The only way to describe this bike is Marmite.

Whenever I post online, the reaction is always mixed, most liking it, but others hating it.

I’m showing my age here, but in the 90’s a drink product called Tango ran an ad campaign, a man running around in a bright orange suit, slapping strangers in the street with the slogan of “you know when you’ve been Tango’d”. I can’t help feel that at some point my bike has been a helpless victim. In person, it’s bright and always stands out amongst bikes gathered in a sportive or lined up in the rack on one of my Duathlons or Triathlons.

Upon my first ever test ride, I instantly fell in love with it, with it quickly overshadowing any other bikes I test rode after its initial run. The bikes tested were certainly not shabby. In the mix were a Giant Defy Advanced and a BMC SLR01, similar in componentry and spec, both very capable and highly regarded bikes, but as a complete package the Specialized won out. The main criteria was speed, and this bike certainly had plenty of that.

The early Specialised frames were tested and developed by the race winning F1 team McLaren, who know a thing or two about building race cars, but are also well known for data analytics through years of experienced wind tunnel analysis, and this skill of building aero frames still continues with the newer variety of Specialized race bikes.

The entire frame is aero with bladed forks, aero seat post while being further accompanied with the S-Works Aerofly handlebars, which apparently can save up to 40 seconds over a 40 kilometre distance. Take this statistic with a pinch of salt, as to mere mortals like you and I, I am not so sure I will ever live up to this performance statement.

I’ll put the componentry to one side for the moment and focus on the ride. The frame is Specialized’s 10r carbon layup, not as stiff as the S-Works frame (11r), but still incredibly stiff. If you are looking for a sportive bike which you can comfortably cruise along on an all-day then move along, this isn’t the bike for you. If however you like to be placed into an aero position, pushing yourself with every pedal stroke, climbing hills, while also living in the drops on the flats and descents then read on.

Perhaps I’m being unfair; the Venge can be a durable bike, but not fresh out of the shop. Once the honeymoon period of riding the bike was over, the realisation arrived that some components were really spoiling what a great bike this is. On the road the bike was at times quite jarring, and after what should be a simple 30+ mile ride I found my hands were feeling a little numb even with wearing my well-padded GripGrab gloves.

The standard 23c Specialized tyres, which I must note from a grip perspective were a great all round tyre, but were changed for 25c Schwalbe Ones, carrying on the theme of speed.

The tracing paper used as bar tape, which I can only imagine was chosen to keep the overall weight down was changed for Koosh Super sticky bar tape, may I add the green spotty Mark Cavendish special edition version just to be a bit different.

As a point 23’s on any road bike these days has very little place on English roads, because they are mostly in such bad condition I can’t imagine any pedigree bike giving a compliant ride with such a thin layer of rubber.

Quite simply changing these two aspects transformed the ride. I now found that I could sit in the drops, the thick super absorbent bar tape filling my hands removing any previous numbness, and the 25’s, running a moderate 100psi really helped the bike to soak up the road, giving a hard racer a more softer touch, but certainly not losing any of that racing DNA that Specialized is so famed for.

How does it perform? It’s a slightly unfair comparison, but money, to a point does buy you speed. Prior to purchasing my Venge I owned a budget Felt Z100, costing me £400, my first ever entry level bike which got me into the world of wearing lycra and sportive rides (odd I know), and at the time taught me the baseline skills and fitness required.

Understandably going from my Felt to the Venge (priced at £3000 at the time) were worlds apart, but riding two bikes at the completely opposite spectrum of each other really does give you an idea of the stark differences.

On my first outing I went from averaging 15mph to 17mph straight away. That’s quite a difference. Every component within the Venge’s armoury quickly enabling such a jump in performance.

Push the pedals on the Venge and it urges you to go fast, it picks up speed quickly, and on the flats it’s blisteringly quick, with the super stiff frame not absorbing your energy, but instead transferring it to the tarmac.

It’s a shame the roads are mostly in such bad condition here in the UK as getting a real idea of a bikes performance, not just the Venge but all performance or race enhanced bikes is hampered from rough roads. Avoiding the potholed plagued roads can just be a challenge in itself.

I was fortunate enough to enter into a charity race for Prostate cancer this year; one part was riding out of East London to Harwich, then catching the overnight ferry to Holland, cycling along the Dutch coastline and crossing the finishing line in Amsterdam.

THIS is where the Venge comes into its own. In Holland the bike is king and cars sit firmly in second place, exactly the way it should be. The Venge on the smooth tarmac was intoxicating, relentless in its search for wanting to go faster, whether I did it justice or not I’m unsure, but I gave it a bloody good try, Averaging my highest ever speed while still feeling fresh at the end of a 70+ mile ride.

Back to reality unfortunately and returning to riding on the English roads. On down hills the Venge gives you a lot of confidence, it feels planted and stable, letting you grab an aero position (the slammed bars helping), confidently leaning into corners, while your urge to descend ever quicker with each hill being further boosted with the tried and tested Ultregra brakes, giving you sharp and controlled breaking when you need it.

The Venge is quite simply fantastic; however there is a BUT, the wheels. As with most bikes, a lot of the budget is focused on the frame. This is the heart of the machine and rightly so, sometimes coupled with mid to decent level componentry, in this case Ultegra, or at least giving the opportunity to upgrade to a better spec further down the line.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Venge comes with Fulcrum S3’s which are reasonably light, strong, sporting bladed spokes and are more than a capable wheel to use in any sportive event or entry level racing. The wheels roll well, and even with them taking a few big hits from potholes, and are still running straight and true.

I have however recently upgraded to Wiggles budget carbon Cosine clinchers, but that review is one for another day.

If you want to enter the world of racing, which you would be starting within the 4th category riders as am I, then this is the perfect machine and more than capable.

Accompanying the aero frame is a full Shimano Ultegra groupset coupled with an FSA (Full Speed Ahead) carbon crankset, certainly a brand which does not detract from the Ultegra make up, further adding to the stiffness of the bike, helping the maximum level of power transfer to the pedals.

Ultegra is a tried and tested groupset, quick, smooth gear changes, and is a perfect match to the Venge, it simply works with giving you reliability, allowing you to focus on your ride.

Specialized bikes have a fantastic reputation, and rightfully so. They are tried and tested in the business, offering great customer service and have race proven DNA, enabling champions like Peter Sagan to secure his 2nd world championship, further proving the bikes supreme performance within its aero design and matched componentry.

Should you buy one? If you have the cash, then don’t hesitate and get in touch with your local Specialized dealer, you won’t regret it.

Tony.