REVIEW: Vitus Sean Kelly LTD Edition 2012

by Henry Peacock

Price £2,719.99
Size 56cm
Colour Matt Black/Flourescent Green
It may not be an Italian superbike but give it a chance and it may just surprise you.

After riding the Vitus for a couple of months, I have been searching out the worst bits of road, toughest descents and hardest ramps to give it a good thrashing. The Sean Kelly Limited Edition is the flagship bicycle for the reborn Vitus brand, sold exclusively from Chain Reaction Cycles.

Eye Catching

Sean Kelly, who is regarded as one of the finest Classics riders of all time, won 80% of his professional victories astride a Vitus and though much has changed since then his influence over the relaunched brand is pretty clear.

The frame is a 56cm model and even then I've had comments from people saying that it looks a bit small for me. I'd beg to differ; the geometry creates the impression due to how compact the frame is. I follow the saddle high and bars low approach to bike setup and it makes me noticeably more aerodynamic than when I ride my standard road bike.

When driving into corners with plenty of speed the front of the bike digs in and grips without the jarring some frame/fork setups can give. It is reassuring and the straight blade forks mean steering is fast and precise with any direction change made easy.
Rough roads are its masterpiece, they are soaked up through the frame with relative comfort, this means you can push a slightly larger gear than you could if you were being jarred and bumped around over the road. Road buzz is all but eliminated, even with the aluminium bars and stem. Which in my first look I suggested were a bit low rent for a high end bicycle, this apparently was done because Sean Kelly chose these and not fancy carbon. Kelly wanted to keep the bicycle simple and to the point, he felt that carbon was not needed and aluminium components such as the seatpost, stem and bars felt better.

Compact Geometry

Looking again at the 3T Pro aluminium bars they are the correct width for my shoulders, wide bars are ungainly and can be uncomfortable. A traditional drop is favoured over the more modern ergonomic design; this influence would come from Mr Kelly himself. The main difference between this traditional drop and an ergo is the way your hands sit when on the drops, ergo lets your hands sit at about 20-30 degrees from horizontal and a traditional drop is horizontal with a very round end to the bar. This position makes you put more of your upper body over the front of the bike and an ultimately lower position. The performance differences will be negligible and if you looked at the professional peloton riders, choice seems to be down to personal preference. The bars themselves feel smooth with low road buzz, they can feel slightly flexible when sprinting at your maximum on the drops but it is negligible. They are ultimately upgradeable if not to your liking, and it wouldn't break the bank on the overall cost.

There is definitely no softness in the way you can deliver power through the bottom bracket; it is as stiff as possible. It is stiff enough not to noticeably flex under my relatively under trained 75kg weight. There is a small decal on the inside of one of the chainstays 'made by humans' with a crossed out robot as the symbol; this is a nice touch and portrays the ethos of the build quite nicely.

The Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels are light, they spin up easily, especially from a standstill and they coast well. They are a full aluminium rim bonded to carbon, the same type of construction as Shimano uses. Having had a set of Shimano RS-80 wheels for years and ride them through the worst of conditions they have performed faultlessly; the Mavics did well too. They are all but unaffected by cross winds and have remained true so far. The large flat blade spokes and huge spoke nipples point to a stiff wheel.  I would like to try some deeper section wheels on this bike for maximum attack as these hoops can feel slightly too non-aero for high speed through and off type riding. 

It's In The Details

There are a few problems with the bike; in my First Look article my set up was slightly different to that of now. My saddle was not perfectly level as the nose was too low. I set about adjusting the saddle with the innovative concentric machined cylinder configuration on the 3T Pro seatpost, only to find I could not get it level. It was either nose up or nose down. I'm not a qualified mechanic but I know my way around two wheels enough to know that it just wasn't going to happen. Problems with a low nose on the saddle? Back pain after a couple of hours riding, lack of control using your backside and of course being ridiculed incessantly by ride mates whenever you stop for a coffee. I praised it for the ingenuity but it is the one thing that has let the bicycle down.

The matt black paint is an acquired taste, when clean I think it looks one of the best out there. I found drips of energy drink sit on the surface and dry to a shiny finish, which can be annoying. The road grime is quickly noticed especially up the back of the seat tube and seatstays where it seems to cling on that bit more due to the slightly chalky texture of the matt finish. The green stripes and detailing are nice touches and it certainly turns heads, or that could be the shiny drips of energy product, either way it does the job. It is a high maintenance paint job, but it's a small price to pay for good looks.

sean kelly
More Details Add To The Feel

The Michelin Pro Racer 3 Service Course clincher tyres grip really well in all conditions, you can almost feel the tyre deforming around the road surface.  I had confidence cornering and could still continue without fuss after a few wet mid-corner draincover experiences, which can be the undoing for a cheaper alternative that perform in the dry but are scary in the wet. They are equipped for the nicest of summer days and for fast riding such as road races or criteriums, this is proven by their relative softness and lightweight construction. But they do get cut up by road grit and I punctured after about ten rides and replaced after about twenty. At only 330g for the pair they are a serious addition to a good set of wheels, both complimenting one another just so long as you use them how they are intended.

The Dura-Ace 7900 groupset really is a fantastic piece of kit. Moving up through the Shimano range as I have done through Sora, 105, Ultegra and now Dura-Ace, I can say the difference really is not lost on me.

Great Brakes

Their matt black decals contrast the deep shine of the rest of the groupset; they suit the bicycle well and match across the chainset, levers, derailleurs and brakes. I'm surprised they have managed to get a Dura-Ace groupset because at this price point it is difficult to see how all the numbers add up. Usually with an off the peg machine such as this, the manufacturer can skimp on the headset or bottom bracket, the parts which matter but the user doesn't see, but not in this case. Like much of the bicycle, the Dura-Ace matches perfectly. I couldn't imagine this frame with a SRAM or Campagnolo set up, it would feel out of place.

I rode a 185km sportive recently and whilst my legs may not be helping me out in the fitness department, the bike was comfortable and I felt I could use lots of its performance. The headtube is lower than a sportive specific bike, so you lean more over the bars and the position is less upright, however the range of hand positions available to me meant my back and neck didn't suffer. The frame, seatpost, bars and stem took out much of the road buzz which also helped. I did a 6:15 in case you're interested, and yes, it hurt. 

Groupset Certainly Looks The Part.

Looking at some of the smaller details around the bicycle there are a few things that are not quite right such as the centre cap for the forks being a let down, I'd like a bit more detailing here as you spend such a large proportion of time looking at it. The headset spacers are also cheap to touch and also pretty sharp, a small ding with your knee when mounting could leave you with a decent graze.

The Vitus is an off the peg do-it-all sportive and race bike and what it lacks in flair it makes up for in performance, pieced together by a man who knows quite a bit about riding a bicycle very fast. The frame, wheels and groupset are well put together and all at a very good price point. It may not be an Italian superbike but give it a chance and it may just surprise you. 

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