I've spent the last ten days riding in the Green Mountains of South and North Carolina, pushing this Specialized S-Works Venge to my limits, and have been able to form some strong opinions about it. My riding adventure included all the great climbs in the Brevard area, a sprint workout, descending longer and faster than I ever have, riding some gnarly dirt roads (with a stream crossing), numerous sprints from chasing dogs, and hammering across the countryside with some of the most promising athletes to come out of Ontario.
My first impression of this bike was it looked like a B52 Stealth Bomber: matte black, with a silver stripe on the downtube. The bike looks sleek, perfectly finished and drew lots of attention. It was built with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and a set of 32 spoke training wheels, with Specialized Roubaix 23c tires.
The first time I hopped on the Venge, the bike seemed to just slip away and glide down the road. Perhaps it was my excitement of riding a new bike for the first time, but as the days passed and my rides increased with length and difficulty, this bike continued to carry me with less perceived effort from my body.
The Venge was designed to be a fast bike, to cut through the wind and give an aerodynamic advantage. The bike did this with ease. Beyond this one (huge) advantage, I was amazed at how well the bike climbed and sprinted. Granted, I should not have been too surprised as it was ridden to a world championship win and countless other victories in its first year.
Simply put, the Venge descended like a demon. Handling on fast corners was always predictable and stable, even under extreme braking (eg. to avoid a crash on a 80km/hr descent). Conversely, going uphill the bike felt like it transferred every bit of energy to moving forward and up that I could muster.
Comfort was never an issue. While I was riding wheels that were not the stiffest available, the bike never felt bone-jarring or rough, even as I rode over broken pavement or lengthy gravel sections.
The only issue I could possibly complain about was some creaking from the BB area. I had several rainy rides where the bike got covered in dirt and grit. After these rides the bike began to creak and I had to pull the cranks off, clean and re-grease the whole assembly. While this is not a very difficult job, it is one that I have rarely had to do with bikes that have a standard threaded BB (this uses the newer BB30 convention). This is my first experience running this type of BB setup, but I suspect it is maybe a little more vulnerable to the elements than a standard threaded BB.
My final thoughts on this bike are simple: this bike is a winner. If you want a super fast and stable racing bike that looks amazing, there is no other option. Fine-tune the ride of this bike with an appropriate set of wheels and tires and you will have a machine that is as near perfect as they come. Also, go for the electronic shifting option- it is worth it.