Vitus's first XC full-suspension race bike was released in 2021 and flew under the radar for most riders, including us. But with a top spec and thrashable handling, it deserves a spot on the front row of the grid.
The Vitus Rapide is a pure XC race bike, just not in the traditional sense. Yes, it’s got 100mm travel, the full carbon frame weighs only 2,080g and it wants to be in the mix with the best XC race bikes on the market, but take a closer look at the rest of its vital stats and you’ll instantly see that the Rapide FS is heavily influenced by the progression of modern trail bike geometry.
Most obvious is the whopping 500mm reach on the size L frame, which puts the front wheel in a different time zone compared to most European XC bikes. Granted, the 66.7º head angle isn’t crazy slack but when combined the reach and 440mm chainstays, the Rapide FS has a footprint that gives you the confidence to really let the bike run, where the steeper head angle helps keep the front end weighted even on flat, high-speed turns.
Vitus hasn’t gone completely against the XC establishment however. Like most XC race bikes the Rapide FS frame uses a flex-stay suspension design to keep the weight in check. Vitus hasn’t eliminated the seatstay bridge however, as doing so would have meant over building the pivots and carbon rocker link to compensate for the loss in stiffness. It’s also the primary reason why the Vitus has longer chainstays than Canyon’s Lux; 440mm Vs 431mm. When combined with the longer front end however, the Vitus feels very balanced and neutral.
There are two distinct versions of the RockShox SID: one with beefy 35mm upper tubes and the SL version with a lighter 32mm chassis. The SID on the Vitus Rapide is the latter. And it’s not just the slimline chassis that gives it a 210g weight saving, RockShox has replaced the air-spring cap with a lighter valve cap and uses a 2.5mm allen key as a rebound adjuster to whittle away precious grams. Once you’ve set your rebound damping on the fork the Allen key can be removed to further save weight. Just don’t do it immediately as you’ll need it to adjust the rebound on the RockShox SIDLuxe shock, as there’s no rebound dial.
Both the shock and fork are connected to a handlebar remote that gives two suspension settings, open and locked. The RockShox remote feels plasticy and a little flimsy, compared to the Fox until on the Canyon, but you can still thumb easily between both settings with minimal effort.
In the open setting the suspension on the Vitus feels sensitive, so there’s no second guessing which mode you’re in. And while the anti-squat is higher than you’ll find on any of Vitus’s trail bikes, it’s not so high as to cause biopacing when you drop the hammer. It still offers plenty of support though, so hard pedalling efforts don’t get absorbed by the 100mm rear suspension. The upside down shock layout, pioneered by Scott to great success, gives one of the cleanest routes for a remote lock out. Also with the slender end of the shock at the top, it makes for a narrow, lighter rocker link, that won’t rub bulging calf muscles. Vitus spec the shock with one volume spacer, and if you’re running around 25% sag, you’ll probably want to remove it if you are hellbent on achieving full travel.
Much as we’d all love to have factory race support, Vitus appreciates that most riders buying the Rapide FS are self-supported. So while the build kit on the CRX has an eye on weight saving, it’s not blind to durability or budget. As such, the Shimano XT chainset and cassette are great choices, the cassette offering the same 10-51t gear range as the XTR cassette on the Canyon without a massive weight penalty.
The twin-piston Shimano XT brakes are also a good choice, because if you’ve been overeating and under training, you’ll still be able to rein in the Vitus on steep descents. And this is a really important point, because of the three bikes here the Vitus is the one where you’ll be able to attack the hardest when pointed downhill.
And don’t be fooled by the Ritchey flat bar and seat post. Both have a matte finish that looks carbon, but they are actually made from aluminium, so there’s easy weight savings to be made here.
Vitus hasn’t scrimped where it matters most though. The Reynolds carbon wheels have dedicated front and rear rim widths and even with the heavier cassette they sneak in under the weight of the DT Swiss XCR wheels on the Canyon Lux. Granted the freehub engagement isn’t quite as rapid, but there’s still great acceleration from the Reynolds wheels so the Rapide FS has a real sense of urgency about it.
This may come as a surprise, but the Vitus Rapide FS is probably the first bike we’ve tested with a 500mm reach that didn’t feel too big. Even with the 70mm stem, the riding position on the size L is incredibly neutral, so you instantly feel both comfortable and commanding. The longer stays allow you to run a slightly higher handlebar position while still being able to weight the front end when climbing or railing fast, flat open turns.
Once the climbing is efficiently dispensed with, it’s time for the Vitus Rapide FS to show it’s true calling – this bike allows you to absolutely rip the descents, and that’s with the saddle at full height. So just imagine what you could do on it with a short travel dropper fitted.
But the supple suspension doesn’t just prove advantageous on the descents, with more traction and comfort the Vitus carries more speed with less effort on rooty flat trails than either the Canyon Lux or Intense Sniper T. As such, the Vitus has a much broader appeal than just pure XC racing, as it’s a bike that you’ll actually enjoy riding when there’s no tape or crowds lining the traila. Yes, the full carbon frame only has one bottle mount, so marathon racers will probably turn their noses up at it. The ride quality of the Rapide FS is not to be sniffed at however, so if you can live with one big water bottle, the frame has more than enough space in the front triangle for it.
For a brand that’s dipping its toe into XC waters, Vitus has made quite a splash with the Rapide FS CRX. It’s competitively light given the price, and if Vitus was to release a tricked-out AMP version, it would easily seek in under the 11kg threshold. It’s also a blisteringly fast bike and not just in a straight line. The modern geometry and generous sizing allow you to attack harder or recover more easily on the descents, but the Rapide still climbs and sprints with the best of them, thanks to its stable but supple suspension, so going fast has never been as much fun.