom bike we've ever stocked at Papa Wheelies: a 2013 Specialized S-Works Venge frameset built up with Campy Super Record EPS electronic shifting and a set of ridiculously light DT Swiss RR525 wheels.

The Venge is Specialized's aero road bike, a category that has been heating up over the last few years, with a number of companies jumping on the bandwagon, and for good reason. Bikes like the Venge or the BMC TimeMachine Road can be stiff, responsive, relatively lightweight, give you an appreciable aero advantage and be very capable descenders. In fact, last summer I was right on my boss's wheel heading down a steep descent in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire when he started pulling away from me. I looked down at my computer as I helplessly drifted behind to see that I was going 53.5 mph and getting dropped on my stupid round-tubed bike!

This build up is an incredible machine! It weighs in at under 14 lbs and whistles through a headwind. I took it out for a short 10-mile loop for a shakedown ride to make some adjustments on the shifting. The Campy is smooth and precise, and after testing a number of Shimano Dura Ace and Ultegra Di2 bikes (Ultegra Di2 has become a very good-selling gruppo over the last year, but that's another story) Campy is as good as you would expect given the price tag. After setting up the bike in the shop and tuning it (which is more like programming a computer than wrenching on a bike) my ride revealed that the front derailleur was a little out of adjustment. Adjusting it was a relatively simple operation I could perform at 15 mph: hold down the hidden button on the right shifter for 6 seconds until the blue light flashed, entering it into setup mode, then adjust the derailleur out 1/10th of a millimeter per click until aligned, hold the hidden button down again until it flashed out of setup mode, and shift to see how it works.

The DT Swiss wheelset is as light as anything I've ever ridden. At 990 grams for the pair, they are pounds lighter than a lot of wheels out there. You could put a set of something more aero like Zipp 404 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers on this bike and still be below the Tour de France weight limit.


Flashing through downtown Portsmouth at the speed limit to get out to Route 1B towards New Castle Island, the Venge felt effortless. Heading across the causeway bridge at the first town-line sprint I easily outmaneuvered my shadow to a convincing win, HA! In actuality, I was still in mid winter condition, and didn't expect much from a performance standpoint on this ride. The bike felt great - the geometry is very similar to the Tarmac and sprints well (Mark Cavendish won Worlds in a sprint finish on one in 2011). And at 13.75 lbs it climbed like a dream up the local test piece, the Alpe d' Sagamore to the Col du Luster King Auto Detailing!

Pulling back into the bike shop parking lot I popped my Garmin into the computer dock to upload the ride to Strava, not expecting much from my out-of-season form, and shocked to find that I had racked up 6 personal records on a ten-mile loop I had done a hundred times before! I guess the proof really is in the pudding, and for $16,500.00 you can truly buy speed. As I hung the Venge up on the wall I realized that unfortunately for me since I can't buy that much speed, I'll be chasing this out-of-shape loop on this fiery Venge for some time to come on my round-tubed bike!