Best Hardtail of the Year under £1,000!
Successfully defending its 2018 title, the handsome Vitus Sentier 27 VR defies its sub £1,000 price point with the best spec, geometry and overall finish.
Vitus Sentier 27 VR review
Heavily revised in 2018, the bike formerly known as the VR+ gets a few tweaks for 2019, including new tubeless-ready wheels shod with 2.6in Schwalbe tyres – a switch from a SRAM to a (largely) Shimano drivetrain and, most importantly, a suspension fork upgrade.
One of only two bikes in the sub £1,000 hardtail category to benefit from RockShox’s lighter, Debonair-equipped Sektor RL fork, the increased small bump sensitivity and feel over its rivals is instantly tangible.
Test conditions were tough for hardtails, with the dry, loose ground, but sending the Sentier never felt anything but assured with the 140mm travel fork giving plenty of control on the loose dirt and recovering well from repeated hits and braking bumps. The extra feel and suppleness afforded by the Sektor’s bigger negative air chamber makes it a big improvement over last year’s Recon-kitted winner.
With comfortable lock-on grips, the 780mm Nukeproof handlebars and 50mm stem makes for a near-perfect cockpit. Vitus has switched from running the class-leading Maxxis EXO 3C rubber to Schwalbe for 2019 but with a soft compound Magic Mary up front and a fast-rolling Nobby Nic out back, we had the confidence to hit downhill turns hard with no penalty on the climbs, helped by a wide range cassette that includes a 46t get-out-of-jail-free cog.
The Shimano Deore two-finger levers give solid single-digit braking and tend to be more reliable than the more expensive models further up the range. We were a little disappointed that Vitus had fitted cheap resin pad-only rotors though — if you want to run sintered pads in winter you’ll need to spend around £35 to upgrade the rotors.
The Vitus is one of those bikes you can just jump on and feel at home right away. The proportions feel spot-on and the confidence to stay off the brakes soon saw us hucking gung-ho into rocky chutes and charging into turns thanks to the poise and assured feel from the fork and tyres.
All-day rides won’t be a chore either. The Sentier has plenty of pace on the flat and won’t wear you out on the climbs thanks to excellent low-speed control that lets you focus on your cadence, not your balance.
You can only buy this bike direct from Chain Reaction Cycles or Wiggle. This means a massive cost saving for the suppliers and it's evident in build kit. The only downside is you can’t try before you buy at your local bike shop — so you’ll just have to trust us when we say that you’ll love it. It’s a playful bike that really wants to rip; it makes you want to stoppie into turns and pull wheelies on the way out. It’s a whole load of fun. Just upgrade those rotors for the winter and you’ve got a do-it-all bike that will do it all year long.