When Specialized released the first Venge, people wondered exactly what the bike was for. Racers got it, but the rest of the public didn’t quite catch on. Then, the Venge VIAS came along ahead of its time and Specialized wasn’t quite ready to give it the disc brakes it deserved. Well, now that the dust has settled with disc brakes, the 2020 Specialized Venge Pro arrives with supreme aerodynamics, comfort and control and, thankfully, no funky rim brake accommodations this time.
2020 Specialized Venge Pro SRAM eTap Features:
- Rider-First Engineered™ FACT 11r carbon
- SRAM Force eTap AXS (48/35T chainrings / 10-33t cassette)
- S-Works Aerofly II bars (80mm reach / 130mm drop)
- S-Works Venge aero seatpost
- Venge integrated 6-degree stem (100mm on size 56)
- Roval CL 50 disc wheelset
- S-Works Turbo 26 tires
- Specialized Power 143 saddle
- Weight: 16.8 lbs (56cm, actual)
- MSRP: $8000
The Re-Venge delivers beyond aero
The latest S-Works Venge was officially introduced prior to the 2018 Tour de France. Coincidentally, it was one of several aero road bike launches across the industry. The all-new Venge was disc only, as were the latest aero bikes, like the Cannondale SystemSix, BMC Timemachine Road, Trek Madone and others. Each one makes bold claims, and the Venge Pro delivers.
Over the years, European bikes have won me over. The Pinarello Dogma F10 and F8 and the Orbea Orca remain some of my favorite bikes in terms of overall ride quality and performance. And, the Wilier GTR SL descends like a bat out of hell. But, honestly, I can’t think of another road that’s more Italian-like than the Specialized Venge Pro. Everything about the the Venge just feels right — so much so that I’ve neglected almost every other bike since its arrival.
It’s a fact that today’s aero road bikes are way more capable all-rounders than those of yesteryear. Gone are the noodly teardrop-shaped tubes on every surface and in their place we see optimized shapes for cheating the wind and delivering a laterally-stiff, vertically-compliant ride. With the Venge Pro, you get a ground-up re-design that was optimized in Specialized’s own Win Tunnel. All shapes and surfaces are sleek and smooth and the entire Venge Pro eTap package with Roval CL 50 wheels is as slippery and responsive as it gets. And, since smoother is faster, compliance is built-in (40% more compliant than the Venge VIAS).
The 2020 Venge Pro arrived completely stock from SRAM as a Force eTap AXS tester. The test bike is exactly what you’ll find at your local shop (with the exception of Quarq TyreWiz units). Integrated cockpits are the rage these days and it’s always a love/hate relationship because while they look clean and reduce wind chatter, they can be difficult to work with. The steerer was cut on my test bike, but I was able to achieve my fit by tilting the bars up by a degree or two. All I had to work with was 15mm of spacers, but 25mm would have been ideal. Luckily, your off-the-shelf bike will be customizable to your fit.
The S-Works Aerofly II bars feature forward-sweeping aero tops with 80mm reach and 130mm drop for a compact-style fit. The 56cm test bike includes a 100mm stem, which helps comfortably reduce the reach. Brake lines are only exposed for a couple of inches before they tuck nicely underneath the stem and are internally-routed from there. Hoods and drops are comfortable, but those aero tops are a bit odd, so I didn’t hang out there much. Also, I couldn’t tell 100% for sure, but it seemed as if the brake lines rattled inside the tops.
The Roval CL 50 wheels are just tall enough to maximize aerodynamics, but not too tall to get thrown around. They are tubeless-ready out of the box, but you’ll need some new tires and sealant to make the transition (I’d recommend it).
Rolling hills, fast flats and high mountains
Now, if you pigeon-hole the Venge Pro into a sprinter’s all-rounder, you’ll be selling it short of its potential. Without question, sprinting on this bike is amazing, but when the terrain starts rolling and even if the pitch gets long and consistent (like the Alpine Loop with 3000 ft of continuous vert), you’ll be absolutely floored by just how fast, comfortable and fun this bike is. I’ll put it this way, the Venge Pro is the kind of bike that goes from 0-15 mph in a heartbeat and 15-25 mph in the blink of an eye. Step on it and the Venge responds in kind. But wait, there’s more… it tackles long alpine ascents as well as any all-rounder I’ve swung a leg over. Who needs a Tarmac when you have a Venge, I say.
Standing sprints or fast, seated efforts immediately reveal just how slippery the Venge Pro really is. It feels as if there’s no resistance except for the air, and that just slips on by. Additionally, the bike really feels cohesive. Every bit works together in concert and provides the stiffest, most responsive unit I’ve swung a leg over.
Since its arrival, I’ve targeted several of my favorite strata segments to see just how fast it really is. While I’m not nabbing PR’s every time, I’m hovering in the top 3 pretty consistently with prior instances being upwards of 5 years in the past. What’s even more impressive is that when I’m done with each one of these segments, I haven’t felt pegged. In fact, I consistently feel fresh after these hard efforts. Again, I’m in top shape at this point in the season, but there’s just something special about the Venge Pro at play. Here are a few examples to show what I mean.
Alpine Loop – Sundance Side (8.76 miles / 2641 ft / 6%)
Dry Canyon Full Climb (1.36 miles / 580 ft / 8%)
Highland Blvd Eastbound (1.87 miles / 55 ft / 0%)
Let me bring this back down to realtiy a bit. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you’ll PR everything after buying this bike. But, I will say that without question, the Venge Pro is not going to hold you back from setting new PR’s should you work up to it and let the bike do what it’s made to do — ride everything in a jiffy.
Descend with confidence
As mentioned, the 2020 Venge Pro handles the most like an Italian superbike of any non-Italian bike I’ve ridden. Every turn feels like second-nature with the entire chassis tracks along as if it’s reading my mind. Sweeping turns are a gas and consecutive rolling corners can be taken at higher speeds with more confidence than my body should be laying down. The Venge Pro is one of those rare machines that my wife would not approve of because it gives me the ability to write checks that my body perhaps should not be cashing — particularly on mountainous descents. That said, use common sense, but enjoy the ride.
There’s a clear difference between descending on a La-Z-Boy bike versus a responsive, race-oriented bike. The Venge Pro is fast and confidence-inspiring, but it does require attention. I’m no WorldTour rider, but in my hands, I’ve got nothing but confidence going down anything. It responds to rider input but it’s never twitchy — just stay on top of it.
You’ll notice that the aerodynamic Roval CL 50’s do roll straight ahead with speed. And, they do a great job of maintaining stability in crosswinds up until one of those stout canyon winds hit’s you square-on. It’s at those times that you’ll be reminded that these 50mm rims are still fairly tall. That said, their performance was still outstanding in every way on any terrain.
If this was my bike, I’d maximize the 32mm tire clearance to see just how much comfort and traction I can eek out without losing its inner speed demon.
- Feels like one, cohesive unit
- SRAM Force eTap is fantastic
- Slippery, yet comfortable and responsive
- Almost no toe overlap (unbelievable)
- Italian-like handling
- Clearance for 32mm tires
- Separate bar/stem unit allows better fit
- Responsive without being twitchy
- That gloss green color is so nice
- Love the Specialized Power 143 Saddle – read review
- Roval CL 50’s roll fast and remain lightweight
- Cable rattles… somewhere in bars or downtube
- Don’t expect to hang out in the tops due to the wide, aero shape
- Hard to find front/rear lights that fit on the tops/seatpost (saddle bags too)
- Out front mount is Garmin-only
- Your other bikes will get neglected
The Bottom Line: 2020 Specialized Venge Pro eTap
Never has an aero bike made won me over like the new Venge Pro. Honestly, I hadn’t seen the real need for one in my quiver until now. I can confidently roll this bike on every type of road ride I do here in the Wasatch Mountains. Long climbs are a breeze. Short, punchy climbs are awesome. And, rolling terrain is second-nature. Then, when it comes time to descend, this bike is absolutely bonkers.
Specialized has nailed the perfect aero all-rounder with the Venge Pro SRAM eTap. Rest-assured this slippery aero bike is more capable than ever. You'll crush rolling hills, steep pitches and long alpine ascents and remain fresh enough to bomb any descent in sight. I love the comfort and blazing speed. I'm smitten.