Vitus Venon EVO GR Rival gravel bike review – all-road, no compromises
After three years of development, Vitus has released the Venon EVO, an all-road bike that aims to cover gravel as fast as it does tarmac. The previous Venon was strictly an endurance road bike, but with the emergence sub-genre of fast gravel and gravel racing, Vitus saw an opening to re-imagine the Venon EVO as a do-everything all-road bike.
The new Venon EVO’s design is derived from performance road, taking cues from the aero and road bikes but adding more comfort and tire clearance in order to also take on the best gravel bikes. The result is a fast road bike that can also fit up to a 45mm tire allowing it to move between tarmac and gravel with nothing more than a seamless tire change.
Vitus isn’t the first brand to try and juggle off/on-road performance, however, I think it has found the perfect mid-ground without making any compromises.
Design and geometry
The Venon EVO comes in specific gravel (GR) and road (RS) builds, however, the frame used on both bikes is exactly the same. The multi-disciplinary nature of the Venon EVO means it's a bit of a mongrel, taking inspiration from many of Vitus’ other EVO drop-bar bikes.
As the Venon Evo is intended to be a performance bike, aerodynamics was an important consideration. The full carbon frame features a broad and purposeful front end that takes inspiration from their ZX-1 EVO aero road bike. There is also a semi-integrated internally routed stem, the same as ZX1 EVO, which was developed with FSA that feeds cables through the stem face plate. Interestingly, Vitus says that CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) testing shows that the Venon EVO front end is actually more aero than their ZX-1 EVO.
The rear end focuses on comfort and low weight with dropped ovalized seat stays and a different carbon layup for better compliance, similar to the Vitus Vitesse EVO all-around road bike. Lastly, Vitus has borrowed the Integrated seat clamp used on the Energie EVO cyclocross frame and used a standard round seatpost.
The geometry is also a convergence of disciplines too. On my medium test bike, I found the long 386.9mm reach and 73.8-degree seat angle to be spot on for fast riding. The 100mm stem and 70mm bottom bracket drop also play into the road bike character. The 420mm chainstays are pretty short considering they can clear a 45mm tire and a 71.5-degree head angle slackens the bike out a little and helps extend the wheelbase to 1019.47mm for more stability. The Venon EVO is available in sizes between XS and XXL.
Rather than using a dropped chainstay like most other gravel bikes, straight chainstays have been specced to maintain the road aesthetic. Despite this, the frame will still fit gravel tires up to 45mm with ISO standard clearance.
The frame features two sets of bottle cage bosses in the frame, as the Venon EVO is aimed at the performance gravel and road there are no additional bikepacking-related mountings although I think an under-downtube third bottle cage position wouldn’t go amiss. There is a removable seat stay bridge and hidden mounts for all-weather riders to fit fenders. The frame is compatible with 2x and 1x drivetrains and has a blanking plate when being run with a single chainring.
Components and build
The GR version of the Venon EVO comes at three price points as well as being available as a frameset. All three builds feature SRAM groupsets for 2023, although Vitus says that they hope to offer Shimano GRX builds at a later date.
My review bike is the base model Venon EVO GR Rival which comes equipped with a 1x SRAM Rival 11sp mechanical groupset. Truth be told I'm not the biggest fan of SRAM’s mechanical double shift, however, other than my dislike of the shifting ergonomics of mechanical double tap it worked great. I found the cassette's gear range a touch small and the ratio jumps a bit too big when compared to newer 12-speed groupsets, but other than that the shifting was very dependable and I had no issues with chain security throughout testing.
Lots of brands cut costs when it comes to wheels and while the Prime Attiquer wheelset is a basic alloy construction, it's not particularly heavy, rolls well, stayed true, and is just wide enough internally to support the grippy 40mm Michelin Power Gravel tire well. Considering the bike's intended multi-functional nature, I would want to invest in a fancier set of gravel wheels in the future as the Attiquers would run very nicely mounted with a set of wide 30mm road tires as a second wheelset for tarmac duties.
The aforementioned FSA alloy stem is fitted with a set of alloy Prime riser drop bars. They are a bit odd looking but put your hands in a nice position whether in the tops or drops and aren’t too harsh.
Ride, handling and performance
Presumably when Vitus says “one bike, two personalities” they mean gravel and road, because as far as I am concerned it only has one personality, fast. As soon as I started riding the Venon its performance instincts kicked in. The frame feels tight and reactive to rider input, kick on the pedals and the Venon EVO has a real pick up and go energy. It's an encouraging trait to have when climbing and downright addictive when accelerating out of corners. While the stout chainstays and bottom bracket play a part in this, the Venon EVO’s low weight certainly helps too.
My review bike weighs in at 8.69kg (actual) for a medium with 40mm tires which is pretty impressive considering this is the cheapest build available. That means it's on par with other more expensive fast gravel bikes like the Canyon Grail CF SL 7 eTap and the Giant Revolt Advanced 0. If you match the two aforementioned competitors for price and componentry with the more comparable Rival AXS model, then it's even lighter, with Vitus claiming a weight of 8.3kg.
The handling shares an equally responsive precise feel which further enhances the ride as you carve through twisty gravel trails. The steering feels natural and the 16-degree flare of the bars gives loads of control when I was really hammering it on descents. While aerodynamic benefits are often hard to tangibly quantify while riding, the Venon EVO does an excellent job of maintaining speed, although that could be down to the excitable ride encouraging me to keep the chain tight at all times.
The feeling of speed aboard the Venon EVO is quantifiable too, out on my local gravel test loops the Venon EVO has secured plenty of Strava Personal records and claimed its fair share of virtual trophies.
Vitus’ work on the rear end does an impressive job at quelling vibrations. The carbon seatpost, compliance front the alloy wheels, and cushiony Michelin tires further help reduce roughness from the trail. In fact, other than my own personal grumblings about double tap, the spec of the Venon is superb and I didn’t feel that anything needed to be upgraded to get the most from the bike.
Vitus’ Venon is an all-road bike that finds the perfect balance between off-road gravel racer and on-road tarmac ripper. Tight, direct, and lively ride responses make the Venon EVO an engaging and fun bike on fast, graded gravel surfaces. Low weight means it's a confident climber and the sharp pedal response results in quick acceleration too. This energetic characteristic meant that most of my test rides soon escalated into sprinting up hills for fun and refusing to let up any speed on descents and flat sections.
Despite the Venon EVO technically being as much of a road bike as it is a gravel bike, it still manages to keep its cool when the terrain is rougher. It's never going to compete with slacker fatter adventure gravel bikes on properly chunky terrain, however, it isn’t trying to either. The clearance for 45mm tires will let you add more grip, protection, and cushion if needed.
Despite the spec of my base model test bike feeling really sorted, if you’re based in the UK or Europe, it's worth stretching your budget to get the Venon EVO GR Rival AXS model instead. For an extra £500 / €500 you get wireless 12-speed shifting, carbon aero wheels, and a carbon aero bar which should all have a complimenting effect on performance. US shoppers will need to save up an extra $700 for the same upgrade, although it's still probably worth it for the improved gear range, slicker wireless shifting, and carbon wheels. Otherwise, the Venon EVO GR Rival is a properly fast, fun gravel/all-road bike.
Terrain: Fire road, singletrack, XC trail, road
Conditions: Dry dusty trails, rain, winter mud
Temperatures: 50 to 77 F (10 to 25 C)
Tech specs: Vitus Venon EVO GR Rival
Price: $3,399 / £2,999.99 / €3,399.99 / AU$5,399.99
Frame: Venon Evo Carbon SL
Size: Medium (tested)
Sizes available: XS to 2XL
Weight: 8.69kg (size medium tested)
Groupset: SRAM Rival HRD 1X, 11 speed
Crankset: SRAM Rival, 40T
Cassette: SRAM PG-1130, 11-42T
Wheels: Prime Attaquer V2 Disc Wheelset
Tires: Michelin Power Gravel TS TLR 700c x 40
Brakes: SRAM Rival Hydraulic Disc, SRAM Centerline, 160mm
Bar: Prime Orra Aluminium
Stem: FSA NS SMR Aluminum
Seatpost: Prime Primavera Carbon, 27.2mm
Saddle: Vitus Race Performance, Ti Rail