As a brand that’s been deeply involved in both domestic and continental road cycling since its revival in 2009 under the ownership of Northern Ireland-based Chain Reaction Cycles, Vitus’ road line has always been focused on racing.
That said, the Zenium still bears a UCI certification sticker, so it can be – and is – raced at the highest level.
Vitus Zenium CRS Ultegra Di2 frameset details
For an ‘endurance’ bike, the Zenium certainly falls very much in the sports, rather than recreation, camp. The 608mm stack height on my XL test bike is low for the genre, and the long 393.4mm reach certainly adds to the sporty feel.
The geometry is an interesting blend of swift and stable. Vitus has relaxed the head angle to 72 degrees, but kept a shorter fork offset of 51mm.
These combine with the 28c tyres to create a trail figure of 58mm.
Trail is a great indicator of a bike’s steering and ride character, and is derived from a combination of head tube angle, fork offset and tyre size. It’s the distance that the tyre’s contact point ‘trails’ behind the steering axis.
A bike with less trail makes for a faster-handling machine that can sometimes feel twitchy, but that’s not the case with the Zenium. Bikes designed to feel more stable and take advantage of slower steering responses, such as touring or bikepacking rides, have longer trail figures.
Vitus Zenium CRS Ultegra Di2 ride impressions
To put the Zenium in context, a 58mm trail is the same as you’ll find on bikes as racy as Cannondale’s SuperSix Evo, so the Vitus is no slouch when it comes to handling reaction time.
It is, however, very well balanced with it – the frame is nicely compliant and the ride position builds on its smooth overall feel.
I’m impressed by just how accomplished the Zenium is. It does what all great endurance bikes do, putting you at ease and filling you with confidence whatever the terrain you’re riding. On flat, smooth roads, it’s light and responsive enough to hold a fast pace.
The low weight and light rolling stock make it an excellent climbing companion, while the chatter-free combination of chassis, wheels and tyres makes poor surfaces a breeze to negotiate.
Add excellent brake control into the mix and you have a formidable descender, which is thanks in no small part to Vitus’s smart decision to keep the Zenium’s handling fresh and lively.
Vitus Zenium CRS Ultegra Di2 specifications
As per usual, Vitus has done a remarkable job when it comes to specification for the price.
At a penny under £3,000, it’s a welcome surprise to see the bike equipped with a full electronic groupset.
Yes, it may be the last-generation 11-speed Ultegra Di2 (rather than the incoming semi-wireless 12-speed we’ll be seeing plenty of in 2022), but there’s no getting away from just how good Di2 is.
It delivers swift, accurate shifting every time, even here where Vitus has chosen to complete the drivetrain with a non-Shimano SunRace cassette.
Electronic shifting is rare on a bike at this price, but I’d wholeheartedly recommend making the switch from mechanical cables to powered gears if your budget allows.
It’s useful not just for the reliable and accurate shifting performance, but also because Di2 just works consistently.
Keep it clean and the battery charged and you’ll experience trouble-free gear changes for years to come, with very little needed in the way of maintenance.
The combination of a racy 52/36 chainset with an 11-32 cassette gives a decent gear range that’s loaded up at the top end enough for the fastest and most furious riders, along with a 36/32 bottom gear that’s easy enough to see you up and over the steepest slopes.
Scrubbing speed is taken care of by Shimano’s excellent Ultegra brakes, paired with the top-level choice of IceTech rotors in a thoughtful 160mm front/140mm rear combination, which all adds up to exemplary control whatever the weather.
It’s very common for brands to cut corners and save a few pounds by opting for cheaper disc brake rotors on bikes much pricier than the Zenium, so here again Vitus deserves plenty of credit for not skimping, because the brilliant braking performance of Ultegra hydraulics can be spoilt by noisy, inconsistent cheap brake rotors.
The Zenium rolls on very capable Baroudeur wheels by sister brand, Prime.
The Baroudeurs are an alloy disc wheelset, with some aero shaping to their 30mm rim depth, and at 19mm wide internally they’re broad enough to accommodate the 28mm Schwalbe tyres well.
The rims are tubeless compatible (though here Vitus is running standard clincher tyres) and impressively light at 1,586g a pair.
That’s as light as some carbon fibre rims, so it’s another great choice from Vitus and demonstrates the well-considered specification that encapsulates the Zenium CRS.
Vitus Zenium CRS Ultegra Di2 additional kit
The remainder of the Zenium’s kit is own-brand. Vitus’s bar is nicely shaped and the semi-compact drop is a great match for the bike’s geo.
A carbon seatpost is a nice addition and, while the Vitus saddle is well shaped, the padding is somewhat squishy.
While it’s amply comfortable, I did find myself shifting around trying to get into the sweet spot when putting in big efforts, and never quite hitting the mark.
Personally, I’d look to swap this out for something more to my liking sooner rather than later.
It’s a similar story with the rubber wrapping those lightweight rims.
Yes, the Schwalbe tyres are perfectly adequate, they roll swiftly enough and have proved tough over some poor road surfaces, but they lack the spark of Schwalbe’s higher-grade rubber.
An upgrade once these are worn will add plenty more pep to what’s already a great-feeling bike.
I did have one issue with the Zenium after a couple of hundred test miles, and that was a groaning from the bottom bracket.
The frame uses a PF30 press-fit design in combination with adaptors to run Shimano’s smaller than BB30 24mm-diameter bottom bracket axle.
Now, whether this creaking is due simply to a lack of grease when fitting or some rubbing around the interface of adaptor, BB and axle, it’s hard to know without removing the cranks and checking each element.
It’ll only be resolved if either you’re a competent and confident mechanic or, more likely, by taking it to your local bike shop for their expertise.
Vitus is a direct-sales brand, which helps it create value-packed bikes because it doesn’t have the associated costs of distribution to the high street shops.
But this does mean you can’t just take it back to the shop for issues to be resolved, which could entail extra expense for customers.
However, I’ve looked around message boards and not found anyone reporting similar issues with the CRS’s bottom bracket, so it may simply be a one-off problem.