The Bike List

Vitus Sean Kelly 2013

Looking for the latest version of this bike?

Tested by Jon Bean

Review

To many younger cyclists, Vitus may simply appear as a new brand associated with Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC). In fact, the story started a long time ago, and only recently has it been injected with renewed vigour and energy thanks to CRC and Vitus' brand ambassador: Sean Kelly. Inspired by his record eight Paris-Nice wins, 1988 Vuelta win and a number of other victories at classic overseas races riding earlier Vitus models such as the 979 Carbone, Vitus have come back from a brief period of silence and upped their game with a new range of bikes. They start at £700 and progress to top spec models to appeal to racers. We were lucky enough to get a hold of their flagship road bike: the Vitus Sean Kelly LTD Edition Road Bike 2013. We tested the SRAM Red equipped bike, but the same frame will also be used on the VRi model shortly which will be equipped with Dura Ace 11-speed Di2.

The arrival of the Vitus at TBL HQ brought with it some trepidation. We were eager to like this bike, and prove that there is no need to buy a £2500 frameset before equipping it with another £1500 of groupset and £2000 of wheel to complete a "halo bike". Lifting it out the box was the first bit of excitement, and a major tick in the box: 7.0kg dead without pedals for a 58cm frame compared to their 6.9kg for a 54cm frame claimed in their literature. A promising start for £3499.99 RRP…

The Sean Kelly is equipped with complete SRAM Red 2013, chain and cassette inclusive - no corners cut here with lower spec components within the build. This was my first experience with the 2013 version of the groupset, and I was impressed by the precision of the shifting, even in comparison to electronic alternatives. The front derailleur combined with the 53/39 Red chainset shifts seamlessly even under considerable load. Also, you get full access to all 20 gears without any sign of chain rub thanks to the SRAM's YAW technology which allows the derailleur to rotate, maintaining alignment with the chain.

The rear derailleur is equally impressive in shifting precision, and at no point during our testing did we have to readjust because of "bedding in" or cable stretch. Equally, the Red brakes performed very well on the Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels. Even on a snowy ride where ice and snow threatened to clog up the mechanics, the bike stopped and slowed when instructed, as instructed.

My first qualm with the bike was pretty serious, but fortunately, irrelevant as well. The Prologo Scratch Pro is a great looking saddle by one of the industry's leading manufacturers, but sadly it was not for me. The remainder of the testing was undertaken with my saddle of choice: the Fizik Kurve Bull.

After a few rides in Cambridgeshire, we ventured across to the continent for the real test: the Tour of Flanders and the Paris Roubaix. This bike was designed on the back of Sean Kelly's success at the classics, and therefore had to be tested under equal conditions. While the geometry doesn't suggest any integrated comfort in the frame with a relatively aggressive position and straight, chunky stays and forks, the Vitus-designed high modulus T700 HM-UD carbon held promise. On ordinary British roads, there is no question that the ride is comfortable, and the frame absorbs considerable road buzz. Once you hit the cobbles though, the story changes. By no means can you compare this frame to a Specialized Roubaix or a Trek Domane with their cobble specific technology. However, with your bum firmly planted on the saddle, the frame did have enough compliance to allow a consistent and reliable transfer of power through the drive train while maintaining traction on the pave. So unlike some super stiff frames that will have their back ends bouncing about uncontrollably on rough surfaces, the Vitus provides sufficient vertical flex to keep your rear tyre solidly grounded. Some potential upgrades for the sake of comfort would be to replace the 3T Palladio Pro alloy seatpost, 3T Ergonova Pro bars and 3T ARX Pro stem with some carbon components. But 3T carbon for 3T alloy replacements will come in at around £540rrp for the three components (£200rrp for the bars and stem each and £140 for the seatpost), and still perhaps won't give you the comfort of a more cobble-specific frame.

Once you've held on for dear life through the Arenberg Forest (arguably the toughest sector of French cobbles in existence) and lost very little power thanks to the efficient combination of compliance and drivetrain, you can then hit the hills, and this is where the bike excels. With a 950g frame weight, the Vitus doesn't quite compete with the Cervelo RCA or the Cannondale Supersix Hi Mod Evo, but fortunately nor will your bank balance. The frameset alone is £999 from CRC, and worth a look if you're planning to build a mountain goat. The factory built bike comes with a standard 53/39 11-25 gear ratio, which for most of the UK and the European classics is plenty. Note: if you're heading to the Fred Whitton, you may want to consider a compact because no amount of weight saving will make the 25% gradient of Hardknott Pass easy! Nonetheless, the Tour of Flanders hills posed absolutely no problem for this machine, and allowed me to make my way through the field of 16000 riders.

Coming off the bike at the end of these events was obviously a relief, no man in his right mind would want a second serving of Paris Roubaix's cobbles or the Flandrian bergs! Compared to previous participations at this event though, I was happy to remount the Vitus for a photoshoot the next day. The expected battering was far lighter than expected, and considering 23mm Yksion Pro tyres at 95psi for a 72kg rider, credit must be awarded to the frame.

And then we come to the wheels. So many fully built bikes, regardless of manufacturer, beg some proper race wheels. At 1395g for the Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels, few will complain about weight. The Yksion tyres never lost traction on dry cobbles, but gave me a fright or two on wet British descents. But most impressively, once you're out of the saddle and rocking the Vitus side to side, there is no apparent flex in the wheel. It won't take you long to puncture with the superlight tubes, but once replaced, this tyre / wheel combination make the Vitus a genuine climbing bike.

While there was little discernible flex in the wheels when attacking a hill, something was lost in lateral stiffness through the frame. This was not measurable, nor was it a dramatic loss in comparison to racing thoroughbreds, but certainly noticeable and worth mentioning. Equally, when out of the saddle sprinting, giving it full beans, you think you've flicked the 'on' switch but the light flickers, begging another injection of effort before shining brightly. So frustratingly, while some vertical compliance is appreciated when riding rougher roads, the lateral flex won't help with your Green Jersey attempt.

In a matter of 3 weeks, we've logged some 500miles of riding on the Vitus. The longest of these days was 156miles at the Tour of Flanders, and one thing is for certain: the Sean Kelly provides excellent all-day comfort. If you're planning on partaking in centuries, sportives or other long rides [change the inner tubes first to save yourself the hassle of changing them on the road] this is certainly a brilliant option. Much of this all-day comfort is due not just down to the road rumble absorption, but rather the lightness of the bike and efficiency of the entire groupset. Without really giving it much more than a thought, the Vitus does as instructed, providing the rider with effortless control of the entire machine. This confidence-inspiring ride allows you to whip it around tight corners, ride aggressively or gently, and have a genuinely fun time on it without worrying much about energy economy.

If your plan is to put the power down on a TT with tri bars and your aero lid on, I'd shop around first. The frame's bottom bracket area isn't built to resist big power riders humming along at 30mph. If you're heading to the cobbles, this bike is by no means a bad choice, but I wouldn't pick it given the choice of other more comfort specific bikes. It'll get you to the finish, and pretty quick if you've got the legs for it, but the frame's straight lines will do little to dampen the worst roads. But on the flipside, if you want to take the Vitus to your local Cat 3/4 races, pick a hilly one and you'll be giving yourself a distinct advantage over the race for the duration…until the sprint finish where you might lose some precious watts in lateral flex.

The £3499.99 price tag will appeal to many, especially when considering the build components - a true example of value for money. Add up the RRPs of the frame (£999.99), SRAM Red Groupset (£2185.00) and the Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels (£790.00) for a total of £3974.99 without including the finishing kit - you've got to give credit to the CRC / Vitus partnership, they've produced an exceptionally-priced bike that has proven its royal bloodline has continued from the days of Sean Kelly's success.

Comparable Alternatives:

If you're shopping around, it may be worth visiting your local Cannondale dealership as they may be able to provide the closest rival. The Cannondale Synapse Carbon Hi-Mod 2 SRAM Red at £3699.99 is similarly equipped but £200 more expensive. Differences to note: the Vitus has better wheels, and a complete SRAM Red groupset, while the Cannondale cuts corners with SRAM Force cassette and chain and the S951 BB30 compatible chainset, but offers an FSA carbon seatpost. You're effectively paying for Cannondale's pedigree and considerable R&D in making the Synapse a cobble- and comfort-specific bike. Another close competitor in the field of climbing bikes is the Cannondale Supersix Evo Red, with the same price tag as the Vitus of £3499.99, and the same pluses and minuses as the Synapse bar the alloy seatpost.

At a glance

Verdict A top specced road bike built on a good all-round frame with very little room for upgrades, but it won’t “wow” the rider or the crowds.
Value
Performance

Do you own this bike?

Similar Vitus bikes

Spec
Value
Vitus Vitesse 2013 £1,800
  • Price £1,700 cheaper
  • Brakeset FSA Gossamer
  • Chainset FSA Energy
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters Shimano Ultegra
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Spec
Value
Vitus Vitesse VRi 2013 £2,800
  • Price £700 cheaper
  • Chainset Shimano Ultegra
  • Brakeset Shimano Ultegra
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Shifters Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra Di2
Spec
Value
Vitus Vitesse VR 2013 £3,400
  • Price £100 cheaper
  • Chainset Shimano Dura Ace
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace
  • Brakeset Shimano Dura Ace
  • Shifters Shimano Dura Ace
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace
Spec
Value
Vitus Sean Kelly 2013 £3,500
Spec
Value
Vitus Sean Kelly VRi 2013 £5,000
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace Di2
  • Shifters Shimano Dura Ace Di2
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace Di2
  • Price £1,500 more expensive
  • Chainset Shimano Dura Ace
  • Brakeset Shimano Dura Ace

Similar Vitus bikes from other years

Vitus Venon VR 2015
RRP £1,800
Spec
Value
  • Price £1,700 cheaper
  • Chainset Shimano Ultegra
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
  • Brakeset Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters Shimano Ultegra
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Vitus Venon VRS 2014
RRP £1,600
Spec
Value
  • Price £1,900 cheaper
  • Chainset FSA Gossamer
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters Shimano Ultegra
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Spec
Value
  • Price £300 cheaper
  • Chainset Shimano Dura Ace
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace
  • Brakeset Shimano Dura Ace
  • Shifters Shimano Dura Ace
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace

Other similar bikes

Moda Stretto 2013
RRP £2,700
Spec
Value
  • Price £800 cheaper
  • Rear Derailleur SRAM Force
  • Brakeset SRAM Force
  • Shifters SRAM Force
Scott CR1 Premium 2013
RRP £3,999
Spec
Value
  • Price £499 more expensive
  • Chainset Shimano Ultegra
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
  • Brakeset Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters Shimano Ultegra
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Spec
Value
  • Price £499 more expensive
  • Chainset Shimano Ultegra
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
  • Brakeset Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters Shimano Ultegra
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Scott CR1 Pro 2013
RRP £2,699
Spec
Value
  • Price £801 cheaper
  • Chainset Shimano Ultegra
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
  • Brakeset Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters Shimano Ultegra
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Scott CR1 Pro CD 2013
RRP £2,699
Spec
Value
  • Price £801 cheaper
  • Chainset Shimano Ultegra
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
  • Brakeset Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters Shimano Ultegra
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Spec
Value
  • Price £1,401 cheaper
  • Chainset Shimano Ultegra
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
  • Brakeset Shimano Ultegra
  • Shifters Shimano Ultegra
  • Front Derailleur Shimano Ultegra
Spec
Value
  • Price £200 more expensive
Scott CR1 Team 2013
RRP £1,899
Spec
Value
  • Price £1,601 cheaper
  • Chainset Shimano 105
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano 105
  • Brakeset Shimano 105
  • Shifters Shimano 105
  • Front Derailleur Shimano 105
Scott CR1 Team CD 2013
RRP £1,899
Spec
Value
  • Price £1,601 cheaper
  • Chainset Shimano 105
  • Rear Derailleur Shimano 105
  • Brakeset Shimano 105
  • Shifters Shimano 105
  • Front Derailleur Shimano 105

Used bikes for sale