Don't be fooled by the monochrome colour and rather subdued graphics, the Vesp from Kent based VO2 is an exciting bike to ride. This is a proper race bike with an excellent frame that responds well to being pushed hard.
The Vesp has a very tight feel to it. Accelerate hard away from the lights or stomp on the pedals to reach the summit of the climb and the VO2 responds without any feeling of flex from the frame or fork. All well and good but that isn't the Vesp's defining characteristic, what stands out above all else is how it manages to deliver that tightness and power transfer without being overly stiff and uncomfortable.
My biggest gripe with many carbon frames is the way they can resonate over rough road surfaces especially as the speed increases. You get none of that at all from the Vesp as the layup of the carbon manages to damp out all but the worst vibration which bearing in mind our build comes with 23mm tyres pumped up hard and all alloy components, is pretty impressive. In fact it has more of a steel or titanium-like feel to the ride.
When a bike feels as solid as the Vesp does on the road it gives the rider much more confidence if things get technical. When descending or pushing hard through roundabouts, dicing with rush hour traffic the VO2 sticks to whatever line you put it on, though should you need to tweak that trajectory the sheer level of feedback means it's never a tricky manoeuvre. The 73° head angle gives the handling a snappy edge to it making for direct and quick direction changes, fun on twisty descents.
With an all up weight of 8.15kg (17.9lbs) the Vesp is not exactly featherweight but it's impressive for the price, taking the mid-range points into account, especially the heavyweight Shimano wheels. The bike responds well to acceleration with little in the way of drag and once up to speed it maintains it on undulating terrain without calling for huge increases in effort.
The Vesp is just as much fun in the hills. I've always found certain bikes respond better to seated climbing but the Vesp works well when you're out of the saddle, honking on the narrow bars like a seasoned pro taking a lone stage victory, again nothing feels like it's being wasted energy wise.
Although designed as a race bike the Vesp isn't extreme in its position. Our 54cm comes with a 547.7mm effective top tube with a 148mm tall head tube (555mm stack, 378mm reach) which allows you to get a decent aero tuck on the hoods or drops without having to test your limits of flexibility.
The steepish 73.1° seat angle allows you to put out the power when crouched in the drops without compromising your breathing, ideal for those long, straight roads or rides when you just want to get down and smash the miles out.
Frame & Fork
Trawling through the usual Chinese retailers' websites you'll find the frameset used for the Vesp. VO2's Jimmy George plays a straight bat on this. He says: "The VESP frame is an open module however it is only available to trade and not the public. This is the shape of the frame however, our design engineer develops the carbon lay up along with the carbon and resin used. This means we can be specific on the strength of the frame, the weight and how the frame will handle."
I've ridden plenty of rebadged open mould frames with some being a lot better than others but you can definitely tell some proper materials knowledge has gone into this frame, something I could feel from the first time I rode the Vesp which was a few weeks before having the above information from VO2.
As mentioned above the frame is stiff with good power transfer through the bottom bracket area and downtube. Following the usual trend these areas and the chainstays have seen significant increases in material to cope with the loads being put through them.
The compact frame style gives a small rear triangle which also increases stiffness at the rear end while the pencil thin seatstays allow a little flex to absorb the road buzz and stop the back wheel skittering about on washboard surfaces.
Up front the Vesp uses a tapered head tube and corresponding carbon fork steerer which is what gives the frame its direct and tight handling. The use of an integrated headset gives a clean look as the profile of the fork flows into that of the frame.
The frame will take both mechanical and electronic groupsets thanks to internal routing for cables or wires. The two gear cables disappearing into the top of the down tube did divide opinion aesthetically but for one thing you won't be suffering any cable rub on the head tube.
With a claimed 970g frame weight for the smallest in the four size range the Vesp has an impressive balance of weight, value and stiffness. VO2 carry out various factory and field testing so by the sounds of it that low weight doesn't come at the expense of longevity.
The £999.99 build tested here comes with a full Tiagra groupset which is a decent specification for a bike of this price. Tiagra is a great value for money groupset and while the shifting hasn't got as nice a click as 105 and above it's far from sloppy.
The chainset is a 52/36 '' aka semi-compact '' which with the 10 speed 12/25 cassette gives a more accommodating spread of gears for a bike of this type than a traditional 53/39 would. Each Vesp is assembled to order, so should you fancy something different then just ask.
The weak link in the Tiagra line up is the dual calliper brakes. It's a combination of things mostly down to the hard compound of the brake pads which seriously lack bite in dry conditions let alone in the wet. The calliper body itself is flexible too which is really noticeable when you grab a handful of lever. Definitely an upgrade beckons here to at least some new pads.
The rest of the finishing kit comes from ITM. The stem, handlebars and seatpost are alloy and offer excellent stiffness and weight for the money. It's nothing flash but the bars have a nice shape with plenty of hand positions and well within spec for the budget of the bike.
Selle San Marco provide the ASP saddle which is on the firm side but still a decent platform for aggressive riding and laying the power down. It may be a little firm for all day epics but as always saddle choice is very individual.
Shimano supply the wheels with their R510's which are from the budget end of their range. Don't let that put you off though, they are decent performers if a little on the porky side and are perfect for the training/winter bike the Vesp is being pitched as. Other test bikes we've ridden with these have shown good reliability over various terrain and weather conditions.
Wrapped around the R510's are a pair of Continental's Ultra Race tyres in a 23mm width which again keep in with the theme of the Vesp, solid and dependable.
Grip in the dry is good although in the wet things can be a little skittish which is worth remembering before banking the bike over too far. Puncture proofing and wear rates are pretty good to boot.
On the whole I rate the Vesp as a very good bike. I like the fact you get what you ask for, a race bike, whether that be for competition use or training. They haven't tried to shoehorn in bigger tyres so that you can ride on gravel or added mudguard and rack eyelets to tour or audax on it. You want a race bike so you buy a race bike and the Vesp fits that bill perfectly right down to those rock hard skinny tyres.
At its heart is an excellent frame. I've ridden some Ribble's and Planet X's around this price point but the feedback and feel of the Vesp is far superior and is ripe for a few upgrades, especially the wheels, to really exploit the light weight of the frame and fork.
Overall it's a great value entry to fast and competitive road riding.
Everything the budding racer needs: a lively ride from excellent frame adorned with solid finishing kit
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road.cc test report
Make and model: VO2 Vesp Tiagra
Size tested: 54.5
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The frame is manufactured from Toray carbon fibre using an open mold construction but with a layup designed by VO2 themselves.
Fork wise, you get a full carbon steerer which is also tapered.
Groupset: Full 10spd Tiagra, 53/36T chainset and 12/25T cassette
Wheels: Shimano R501
Tyres: Continental Ultra Race, 700x23c
Finishing Kit: ITM Alloy
Saddle: San Marco ASP
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
I think this from VO2 pretty much sums up the Vesp, "The VESP has been developed to bridge the gap in road bike technology by delivering pro level performance at an affordable price, making it an excellent choice for enthusiasts and part time racers, to triathletes and seasoned pros. It is an ideal bike for off-season training, entry level competition and a great first race bike."
I think the Vesp offers decent performance regardless of price and wouldn't hold you back in the bunch sprint.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The quality of the frame and fork looks good and well finished. With the wheels in alignment looks good and its certainly a tight feeling frame.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Toray high modulus carbon fibre is used throughout.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Full geometry charts are here with stack and reach dimensions included - http://www.vo2cycling.co.uk/VESP
There is nothing really out of the ordinary to be fair and the Vesp measures up to most race bikes.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
There is nothing really out of the ordinary to be fair and the Vesp measures up to most race bikes.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Although stiff the Vesp manages to dampen the road buzz to give a ride quality that is perfectly acceptable for a performance bike on skinny race tyres.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Very much so, the Vesp was much stiffer than I originally expected it to be. Front end and BB area keeps everything under control.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Impressive, controlled power transfer through the bottom half of the frame.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Responsive, as a race bike should be but still being mild mannered enough for the novice rider.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very 'tight'. The handling was one of the best things about the Vesp. It was very controlled, precise and a joy to push into bends.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
It's a stiff setup but I don't think I'd change anything from the original build at this price point.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The narrow ITM alloy bars are stiff as is the stem which gives the feeling of a very tight front end.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels are on the heavy side which blunts acceleration a touch but they are decent performers on a bike of this price.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Tiagra is solid and dependable, I've used it as a groupset on my winter/wet day bike for years and for the money it can't be faulted. The version tested here offers a decent spread of gears for racing and fast club rides.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The Shimano wheels are heavy but the quality is good especially when you take the low cost into account. Lighter wheels would definitely be a first upgrade should funds allow.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The ITM components look good and provide exactly what you require. Stiff enough for sprinting out of the saddle without being overly harsh for longer rides.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Use this box to explain your score
The Vesp is a very solid performer, hence the solid scoring only dropping a point for acceleration, sprinting and climbing due to the weight of the wheels. It may not really stand out in any one discipline but as a great all rounder it offers plenty for the rider looking for a road bike to ride fast and hard. At the heart of it though is an excellent frame that puts many low price carbon competitors to shame.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Kinesis T2 My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.