The Vitus marque has its roots in France but, having disappeared for a number of years, was resurrected by Chain Reaction Cycles in 2011 as the online retailer’s in-house brand. Two years down the line and we’ve had a sneak peak at the 2013 range.
Sean Kelly recorded 80 per cent of his 193 professional wins aboard Vitus machines through the 1980s, and the King of the Classics, whose victories also included five Tour de France stages and four green jerseys, was drafted in by CRC as brand ambassador for the Vitus revival.
The Irishman’s influence is most noticeable when it comes to geometry, with a classic position and relatively short headtube across much of the collection. The range has been expanded to four frames (the Zenium, Dark Plasma, Vitesse and Sean Kelly) and ten models for 2013. It’s a smart looking collection, with understated styling, colour matched frames and saddles, and neat features including a chain catcher on all carbon fibre machines. Let’s take a closer look.
Kelly’s influence is most keenly felt on the frame which bears his name. The Sean Kelly is Vitus’ top-of-the-range frame and pay’s tribute to the nine-time Monument winner with flashes of the emerald green of Ireland across the frame, and a racing geometry with a short headtube, tight rear triangle and 558mm-long top tube on a size 54cm frame.
The frame is made from a T700 high-modulus carbon fibre and has a claimed frame weight of 950g, which puts it in the light but not super-light category. It shares all of the features we’ve come to expect from high-end racing frames, with a tapered headtube matched with a full carbon fork, deep chainstays and skinny seatstays, which Vitus say results in the right balance of stiffness and comfort. Two models are available: the £3,999 Sean Kelly Limited Edition, which has just landed at RoadCyclingUK for review, and the £4,999 Sean Kelly VRi.
The Limited Edition bike is based around SRAM’s updated top-of-the-range Red groupset. It’s the lightest groupset on the market and helps deliver a claimed weight of 6.9kg for a complete bike with a 54cm frame – only a shade over the UCI’s 6.8kg weight limit. Finishing kit is Kelly’s own choice of aluminium stem, bars and seatpost from 3T, while the lightweight Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels (claimed weight 1,395g) are shod with Mavic Yksion Pro tyres. A Prologo Scratch Pro saddle completes an impressive spec sheet.
The VRi model will be available in limited numbers from April. It’ll be equipped with the latest incarnation of Shimano’s 11-speed Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and that bumps the price up to £4,999. Otherwise the spec is the same as the Limited Edition bike.
The Vitesse range is designed to designed to offer a competitive combination of performance and value. As a result it uses the same frame as the Sean Kelly range – so it’s made from the same blend of T700 high-modulus carbon fibre, with the same weight, and the same geometry – but with a more economical components package. The frame is UCI approved and will be raced by the Vitus-sponsored An Post-Chain Reaction Cycles-Sean Kelly team in 2013.
The Vitesse VR is the most expensive model at £3,399.99 and that gets you Shimano’s overhauled Dura-Ace mechanical groupset, which gains an extra sprocket for 2013, plus Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels, Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tyres, FSA finishing kit and a Prologo Scratch Pro saddle.
Move down to the Vitesse VR and the price drops to £2,799.99, with Shimano Dura-Ace swapped out for Ultegra Di2. Opt for the Vitesse model and an additional £1,000 comes off the asking price, with a mixed Ultegra/105 groupset, apart from the FSA Energy chainset and FSA Gossamer brakes, and Mavic Ksyrium Equipe hoops for £1,799.99.
The Dark Plasma is Vitus’ entry-level carbon fibre frame, designed with sportive riders in mind. The frame has been updated for 2013 to include a cut out on the seatstay bridge which Vitus say makes the frame a little more comfortable for sportive riders doing big miles. The frame weight remains at 950g – impressive for this price point.
Two versions are available. The Dark Plasma is the opening model at £1,199.99 and is kitted out with a Shimano Tiagra groupset, save for the FSA Gossamer chainset and brakes, plus Shimano R501 wheels, Schwalbe Lugano PP tyres, FSA finishing kit and a Vitus own-brand saddle for an all-up weight of 8.5kg.
If you’ve got an additional £200 in your budget, the Dark Plasma VR gets upgraded shifters and derailleurs from Shimano’s ever-reliable mid-range 105 groupset for £1,399.99.
Three models based around the aluminium Zenium frame, which all fall below the £1,000 mark, complete the Vitus 2013 road range. The 6061-T6 hydroformed Zenium frame is all-new for this year and is paired with a full carbon fork with a tapered steerer, which is impressive for the money, and a testament to the fact Vitus are focussed on performance. The compact geometry has been tweaked with group rides, audax events or sportives in mind, where comfort is favoured over all-out speed.
The Zenium is the cheapest model, with a Shimano Sora/FSA groupset, Shimano R501 wheels, Schwalbe Lugano PP tyres, FSA finishing kit and a Vitus own-brand saddle for £699.99. Another £100 gets you a smattering of Shimano Tiagra components on the Zenium VR, and for £949.99 the new-for-2013 Zenium VRS jumps up another level on Shimano’s food chain to 105.
Time trial and cyclo-cross
That’s the road bikes covered but we also have news of Vitus’ time trial and cyclo-cross offering. First up, the Chrono TT machine is based around a custom-moulded T700 high-modulus carbon fibre frame which Vitus say is the result of many hours in the wind tunnel, which explains the sleek tube profiles and rear wheel cut-out.
There’s only one time trial bike in the range, priced at a penny under £2,000 with a SRAM Force/Rival groupset, Easton EA50 Aero wheels, Continental Ultra Race tyres, FSA TT saddle, Vision Vector aero ‘bars with 230-290mm extensions and a FSA TT saddle.
Meanwhile, 2013 sees Vitus dip their toe into the cyclo-cross water for the first time with two new bikes, although they didn’t have any samples to show us for our visit.
The Energie is based around a 6061-T6 aluminium frame with a carbon fibre fork, and it’s a versatile machine thanks to its ability to also take panniers and racks, making it a contender as an all-round machine for commuting, winter training or touring. What do you get for £1,199.99? A SRAM Rival groupset with Avid Shorty 4 cantilever brakes, Easton wheels and 30mm Schwalbe CX Comp tyres. Otherwise, the Energie VR is Vitus’ race-focussed cyclo-cross steed, with a carbon fibre frame and SRAM Force groupset for £1,999.99.
Last but not least, Vitus have also introduced a kids road bike for the Sean Kelly’s of tomorrow. The Premiere, painted in Tour de France yellow and black, has an aluminium frame and fork, 24″ wheels (suitable for children aged nine to 12, say Vitus) and a 16-speed transmission with child-friendly 46-39t chainrings.