After seeing the development process behind the new Vitus Sommet, I was keen to see how the bike handled itself on the trail. I had looked over suspension curves, been shown the data and heard how all the pivot locations should influence the bikes personality, but would the numbers add up? The Sommet certainly has a lot in its favour on paper, but would it deliver on the muddy steep trails of Northern Ireland.
From the first moment you throw a leg over the new Sommet there is a comfortable familiarity about it, I was riding the medium frame (I am 180cm tall) and it was a good fit for me. With reassuringly wide bars and a short stem, along with ample length top tube length (Vitus added an extra 10mm after riding the initial prototypes) the bike felt good in the car park. The standover was good and the frame has a reassuring and confidence inspiring stiffness through the BB and pivots. There are no geometry quirks or unusual innovations to distract you, this is a bike you can hop on, set up the suspension and get up to full speed almost instantly.
After a good ride, I was really impressed with the suspension, with a falling rate up to the sag point, it sits really nicely into it’s travel. After that point the suspension is tuned to be more progressive, stopping the bike wallowing. And it works well! When pedaling uphill, even with the shock fully open, the suspension is very stable and there is very little feedback from the pedals, the ‘high and forward’ main pivot keeping things well in check. The Sommet climbs well for a big hitting bike, the falling rate initial suspension travel allows the wheel to drop into compressions and keeps traction high while spinning up a climb. With ample room in the top tube (600mm in the Medium frame), and a 74.5 degree seat tube angle, the riding position is comfortable and efficient for climbing. Technical sections are dispatched easily and if you stand up and crank, the suspension remains supportive, the rear wheel driving into the ground and delivering that essential final surge.
After an ill chosen line through a really rough rock garden on one of the test rides, I was pretty sure I was going down, but the bike held its line and pulled on through. The rearward initial travel helps the bike maintain speed over square edged hits and the frame feels solid and nimble when the going gets steep and rough. The riding position is very central and the Sommet loves to rail berms and flick into turns, the 10mm bottom bracket drop provides a feeling of balance and stability. Running 25% sag, the bike has a poppy and engaging feel, the monarch works in harmony with the Marzocchi 350, and the overall balance is very good. I personally prefer a single chainring up front, but the double supplied on the VR worked flawlessly, and the HDM front mech was neatly integrated around the pierced seat tube. As a mechanic, and from Scotland, I was glad to see external routing on the cables, making maintenance a breeze. I was initially concerned about the shock position, but found that mud never accumulated near the shaft, and the swing-arm shed any buildup.
The Sommet is a very good bike, possessing an overwhelming feeling of solidity and competence, and with a sensible build, it is sure to be popular bike on the circuit next year. Effective, potent and easy to ride fast straight out of the box, it would make a ideal privateer race bike for those looking for a no-frills shred machine. Chain Reaction Cycles will be selling these directly and offering 10% off the RRP, and starting at just over £1600 for a full build, this aggressive price will be sure to worry a few of the boutique brands. These bikes mark a big step forward for Vitus, and the Sommet has the potential to be one of the bikes to watch in 2015.
The full range of 2015 Vitus bikes are now in production and will be available direct from Chain Reaction Cycles very soon. We will bring you news of the complete range when released.
Words and Photos: Trev Worsey