Can this cheaper model dish out flagship fun?

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9

Vitus Escarpe 29 VR

Pros:

  • Enjoys technical terrain, up or down.
  • Excellent geometry and decent sizing.
  • Simply a bargain.

Cons:

  • Wheels needed frequent truing.
  • Underpowered Shimano brakes.
  • Mismatched response from the Manitou fork and RockShox shock.

Product:

Vitus Escarpe 29 VR review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,529.99
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Having endured all four of the UK’s seasons as one our fleet of long termer test bikes, how has the keenly priced Vitus held up?

Need to know

  • Full-suspension 29er with a 135mm travel four-bar design and proven geometry.
  • RockShox Monarch rear shock paired with a 140mm Manitou Minute Expert fork.
  • SRAM’s excellent 11-speed GX drivetrain.
  • Nukeproof OKLO Stealth dropper post comes as standard.

vitus escarpe 29

Vitus Escarpe 29 VR

I like big wheels. I like a decent amount of suspension travel. I like geometry numbers that don’t scare me. I like no-nonsense bikes that let their handling do the talking. I also like bikes that aren’t a ridiculous amount of money. So even though the Vitus Escarpe 29 VR costs less than I would personally spend on a bike (I’m your classic £2.5k on zero per cent finance kinda guy) I thought it would be interesting to see what I’d ‘lose’ by saving a grand on a bike.

Did you change anything straight away?

No. Partly through a sense of duty to test this budget bike ‘as is’, and partly because there was nothing on the bike that was significantly undermining the ride. In fact, it stayed as stock for a few months before I fitted summer tyres and a shorter 40mm stem.

vitus escarpe 29

Big adventures and low budgets can go hand in hand.

Was the bike easy to set up?

Yes and no. It was very easy to get it in the ballpark because the rear suspension was fairly tolerant of sag, with no huge difference in suspension feel running 25 per cent or 33 per cent sag.

vitus escarpe 29

Finding the fork’s sweet spot took a little trial and error.

It did, however, take me several months to get the bike set up perfectly, especially the fork. It turns out you really can spend a summer, and an autumn, tinkering between sag settings and bar heights. Where did I end up? Twenty-five per cent sag with high bars.

vitus escarpe 29

The great Escarpe: summer was spent finding new trails.

How did it ride?

Despite its relative heft, it’s a stable and reliable climber. It will scramble up pretty much anything. Very, very grippy. You can firm up the suspension to counteract bobbing, but I had better results keeping it open and pedalling more smoothly.

Descending-wise, only the basic, underpowered Shimano disc brakes hold it back. It gets down anything, with or without me, and isn’t afraid of being airborne or being battered over rocks. The mismatched feel of the firm fork and the very active shock can be distracting, but I’m really nitpicking here.

The geometry is also sound. And that’s by far the most important thing on any mountain bike. Its one real weakness is on regular contouring trails, or typical trail centre loops, where it feels heavy, and the overly active rear suspension starts to feel energy sapping. It’s more plough than puppy dog.

Did anything break or wear out?

No. I fitted new brake pads at some point, but the only thing that needed frequent monitoring were the wheels, which strayed out of true quite frequently. I whacked the rear mech on a rock, too, but bent it back in line by hand and it was fine.

If you could change one thing about your longtermer what would it be?

That’s easy. This bike needs more stopping power. Even after switching to bigger rotors I still had to scrub and drag the brakes a bit too much during rides for fear that they wouldn’t be able to stop me if I went any faster.

vitus escarpe 29

Verdict

Would I buy this bike? Would you buy this bike? No, I’d go for the next model up, the £2.7k Escarpe 29 VRX. Not only is it lighter, but you get a fork and rear shock that better match each other in terms of feel. Having said that, if I couldn’t stretch to a bike costing over £2k (even with zero per cent finance) then I’d buy this bike in a heartbeat.

Details

Frame:Hydroformed 6061-T6 aluminium, 135mm travel
Shock:RockShox Monarch RT
Fork:Manitou Minute Expert, 140mm travel
Wheels:WTB ST i23 TCS rims on Novatec D771/772 hubs, WTB Vigilante/Trail Boss 29x2.3/2.25in tyres
Drivetrain:SRAM GX 11-speed, Race Face Affect SL cranks 32t
Brakes:Shimano M445, 180mm rotors
Components:Warhead bar, Nukeproof Zero stem, Nukeproof OKLO Stealth post
Weight:14.7kg (32.4lb)
Sizes:S, M, L, XL
Size tested:XL
Head angle:67°
Seat angle:74.5°
BB height:340mm
Chainstay:450mm
Front centre:781mm
Wheelbase:1,231mm
Down tube:742mm
Top tube:640mm
Reach:466mm