by Wil Barrett
March 1, 2017
With one of the largest booths on display at the London Bike Show, Vitus Bikes had plenty of shiny bikes to show to the public during the four day long expo. Originating in the 1970’s as a French frame building company, Vitus first became known for its bonded alloy frames, and was one of the first bike companies to experiment with carbon fibre frames back in the early 1980’s. After disappearing from the mainstream, the Vitus name was bought by Chain Reaction Cycles around six years ago, before it received the full re-launch treatment at Eurobike in 2011.
The past six years has been steady for Vitus, as it continues to expand and grow its range of road, urban, cyclocross and mountain bikes. With a strong focus on value, Vitus bikes are available to purchase online with a direct-to-consumer approach. We’ll admit that we haven’t had the chance to play with many Vitus bikes, with the last one being a Sommet enduro bike that we featured back in late 2015. Since then, Vitus has added a carbon fibre version, and it’s also introduced a big wheel version of the Escarpe trail bike.
As such, we were keen to check out some of the latest Vitus models at the London Bike Show, and you can check out our virtual video tour of the Vitus Bikes booth down at the bottom of this page.
This is one of the newer models for Vitus. It’s called the Escarpe 29 VRX, and it’s a 29in All Mountain bike that’s equipped with 135mm of rear wheel travel, and a 150mm travel fork on the front. Vitus makes the Escarpe in 27.5in versions too, but Vitus reckons with the bigger wheels and nu-school geometry, this big wheeler has got nearly as much oomph as the longer travel Sommet.
Vitus employs a relatively conventional four-bar platform for all of its full suspension models. And with no fancy acronyms or scientific graphs printed on the side of the bike, it’s not pretending otherwise.There’s a high and forward main pivot that sits above the bottom bracket, and a Horst Link pivot that sits in front of the rear axle. A large rocker linkage activates the top eyelet of the rear shock, and it all looks rather similar to other four-bar designs. Except…
The lower shock eyelet actually mounts on an extension of the chainstay. As such, the rear shock effectively ‘floats’ between the rocker link and this lower pivot, allowing for a touch more control towards the end of the travel. Vitus is certainly not the first brand to employ a floating shock mount, with Commencal, Trek and Mondraker being a few brands that come to mind. Vitus’ design shares more in common with Trek’s Full Floater arrangement however, as the lower shock mount rotates away from the rocker link during compression. The reason behind this? Apparently it’s to provide create a bike that feels like it has more travel than it does – a reason why the Escarpe 29 VRX features 15mm travel less on the rear.
This blue number is the regular Escarpe, which is rolling on smaller 27.5in hoops. Rear travel remains the same at 135mm, and on the pricier models, the fork travel is also the same at 150mm. Fork travel on the cheaper models sits at 140mm, as it does on the base level Escarpe you’re looking at hear. With an air-sprung RockShox suspension package, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and tubeless compatible WTB wheels, this model will set you back an impressive £1449. Not bad at all!
Shifting tasks performed by Shimano in a 2×10 form with a high direct mount front derailleur. If you decide to convert the Escarpe to 1x in the future, the derailleur mount is removable from the frame to neaten up the appearance.
If you’ve got a bit more cash to splash, the Escarpe VRX is built around the same hydroformed alloy frameset, but steps up the components with an upgrade to Shimano Deore XT 1×11 shifting and Fox suspension.
Travel still sits at 135mm on the rear, and here you can get a look at the welded and machined chain stay yoke that houses the main pivot bearings. On top of the chain stay is that lower shock mount, which keeps the Escarpe looking quite tidy.
Clevis-style pivots are used throughout the back end of Vitus full suspension bikes, with the goal of offering plenty of stiffness and durability.
With Vitus Bikes coming under the Chain Reaction Cycles umbrella, there’s a smattering of Nukeproof components to be found through the Vitus range to help keep the pricing sharp. Even with the higher-end Fox suspension package, the top-level alloy Escarpe VRX model still retails for just £2199.
Looking for more travel and more capability? That’d be the Sommet then, which ups the tube diameters and tyre width for a beefier appearance that looks ready to rumble. Vitus are rocking 160mm travel forks on the front of the Sommet models, though the frame is capable of a 170mm travel slider should you want a slacker front end for steep enduro sledding.
Rear wheel travel sits 20mm higher than the Escarpe range, with the Sommet getting 155mm of travel over the rear wheel. The same four-bar platform is used, and the frame also uses the same removable front derailleur mount. However, all Sommet models come standard as a 1x setup, including the base model shown here that rocks an MRP upper chain guide.
For the riders with a little more cash in the purse, there’s a carbon fibre version of the Sommet platform. Available in two different spec levels, the Sommet CR and CRX use a Toray carbon front end that’s paired to an alloy sub-frame. Geometry and suspension remain the same as the full-alloy models, with a 65.5˚ head angle and sufficiently long top tubes that are designed to be run with a compact stem length.
Both Sommet carbon models feature RockShox suspension, with the Monarch Plus shock on the rear using a piggyback reservoir for better damping control on longer and rougher descents. The Pike up front is…well, a Pike.
With all the trick bells and whistles, the Sommet CRX sits at the top of the tree in the Sommet range. Despite all of the bling, the complete bike still retails for £3799, which is some ways cheaper than other brands top-end models.
And now, for something completely different, there’s the carbon fibre Rapide – Vitus’ lightest mountain bike in the range. With a full carbon fibre frame, 29in wheels and racy geometry, the Rapide is aimed squarely at the XC crowd.
A SRAM Eagle 1×12 drivetrain keeps the wheels turning while offering a clean look around the seat tube and bottom bracket junction. Vitus has equipped the Rapide with an enormous high-modulus carbon fibre downtube to keep chassis stiffness high, and a 12mm thru-axle on the rear keeps the back end taut. Wheels are custom-built items that centre around Novatec hubs, with WTB Frequency Race i19 rims offering tubeless compatibility and low weight.
For those less concerned with racing, there’s the Sentier hardtail line. The Sentier VRX shown here is the top of the range, and it’s built upon a sturdy 6061-T6 alloy frameset and a RockShox Yari fork. There’s a Reverb dropper post, a Shimano Deore XT 1×11 drivetrain, and a WTB wheelset with 23mm internal width rims. At £1599, the Sentier VRX looks to deliver an impressive all-round package that poses a strong question to those riders considering entry-level full suspension bikes. And with a claimed weight of 12kg for the Medium size, this could be the lighter, simpler and better-spec’d option.
Wanna see more?
While we were slinking around the Vitus Bikes booth at the London Bike Show, we had the chance to chat with Steve from Vitus about some of the highlights in the 2017 range. Check out the virtual video tour below;