Vitus’s Zenium has been a bike that has set the standard for the £1,000 road bike, but you won’t be surprised to find that the 2021 model now costs £1,099.99.
However, for that, you’re getting a carbon frame, full-carbon tapered fork and Tektro Spyre cable-actuated disc brakes, and this year’s Zenium still looks a stone-cold bargain. In fact, this looks to be the least expensive carbon road bike with disc brakes available right now.
Not only that, but Vitus also manages to spec 10-speed Shimano Tiagra, normally the accompaniment to aluminium bikes at this price. When you consider companies such as Giant and Orbea can only manage 9-speed Shimano Sora or 8-speed Claris on its bikes, that makes Vitus’s achievement even more impressive.
Unlike a lot of bikes around £1,100, which are advertised for their all-round qualities, Vitus espouses the Zenium’s racier nature: “Local criteriums, speedy sportives, weekend club runs or your go-to training bike, the Zenium has you covered.”
Vitus Zenium Tiagra frame
The Zenium has got all the features you’d expect on a modern road bike, with the added attraction of a T700 carbon frame and full-carbon tapered fork, both with thru-axles.
The frame’s internal cabling is routed exceptionally tidily through a port in the top of the down tube, with the rear-brake cable housed within the chainstay for maximum protection from the elements.
One of my very few initial criticisms is that this Vitus isn’t the most exciting-looking bike around, so I’ve got to mention the Vitus tan sidewall tyres that add a little character to an otherwise pretty anonymous-looking frame that’s described as ‘anthracite’.
Apart from those tan walls, the Zenium’s only other colour comes courtesy of the red anodised Sunrace cassette, but with so much going for it, it seems like it might deliver the goods on the road, where it really matters.
Vitus Zenium Tiagra geometry
And it certainly does. It’s very light (9.41kg) but it’s more than just the lower weight that helps bring the Zenium to life.
The carbon frameset feels stiff and efficient, and the geometry is on the aggressive side, though not absurdly so.
For frames of a similar size, the Vitus’s stack height is a couple of centimetres lower than the Giant Contend AR 3 while having a very similar reach. But the Vitus has a slightly shallower head angle than the Giant, which will take the edge off the handling, in a good way.
They have similar length wheelbases, around 1,015mm, which is a centimetre longer than the wheelbase on Cannondale’s Optimo, one of the go-to race bikes at this price.
Vitus Zenium Tiagra ride impressions
The Zenium absolutely flies on the flat and is a sharp climber. And when the going gets really steep you’ve got the comparative luxury of a 34×32 bottom gear to help you – it’s higher than the other bikes I had on test but then the Zenium weighs less.
Both in and out of the saddle the Zenium is a lively climber, and it’s a blast on descents, where the stiff frame, grippy Vee tyres and good brakes leave you totally in control.
TRP’s dual-piston Spyre mechanical discs won’t match hydraulics for power or lightness of touch, but are great cable discs. Braking control is maximised by the Zenium’s thru-axles, here with Switch levers, which double as a hex key that loosens the axles and is shaped to stay in place when you’re riding, so you can leave just one in a wheel.
Disc brakes easily beat rim calipers when it comes to the longevity of your wheels, and wet-weather performance is better. In near-torrential downpours the braking was consistently good, and while there was some squeal in the rain, silence reigned supreme when it was dry.
Shimano’s 10-speed Tiagra is reasonable at this price. The only deviation from the groupset is the SunRace cassette with that bright red spider.
The 29 to 121-inch gear range provides a welcome low and the highest top gear, which should give you the perfect range for just about any conditions you might face out on a ride.
The rest of the components are what you’d expect, but I’d like to give a shout-out to the aero handlebar with its flattened tops. When you’re riding on the drops this profile gives an aero advantage, but if you’re riding on the tops it forms a natural, comfortable fit for your hands – I know which is more important to me.
But the real star, and a great achievement in 2021, is that Vitus has managed to include a quality carbon frame without any evident cost-cutting elsewhere.
Vitus Zenium Tiagra bottom line
The Vitus Zenium Tiagra is light, stiff, fast and comfortable enough for long, hard sessions. The ride is dynamic, it’s a lively climber, quality descender and its kit is as good as – or better than – that found on most aluminium bikes. Sorted!
How we tested
The £1k price bracket is a competitive one for road bikes and you can buy a lot of bike these days for that.
So I put nine of the most competitive to the test to see which perform best for your hard-earned dosh – hopefully proving you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a grand day out.
Testing took place on my local roads and tracks, with the bikes covering a range of intentions for the road and beyond, and prices range from £800 to £1,300.