Our widely lauded Zenium SL Pro has picked up disc brakes for 2016, and pulls off the pleasantly surprising trick of being a budget offering while sporting a Shimano Ultegra groupset. With a superlight hydroformed aluminium frame, and endurance geometry the SL Pro offers a balanced ride that reduces fatigue. It even has a front bolt-thru axle to complement its 160mm rotor disc brakes, to eliminate flex and further enhance handling and braking performance. Can it really be all these things? We handed the bike over to CYCLIST Magazine to put it too the test
The Zenium SL Pro’s hydroformed 6066 triple-butted alloy tubes feature an anodized finish that Vitus says is ultra-durable and weight-saving; we found it marks easily and we’re not keen on the almost rubberised finish of the decals. A T700 high-modulus carbon fork with integrated tapered headset is aimed at removing harshness from the front end and contributing to assured handling. Gear cabling is external and the seatstays remain unbraced (disc brakes remove the need for a bridge between them) to help dampen vibrations. Meanwhile, the base of the seat tube flares as it meets the bottom bracket, with the intention of adding lateral stiffness in this area to facilitate power transfer.
At first glance, the geometry looks to be a compromise between racy and endurance, which should keep fatigue to a minimum. And although the Continental Grand Sport Race tyres fitted to our test bike are 25c, Vitus claims there’s clearance enough to run 28s.
What remains to be seen is whether the frame can live up to the promise of the groupset, and if the steps taken to remove the natural harshness of aluminium have paid off.
No, you’re not seeing things, the Zenium SL Pro is running a full Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset (with the exception of TRP’s excellent mechanical disc brakes). This is thanks to the unique business model available to direct-sell bikes; Vitus is one of internet giant Chain Reaction’s in-house brands. Unlike some similar spec’d bikes, the Vitus has a carbon seatpost, though sticks with alloy for the stem and handlebars. The own-brand finishing kit is unexceptional, yet effective. The bars are swept back slightly, bringing the hoods 10mm closer than an equivalent compact road bar. This makes Vitus’s choice of a 110mm stem (longer than usual on bikes this size) a smart move.
At the business end, there’s the ubiquitous 50/34, 11-28 gearing combination, which makes it perfect for tackling Britain’s lumpy terrain.
Fulcrum’s Racing 5 disc-specific wheels are secured by a 15mm bolt-thru axle at the front and a standard quick-release at the rear. The benefits of a bolt-thru axle are that it better resists the forces created by the disc brakes when compared to quick releases, and it should ensure a perfect fit of the disc rotor between the brake pads. Vitus favors Continental Grand Sport Race rubber. It’s a sensible choice, known to be good value for handling confidence and puncture resistance.