The last time we tested this, it came out as one of the best budget electric mountain bikes on the market. So what does this new test hold for the Vitus E-Sommet VRX?
When we first tested the Shimano EP8 equipped Vitus E-Sommet VRX back in 2021, we were impressed by the build kit and competitive pricing. But the bike was harder to manoeuvre than some, in part due to its weight, but also the sizing. With a 474mm reach on the large and weighing 24.7kg (54.45lb), and boasting almost 170mm of travel, the E-Sommet was a big bike in every sense of the word.
Need to know:
- The bridgeless seat stay design has clearance for up to 2.8in tyres
- Oversized 1.8in tapered steerer on the 170mm Zeb fork adds peace of mind on a 24.87kg (54.83lb) bike
- Shimano’s SC-E8000 colour display lets you swap between profiles without opening the e-tube app
- Three small bolts hold the battery cover in place, so it’s fiddly to remove.
As such, we suggest downsizing, where the 5mm shorter head tube would also make it easier to get the handlebar height low enough to weight the front end, which was something we struggled with on the size L before flipping the stem upside down.
So this time we’ve taken our own advice and downsized to a medium, and what a difference it’s made. Not only is the E-Sommet easier to chuck around, we were able to run a couple of spacers under the stem, which stops the cables entering the head tube at such an acute angle. Even with that though, the lever action of the Brand-X Ascend dropper post was still laboured, so replacing the cable or even the remote would be our first upgrade.
Now, if you’ve been following along, you’ll realise that a 5mm lower headtube isn’t going to make a massive difference in the height of the front end. And you’re dead right. It’s actually the 12mm rise handlebar, as opposed to 25mm on the L, that makes the biggest difference on the medium and allows fine tuning the handlebar height.
Follow the recommendations on the Vitus website, and the size medium E-Sommet is designed for riders between 5ft 6in and 5ft 10in tall, which we’re an inch north of. Compare the Vitus to the size L Decoy that’s also in this test though, and the sizing and geometry are nigh on identical. It’s just a recommendation after all.
So what has changed on the top of the range E-Sommet VRX since we last tested it? Well the colour is different. And somewhat remarkably, given the current inflationary climate, the price hasn’t increased, not even by a penny.
Vitus must have made some concessions to the specification to do that then? Well, the only one we can see is the DT Swiss H 1700 wheels have been replaced by Nukeproof Horizon V2’s, which actually offer considerably faster 102 point freehub engagement, so we’d argue they are an upgrade. So apart from swapping the WTB Volt saddle for the Nukeproof one, every other aspect of the specification remains unchanged. And that goes for the suspension too.
One look at the dials on top of the 170mm RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork and it’s clear that this is not the latest version with the Charger 3 damper and updated Debonair+ spring. But again, we are not convinced that this is necessarily a downgrade, as the Zeb on the Vitus feels buttery smooth compared to some of the newer generation Zebs we’ve tested.
Now, we’re not saying that the latest version doesn’t offer improvements in terms of damping and control, we just suspect that the benefits are being masked by overly tight bushings, just like the very first generation Zeb fork we tested.
That’s pure speculation though, so let’s stick to the facts. The Zeb in the Vitus has a pitter-patter response that perfectly complements the super sensitive 167mm rear suspension on the E-Sommet.
Vitus has nailed the progression of the rear suspension too. With just under 30% sag on the Super Deluxe shock, you get to use 95% of the travel 95% of the time, reserving the final 5% for those holy crap moments. And again, this is in complete unison with the fork.
Set the bike up too soft at the rear however, and you’ll quickly notice the rear suspension sinking in a little too easily under accelerations, whether it’s down to increased gradient, a change of direction or simply pedalling when stood up.
No one likes the flow of a good ride interrupted by punctures, which is why Vitus fits tougher Double Down casing Maxxis tyres to the E-Sommet. And while they certainly reduce unwanted pit stops, they don’t do the Vitus any favours on the scales – adding half a kilo in weight when compared to our EXO+ casing control tyres.
With our tyres fitted the bike weight is 24.39kg – not bad given the full alloy frame and 630Wh battery. The thicker casing tyres also increase dag, which will drain the battery that much faster. Still, if you’re riding rocky, steep terrain, the Double Down casing tyres are a real bonus, and if it rains, you’ll be thankful of that MaxxGrip compound up front too.
So the Vitus is clearly built for bombing, so it’s a good thing that it has powerful Shimano XT 4-piston brakes. And while you’re probably sick of hearing about the variable bite-point issues that have plagued Shimano’s high-end brakes, we’re certainly tired of writing about it, the XT’s on the E-Sommet were faultless.
Yes, the cooling-fin brake pads rattle in the callipers, but the stopping power is noticeably better than the SRAM Code RS brakes on the Canyon. Granted the abrupt power curve takes a little getting used to, but once you come to terms with the initial bite, you really get used to extra stopping power of the XT brakes.
The contact points on the E-Sommet are okay at best. We had to roll the Nukeproof handlebar quite far forward to get enough up-sweep and the saddle and grips would both benefit from more padding. Also, because we’d downsized the frame, we could easily have upsized the seat post from 150mm drop to the 170mm version that comes stock on the size L and XL bikes. In fact, with the dinky 410mm seat tube, shorter riders could probably run the long drop post too.
Downsizing to the medium E-Sommet has been transformative. In addition to feeling more dynamic, we could actually get the cockpit just how we want it. As such, the weight distribution was spot on, so we could ride centred on the bike then weight and unweight each tyre much more precisely than before.
The free flowing suspension means you can still charge every bit as hard on the E-Sommet, but now we could pilot the smaller bike rather than always feeling like a passenger. Dive into braking bumps and the Vitus is totally unfazed. It also feels really good lent over traversing roots and rocks too, as the bike isn’t so stiff at the rear as to cause unwanted deflection at the contact patch.
The result is more composure and speed, and less unwanted feedback through the chassis, which just eggs you on to ride even harder.
Stand up to pedal, and the Vitus definitely has more suspension movement than the Canyon or YT, but the flip side it that when you’re sat down blasting up-hill with full assistance from the 85Nm Shimano EP8 motor, you’re not getting that high frequency tail buzz that a lot of higher anti-squat e-bikes exhibit. It’s a compromise, but one that we’re more than happy to accept.
All the Vitus needs now is a bigger battery as the Shimano cells don’t seem to deliver as much capacity as claimed. We’d also like to see the battery cover integrated with the battery, as it’s a pain to remove when caked in mud and it transforms the downtube into a drum.
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Size matters, especially on e-bikes. Because with all that extra weight and inherent stability of the suspension, there’s a good argument for downsizing even though we tend to recommend the opposite on analog bikes. So that’s exactly what we did with the 170mm travel E-Sommet VRX. Unsurprisingly, the smaller bike felt more dynamic and agile but no less capable. And because you have the assistance of the Shimano EP8 motor for climbing the fit never felt compromised either. The same can’t be said of the 630Wh Shimano battery though. This bike definitely needs more juice to keep the heavier tyres rolling.