The latest gravel machine from Vitus is the Venon EVO-GR and it is an absolute belter. Actually designed as an ‘all-road’ bike, the Venon’s racy nature makes it a blast to ride on fast-flowing trails and tracks, and anywhere else you want to get the power down. And for the value hunters among you - it’s got that covered, too.
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Vitus Venon EVO-GR Rival AXS gravel bike - Frame and fork
Thanks to its SL UD (uni-directional) carbon-fibre construction, the Venon’s frame and fork has a claimed weight of just 1kg in a size medium, pretty impressive for a bike that is designed to take on a bit of the rough stuff. It’s no off-the-shelf product either as the EVO has been fully designed by Vitus’ in-house team in Belfast before the finished article you see here was manufactured in the Far East using Vitus’ own moulds.
The finished product is of a high quality from what I can see with a clean finish on the inside of the frame when looking down into the seat tube. The paint job is deep and luxurious, too, which has stood up well over the review period.
The main thing that differentiates the Venon EVO-GR compared to most other all-road bikes is the tyre clearance which, at 45mm, is bigger than both the Ridley Grifn recently reviewed on road.cc (38mm with a 2x chainset, 40mm with 1x) or the Fara F/AR which will take 38mm slicks as a maximum size.
This makes the EVO just as capable as the majority of the gravel bikes we’ve reviewed and, for the type of gravel riding I do, it’s as big as I’d need to go. I routinely run 40mm gravel tyres or 45mm when the conditions are wet and muddy. Anything wider I’ve found starts to increase the rotational weight too much, so with that in mind I’d say the EVO ticks the ‘gravel’ box very well indeed.
Vitus has managed to keep the chainstays quite short at 420mm which stops the Venon looking ‘long’ even with narrow race rubber fitted. The arched cut out of the seat tube allows for that shortness and Vitus has also dropped both chainstays for maximum clearance.
The Venon is running a press-fit 386EVO bottom bracket which allows for the BB shell to be wider than a threaded bottom bracket. The Q-factor, the distance between the pedal faces doesn’t change though.
The wider shell means that the chainstays can still be chunky enough to resist pedalling loads while giving that extra tyre clearance.
Vitus is confident that it has perfected the carbon lay-up and wall thicknesses around the bottom bracket on its frames, so any creaking issues from the press-fit system shouldn’t be a problem.
If you wanted to switch the GR to a road build you can ride pretty much any tyre size you want as most slicks top out around the 38mm mark.
Even with those fitted, you could run full mudguards. Thanks to a removable rear brake bridge, the frame and fork are capable of running them. The mounting point isn’t exactly in the precise position to fit most guards straight out of the box but with a bit of fettling of the stays they’ll go on.
This really adds to the versatility of the EVO-GR. With big tyres and mudguards fitted you’ve got an ideal lightweight tourer, audax machine or year-round commuter.
Other than the mudguard mounts though you won’t find much else which suits its lightweight and race-ready persona. If you do want to run a top tube bag, small frame bag or bar bag then you will like the lack of external cabling routing as there is nothing to get in the way.
Vitus has gone down the route of running everything internally, well the brake hoses at least as with this Sram AXS groupset there are no cables or wires.
To complete the smooth look the front mech mounting plate is easily removed if you want to go 1x.
Vitus Venon EVO-GR Rival AXS gravel bike - Geometry
Vitus has made the Venon EVO available in six sizes ranging from XS to XXL with top tubes of 515mm to 605mm. Vitus has also added recommended heights and leg lengths to its geometry chart to help with sizing.
This medium has a top tube length of 551mm, with a seat tube length of 500mm. The head tube is 143mm tall and that includes the top cap which fills the recess above the top tube. The fork rake is 50mm, while the head- and seat angles sit at respective 71.5- and 71.8-degrees.
The wheelbase is 1,020mm and the bike has a front centre measurement of 609mm. The bottom bracket drop is 70mm, while the stack and reach figures are 560mm and 387mm.
Vitus Venon EVO-GR Rival AXS gravel bike - Finishing kit
Vitus offers the Venon GR in three builds starting with mechanical SRAM Rival for £3,000 and topping out with a Force AXS model for £4,300. A frameset is also available for £1,800, while the build we have here sits in the middle of the line-up, which includes SRAM’s third-tier electronic shifting, Rival AXS. It costs £3500.
It’s running a 1x set-up with a Rival D1 DUB chainset and 40T chainring, paired with a 10-44T, 12-speed cassette, so you are getting a wide spread of gears for both climbing and top-speed work. There are some gaps between the larger sprockets but not so much that it really affects your cadence unless you ride within a very narrow range. The shifting from the electronic wireless shifters is spot on throughout the gear range, and battery life across the shifters and rear mech is impressive.
SRAM's AXS systems use a single button on each shifter, so you use the right-hand shifter to descend the cassette and the left-hand shifter to climb back up it. If you install one of SRAM’s AXS dropper posts then pressing both buttons together will move the post up and down.
Should you want to convert to a 2x system at any point with no cables or wires a front mech is easy to fit and set up with just a bit of app integration.
For braking duties, Vitus has specced a 160mm rotor for the front and 140mm for the rear. That’s quite the roadie setup but I never found it to be lacking in terms of performance. The Vitus isn’t a bike designed to be carrying a massive amount of weight, so massive rotors aren’t a necessity.
The rest of the finishing is of a high quality. Up front, you get an FSA NS SMR aluminium stem which is designed to funnel those cables directly into the frame as they leave the Prime Orra Carbon handlebar.
I have this handlebar on my own bike and I love it. The flat top section gives you a great platform for comfort and grip when tapping along, and the flared section of the bar gives great control when in the drops.
The Seatpost is a full carbon Primavera item that sits integrated with the frame and the hidden wedge-style clamping mechanism. The saddle is a Vitus Race Performance model which I’ll admit was a little long for me on gravel routes, but comfortable enough in terms of padding. I just prefer a short-nosed design.
The wheels also come from Prime, with a set of Primavera 44 Carbon Disc which are impressive for the price.
You get a little aero boost from the 44mm depth and the build stayed straight true and durable throughout the review period.
Designed with wider tyres in mind they work great with those 40mm Michelin Power tyres. Their shape when inflated blends the sidewall and rim smoothly together, so you don’t get any lightbulb effect possible when using a narrower rim width.
The tyres roll well, even on the road and their grip levels are good on all kinds of terrain. As I mentioned earlier, they are best suited to drier conditions, but they still work well in wetter, muddier times.
Vitus Venon EVO-GR Rival AXS - Ride impressions
As mentioned in that opening paragraph the Venon EVO is an all-road bike. A model designed to work just as well on the tarmac as it does on the gravel. That’s a tough gig to pull off without a stream of compromises.
Alongside this GR model, I’ve also been riding the EVO-RS for road.cc, which uses the same frame but comes with a build more focused towards the road. With slick, slim tyres and a 2x build, it absolutely flies, feeling every inch of the fast, endurance-styled road bike it’s designed to be.
With that in mind, the EVO-GR is a gravel racer, rather than an adventurer by virtue of its geometry. With a shorter wheelbase, and a more aggressive front end than many gravel bikes it’s more suited to the gravel tracks and trails when they are running fast and flowing.
That doesn’t mean it’s a glorified road bike that can accept wide tyres. The steering has enough neutrality in it that makes the Venon easy to control even on loose terrain and it has a feel of stability throughout.
It’s light too. In this build, this medium model is around 8.3kg which means it feels nimble and nippy and on faster sections, like a bit of singletrack through the woods it is hugely flickable for dodging ruts and tree routes and it bunny hops with ease.
I have a thirty-mile loop that I do a couple of times a week for testing gravel bikes and the Venon EVO was one of the fastest bikes I’ve ever used on the route. It’s made up of all kinds of surfaces ranging from gravel, mud, grass and chalk and with the conditions dry the Venon was right at home. There is a lot of feedback coming through the frame and fork which lets you know exactly what the 40mm Michelin Power tyres are doing underneath you.
Any slides or breaks of traction are quickly felt and the Vitus responds well to shifts in body weight allowing you to tweak the direction of travel without having to lift off of the gas.
This makes the EVO-GR controllable in wet conditions, it’s just not as fast. The tyres only have a relatively low tread depth so grip in slippery conditions is limited, but with enough room in the frame and fork to accept knobblier rubber of up to 45mm means that the Vitus isn’t going to be hung up in the shed come winter.
Comfort levels are high thanks to the slender upper half of the frame, and those narrow seat stays bring a smooth level of compliance to the rear end. With that in mind, the Venon works well for longer trips, even as a lightweight bikepacking machine with some bags whacked on it.
The lower part of the frame takes care of the stiffness. With a large bottom bracket shell, down tube and chunky chainstays the Venon feels incredibly efficient when hammering the pedals hard for acceleration or on the climbs.
There is no feeling of flex anywhere in that lower half of the frame and if your rides focus on those short sharp efforts you won’t be disappointed.
The only thing that I have to criticise the EVO-GR for is a bit of toe overlap when turning at slow speed. THis, however, is not an issue with road tyres 28mm fitted, only when using the 40mm Michelins.
Vitus Venon EVO-GR Rival AXS gravel bike - Verdict
For the build, I reckon the Venon-GR offers impressive value for money.
For comparison, the Canyon Grail is similar in design to the Venon with the CF SL 7 eTap coming with a similar spec. That’s a SRAM Rival AXS groupset, with carbon wheels and handlebar (the Hover double-decker), and 40mm wide tyres for £3,749. We reviewed the AL 7 eTap for £2,249.
Ribble’s Gravel SL Pro is described as a gravel racer coming with a lightweight carbon frameset but it also gets plenty of mounting points, too. The SL Enthusiast model is priced at £3,200 with a 1x Rival eTap groupset. It does only come with a set of Mavic Allroad 650b wheels though, a step down from the carbon found on the Venon EVO.
Both the Canyon and the Ribble utilise geometry which is slacker and more relaxed than the Vitus and very gravel-specific so you will lose that sporty nature when you transfer over to the road though. Neither has the versatility of the Venon.
Overall, the Venon EVO-GR is a great gravel bike but the fact that it achieves that by being an awesome road bike, too, is an impressive trait. With plenty of tyre clearance for off-road jaunts, the Venon is very capable, and the blend of stiffness and comfort means that it is a bike you can ride for hours and hours at speed.