Mountain biking (and even road biking) is primarily a leisure pursuit. Cyclocross is mostly about racing. In the same way that scant few people go coxed rowing for fun (they go rowing to get faster to beat other rowers) so the majority of pure cyclocross bikes are bought to race. As an off-the-shelf bike, this Vault, from mountain bike company Pivot, could certainly mix it up with the best of them. This is fortunate as I took delivery of it two days before this year’s Three Peaks Cyclocross. It’s not a stock build (the production bikes come with Shimano components and Stan’s Iron Cross wheels) but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to also try the brand new SRAM RED hydraulic brakes and 11-speed transmission.
The heart of the Vault is a single-minded carbon frame and fork. It’s not a beefed up road bike frame, or a slightly modified mountain bike hardtail. It’s a cyclocross frame, pure and simple. There are options for both cantilevers and disc brakes. It’s a pity that Pivot couldn’t commit one way or another (or make two frames) as it’s a bit of a compromise, but it’s done well. In disc form, as here, the canti bosses are removed and hidden behind blanking plugs. If you do want to run cantis, then all the cable stops are quietly available. Talking of cable stops, there’s a great deal of stealth routing for all cables, leaving a very svelte-looking bike that’s a joy to shoulder as there’s nothing to get hooked up. The frame has a gently sloping top tube, which arguably leaves less room for your arm, but it is very flattened to give a comfortable home to a shoulder. The sizing is a little individual and I found that, as a 54cm frame rider normally, I was on a size small frame on the Vault.
Wheels on this bike are from Reynolds’ new range and are aluminium Stratos Pro, with a semi-deep section and tubeless compatibility. Tyres for the Three Peaks were ‘as big as allowed’ 35mm Schwalbe Smart Sams. Other special gear for the Peaks included nicely wide 46mm Ritchey bars and a ‘just for this race only’ X-Fusion dropper seatpost for the steeper, rockier sections – something that earned me some withering looks from cyclocross ‘purists’ (on their carbon frames with carbon wheels…).
The components were well matched to a bike of this calibre, being SRAM’s new 11-speed groupset with integrated, hydraulic brakes and 160mm rotors, while the go-bits feature SRAM’s heavily machined 11-speed cassette, a pair of RED derailleurs and a carbon armed chainset. The Vault features the 386EVO bottom bracket developed by Pivot’s Chris Cocalis. It’s basically a BB30 spindle in a super-wide 86mm bottom bracket shell for ultimate stiffness and a very meaty contact area for the frame tubes to join up. The brakes are covered separately on page 88.
All this… but how does it ride? The Vault is very much a ‘no excuses’ machine. Even with too much tyre pressure in, the ride is comfortable but still very fast. The huge bottom bracket area of the frame gives a silent power to pedal strokes that makes climbing and sprinting more fun than they both should be. The ride, though, was never harsh and I found that letting go of the brakes and letting the bike have its head was surprisingly confidence-inspiring. This is definitely helped by the brakes, which add the kind of predictability to the bike’s handling that mountain bikers have had for years.
This year’s Three Peaks race was fortunately sunny and dry, which made the off-road sections of it more fun than ever, with the many waterbars and steps no problem for the bike. Even with a high 75psi in the tyres, grip wasn’t an issue and there was a chunky playfulness to the bike. No punctures, no mechanicals and a personal best time was a nice bonus too.
The eye-watering price will be an obstacle to many – and at top level racing, you should really be sporting a matched pair (or three) of bikes like this, plus a mechanic, to be taken seriously. For serious amateurs though, and ones who want a little bit of mountain biking DNA in their cyclocross, this is a bike you’ll feel instantly at home on. And while you don’t have to add hydraulic brakes and 11-speed shifting, you might as well while you’ve got the credit card out, eh?
Overall: Just because it’s not Belgian, don’t discount the Pivot. It’s a cyclocross bike for the new breed.
|Product:||Vault cyclocross bike|
|From:||Upgrade Bikes, upgradebikes.co.uk|
|Price:||£1,800.00 frame and forks, £5,700.00 approx as tested.|
|Tested:||by Chipps for Two months and Three Peaks.|