With brand new carbon-framed 140mm-travel and revised geometry, can the new 2021 Vitus Escarpe 29 CRX eclipse its illustrious forebears?
One look at the new Vitus Escarpe 29 CRX and it would be easy to assume it’s in the wrong test. With Fox Factory-level suspension, a full Shimano XT groups and a high-end DT Swiss M1700 wheels, the build kit on the Escarpe is simply in a league of its own, or one more in keeping with best full suspension mountain bikes with higher price tags.
Vitus Escarpe 29 CRX review
It should come as no surprise though, as Vitus built its reputation on delivering killer value for money. The new Escarpe also delivers on frame quality too: with a carbon front end, modern geometry and generous sizing, the frame is so much more than a delivery system for the parts adorning it. It features tube-in-tube internal cable routing, has a flip-chip in the lower shock mount for adjusting the geometry and comes in four frame sizes – S to XL – in both 29in and 27.5in wheel sizes. And while the Escarpe doesn’t feature specific chain stay lengths, it does have size-specific seat angles to ensure that as the saddle heights go up, taller riders won’t find themselves sitting behind the rear axle on the steepest climbs. And speaking of the rear end, the bridgeless seatstay design allows for lots of tyre clearance, and also affords Vitus the relatively short 437mm chainstays on the 29er.
There’s a trend for piggyback shocks on trail bikes and it’s just that, a trend. The inline Fox Factory DPS on the top-end Escarpe CRX is silky smooth, super-sensitive and ultra-consistent in its action. And in addition to the usual climb switch, you have three degrees of platform available, so you can fine-tune the amount of support you need for climbing or simply ripping buff flat trails. The range of rebound is spot on, and the 140mm-travel suspension has tons of support, so it doesn’t bottom harshly even on bigger hits.
Ask anyone what the best trail fork is and chances are they’ll say, Fox 36, specifically the Factory-level fork. Yes, it’s an expensive piece of kit, but with the 150mm-travel version as standard here, you’re onto a winner.
With a full Shimano 12-speed Xt drivetrain the shifting and power delivery on the Vitus is second to none. Vitus has taken a more novel approach with XT brakes, however, mixing a four-piston caliper up front with a twin piston on there rear. And while we’re not fully sold on the concept, as it’s normally the rear rotor that gets cooked, the brakes worked flawlessly, and because they didn’t have the stock cooling-fin pads, they didn’t rattle like the other Shimano brakes in this test.
With DT Swiss 350 hubs, the M1700 wheel set on the Vitus has proven reliability. It comes shod with the 3C Maxxis Assegai/Dissector tyre combo, where the rear tyre uses the tougher EXO_ casing to improve puncture resistance, while the front gets a thinner EXO casing to save weight and reduce rolling resistance.
The cockpit on the Vitus is form sister brand Nukeproof and again we had no complaints. In fact, the only gripe we had was with the Brand-X Ascend dropper, as the lever action is overly heavy. The could be down to the cable routing or the cable itself, as the same post of the Nukeproof Reactor in the shop-bought category of this test had a much lighter action.
There’s something about a quiet bike that really instills confidence and the first thing you notice about the Vitus Escarpe 29 CRX is how almost eerily silent it is. All you hear is the wind whistling past your ears and the sound of the tyres buzzing down the trail. And it’s every bit as smooth a ride as it is silent. The finely tuned Fox Factory suspension isolates you from the chatter so you can focus on riding faster and choosing your lines more precisely. Sounds almost Zen-like, and in many ways it is. Best of all, the Vitus climbs without complaint too, and there’s traction for days.
Some bikes are greater than the sum of their parts, but when the parts are as good as those on the top-end Vitus Escarpe CRX, your focus quickly turns to the frame and geometry. By delivering an equally impressive chassis with dialled geometry, sizing and suspension, the Escarpe offers the complete trail package. Up, down and even along flatter trails, the Escarpe is lighting fast, buttery smooth and always conducts itself with effortless precision in blissful silence. It’s a perfect blend of Far Eastern manufacturing and a Western ride philosophy, delivering the ultimate trail experience.