When it comes to online bike stores there is no doubting that Chain Reaction Cycles are fast becoming the kings of the ‘add to cart’ world! The massive internet store ships products all over the globe, offering more brands than ever before, but they also produce their own Vitus bike range. We were impressed with the Vitus Sommet so were hoping that the new 135 mm travel Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro would deliver on the trail.

The Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro. An attractive price tag given the spec, but with performance to match?
The Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro. An attractive price tag given the spec, but with performance to match?

The Vitus brand, based in Northern Ireland is not a brand name which traditionally tops the buyers desirability chart, but their new 2016 bikes are stepping up a gear, with stealthy looks, modern long-low-slack geometry and an affordable price-tag. On un-boxing this bike and getting it fully set-up ready to ride, it certainly is apparent it’s made to look and travel fast. The sleek black and dark grey colour scheme mixed with mostly black components and the odd splash of white decaling plus contrasting silver hubs makes this bike a real looker.

Specification of the Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro

  • Fork RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air 150 mm
  • Shock: RockShox Monarch RT3 Debon Air (135 mm rear wheel travel)
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X01/X1
  • Brakes: Shimano XT BR-M8000
  • Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth 125 mm
  • Stem: Funn Strippa 45 mm
  • Handlebar: Nukeproof Warhead 760 mm
  • Tires: WTB Vigilante TCS 2.3/Trail Boss TCS 2.25
  • Wheelsize: 29″
  • Wheels: Mavic Crossmax XL
  • Weight: 14.20 kg
  • Price: € 4,469.99

When it comes to componentry, the Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro comes pretty well loaded, to say the least! The fork is a great and reliable Pike RCT3 Solo Air 150 mm with the matching Monarch RT3 managing the 135 mm of rear wheel travel. The drivetrain sports a SRAM X01 rear derailleur and X1 11spd shifter, with the chain being kept in place by an E13 chain guide. Braking is taken care of by the sexy looking new grey Shimano XT’s with 180 mm rotors.

A tidy 11 speed drivetrain got us excited,  a SRAM X01 mech was paired with a X1 shifter.
A tidy 11 speed drivetrain got us excited, a SRAM X01 mech was paired with a X1 shifter.
A RockShox Monarch RT3 manages the  135mm of rear wheel travel.
A RockShox Monarch RT3 manages the 135mm of rear wheel travel.
A well though out cockpit consisted of 760 mm Nukeproof bars with a 45 mm FUNN stem
A well though out cockpit consisted of 760 mm Nukeproof bars with a 45 mm FUNN stem
WTB rubber came with the lightweight TCS version.
WTB rubber came with the lightweight TCS version.

The wheels are the big attention grabbers of the build in our opinion, the super-strong Mavic Crossmax XL’s, adding to the bike’s stealthy vibe and giving a real ‘mean machine’ look. The grip is taken care of by WTB’s Vigilante front and Trail Boss (both in the TCS compound) rear tyres. Vitus’s own brand saddle sits atop a 125 mm Reverb stealth and the cockpit comprises of tidy looking Nukeproof Alloy 760 mm bar and Funn 45 mm stem. The build really does pack a punch for its € 4469 (often heavily discounted on Chain Reaction Cycles direct sales) cost, but did this 14.20 kg Northern Irish ride live up to its great expectations after lots of hard winter shredding?

Geometry of the Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro

With our test rider coming in at 178cm tall, he found the large frame to be absolutely perfect when it comes to sizing, never feeling too long in the tight turns (even with its 1210 mm wheelbase) and never ending up with back ache after a long day in the saddle. Standover height is OK, but for most riders the handling could be made so much better on the steeper stuff with the fitment of a 150 mm dropper, as opposed to the fitted 125 mm; this would be one of our first upgrades.

Frame Size Small Medium Large Extra Large
Rec Rider Height 152 – 170 cm 170 – 180 cm 180 – 190 cm 190 – 201 cm
Rec Inside Leg 67 – 76 cm 76 – 81 cm 81 – 86 cm 86 – 94 cm
Seat Tube 382 mm 433 mm 483 mm 523 mm
Effective Top Tube 575 mm 600 mm 620 mm 640 mm
Reach 409 mm 432 mm 449 mm 466 mm
Stack 613 mm 622 mm 631 mm 641 mm
Chainstay 450 mm 450 mm 450 mm 450 mm
Headtube 100 mm 110 mm 120 mm 130 mm
Head Tube Angle 67° 67° 67° 67°
Effective Seat Tube Angle 74.5° 74.5° 74.5° 74.5°
Bottom Bracket Drop 30 mm 30 mm 30 mm 30 mm
Wheelbase 1162 mm 1189 mm 1210 mm 1231 mm

Setting up the Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro

First of all at a rider weight of 88kg, Jim ran the fork at 80psi, using one bottomless token in the front and 260 psi in the shock for 30% sag. On his very first ride, the 10 mm stem spacer was removed and the stem was slammed to meet the steerer tube, giving an instant improvement on weight over the front wheel, as first impressions gave the front end a slightly high feel; the ride then felt very central, comfortable and composed. The designers of this bike have worked at great lengths to find the optimum performance out of this bike’s Horst Link, locating the rear shock through the inside of the down tube. Jim also found that on pedalling uphill the Escarpe 29 does pedal very efficiently when the shock lever is switched over to climb, tackling most tricky obstacles with ease and making light work of the steepest of accents.

Riding the Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro

With a more progressive than linear feel to the rear end, this bike feels kind of punchy in the turns and can be popped over from line to line with relative ease, especially for a 29er. The trade off for poppy performance is that the progressive feel means that the small bump sensitivity can just be described as average. The relationship between the bigger hitting 150 mm fork and the 135 mm shock is surprisingly harmonious, but with the slightly less travel on the rear, lines in the rougher stuff have to be taken with a little more caution, than if ploughing through on a bigger hitting 160 mm bike. Through the mid stroke, this bike offers fantastic support, keeping things well balanced and neutral. After a good suspension testing trail and with optimised air pressures, the bike was definitely using it’s full travel, so not too much ramp-up at the end of the stroke. Jim found himself trying out a click or two extra up front on the compression dial, but always ended up going back down to the minimal compression setting. At speed the Vitus Escarpe 29 feels surprisingly stable with its long wheelbase and 67-degree head angle, this doing wonders for boosting any rider’s confidence.

The bike is aggressive and certainly doesn't let it's 29" wheels affect its maneuverability.
The bike is aggressive and certainly doesn’t let it’s 29″ wheels affect its maneuverability.

When it comes to the turns this bike doesn’t really have to be ridden like a 29er, berms can be slammed surprisingly hard and those ‘enduro’ tight lines can be cut with relative ease. As Jim got out and about on this bike and the weather got shittier he grew to love its aggressive characteristics, befitting a bike with smaller wheels and more suspension travel. The Escarpe 29 climbs quite well and turns like a dream, but only when you point it downwards does it really come to life! It definitely shares characteristics with bigger hitting bikes out there and gives you the feeling it wants to be ridden harder and faster.

Lay this bike into the longer rutted turns and it will reward you with incredible exit speed, but being a tall 29er it can occasionally become a bit unwieldy on the steepest of tight turns, this being down purely to frame height and large wheels. On jumps and the bigger drops she sails with a great neutral prowess, never seeming to worry the rider on approach to kickers and senders and also adding to that much-needed confidence. This definitely is a bike that mixes up the characteristics of an all-day medium travel 29er with that of a proper big hitting enduro bike.

The Escarpe gives you the feeling of being on a much bigger travel bike and longs to be pushed harder.
The Escarpe gives you the feeling of being on a much bigger travel bike and longs to be pushed harder.

With the bike coming equipped with the lightweight TCS version of the WTB tyres, sporting a semi-slick Trail Boss on the rear, this thing rolls better than a pimp through Compton. These tyres really do work well on most terrain and are lasting better than any other we have used. Unfortunately hard wearing does mean hard compound, so nail these suckers down a wet stony trail and you will find their limits; as you do when trying to brake in the muckiest of conditions when the rear tyre struggles to get a grip like a meth addict without their fix.

Bottom line

For the money we would say this Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro is a fantastic buy, it offers much more ability from its modern geometry than you would ever think possible from a 29er. The looks are killer and so far it has been pretty damn good on the reliability. Fit a longer dropper and stay on top of the XT’s brake bleeds (or swap for something more reliable!) and you have an all singing, all dancing do-anything bike that sure is a lot of fun.

More information can be found on the Vitus-Website.

The Vitus proved reliable and confidence inspiring.
The Vitus proved reliable and confidence inspiring.

ENDURO Long Term Test 2016

You can follow the Vitus Escarpe 29 Pro, and many other bikes, on our Long Term Test programme, where our team puts the best bikes through their paces on some of the world’s toughest trails! The new timeline is coming very soon!

Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Isac Paddock, Jim Buchanan

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