Fast like the rider it’s named after, the Vitus Sean Kelly Limited Edition is also as smooth as the Irishman’s dulcet tones.
The Sean Kelly Limited Edition is, at first glance, a racing thoroughbred, and the frame has the credentials, with the Vitus-sponsored An Post-Chain Reaction Cycles-Sean Kelly team using the Vitesse model, which is based around the same 950g carbon fibre frame as our test machine.
Our time aboard the machine has revealed it as something of an all-rounder – much like Kelly himself, then – thanks to a stiff ride, without it bursting out of the blocks like a 100m sprinter, which also offers a surprising amount of comfort.
Kelly scored 80 per cent of his 193 professional wins aboard Vitus machines through the 1980s and, as outlined in our ‘first look’, the four-time Tour de France green jersey winner’s influence is most keenly felt when it comes to geometry. It’s undeniably racy, making for a compact frame with a suitably ‘pro’ riding position thanks to the small 140mm headtube (although Vitus do supply a generous amount of spacers), and steep 73° headtube and 73.5° seattube angles on our size 54cm test machine.
But, providing you can get your position right, it’s a blast. Jump out of the saddle to attack a rise in the road and the low front end is poised and aggressive, get on the drops and the aero tuck encourages fast riding.
Our first ride aboard the Vitus Sean Kelly Limited Edition was a four-hour excursion on unknown roads but the bike made light work of unfamiliar territory, with flowing and composed handling, sharp enough to change direction with a flick of your wrists without needing the care required to look after a machine with pin-sharp instincts.
Despite its racy persona, the frame offers a surprisingly smooth ride, taking the edge off the harshest roads on our local test loops, and proving a forgiving partner on long days in the saddle.
Claimed frame weight is 950g, thus falling under the magic kilo mark without being super-light. That provides the basis for an impressive overall weight of just under 7kg, with our machine close to the 6.9kg stated in the Vitus catalogue. That comes thanks to an impressive specification which ensures that, while £3,499.99 is not small change by anyone’s standards, you are getting plenty for your money.
Most impressive are the wheels. New for 2013, the Mavic Ksyrium SLS hoops come with lighter hubs, lighter rims and lighter spokes than previous Ksyrium incarnations, making for an impressive low weight of 1,395g. The wheels are light and responsive, and spin up to speed exceptionally well – an excellent off-the-shelf addition to a machine like this. The matching Mavic Yksion Pro GripLink tyres are lightweight at 190g per tyre and offer low rolling resistance and plenty of grip to make for another impressive line on the spec sheet.
The low weight ensures the Vitus climbs well, particularly when settled into a good rhythm on a steady climb. That, of course, is also thanks to a stiff frame which does a good job at transferring pressure on the pedals into the back wheel, although the frame does lack a little punch when under the heaviest loads, when grinding up a steep gradient, for example. What the Sean Kelly Limited Edition does offer, however, is a very inviting blend of speed and smoothness.
Continuing the racing theme which runs through the heart of the bike, the frame is dressed in SRAM’s top-of-the-range Red groupset (we’ve written extensively about SRAM Red here) in its standard double (53-39t) configuration which, when paired with the 11-25t cassette, offers a tight spread of gears for fast riding, but it will leave some riders wishing for an extra sprocket or two on hilly routes and steep inclines. Cables, by the way, run externally, and while that setup is easier to maintain, internal routing would provide a cleaner finish. Vitus tell us they’ll be making the move to internal cable routing on their 2014 fleet.
The 3T finishing kit is Kelly’s own choice of components and that explains the aluminium 3T Ergonova Pro handlebar, ARX Pro stem and Palladio Pro seatpost as alloy is still the material of choice for many pros. We were surprised to see an aluminium seatpost, though, as carbon fibre posts have become ubiquitous on high-end machines for their more forgiving ride. Ultimately, however, we were impressed by the 3T Palladio Pro, which did a reassuringly good job of dissipating road buzz. The ergonomic Ergonova Pro handlebar, meanwhile, has an egg-shaped top section which provides a comfortable position for your hands. Otherwise, the Prologo Scratch Pro saddle in custom colours is a nice finishing touch.
All that’s left to mention is the bike’s aesthetics – and it has received many admiring glances both in the RoadCyclingUK office and out on the road. There’s something easy on the eye about the frame’s unflustered tube profiles, while the stealth matt black finish is given a splash of colour with flashes of green across the frame – another nod to Kelly, whose signature is also on the toptube and downtube.
The Vitus brand was only resurrected by Chain Reaction Cycles in 2011 and so this gives us an early insight in what we can expect from a marque with a rich racing heritage. But don’t be completely fooled by the Sean Kelly Limited Edition’s racy exterior as, while it offers a fast ride, it’s also smooth and forgiving with an excellent spec to match.
Sizes: 48cm, 50cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 60cm
Website: Vitus Bikes