Antony checks out the Vitus Mythique, another great budget trail bike for your shopping list.
When I started riding mountain bikes, the more affordable end of the market seemed to be aimed at riders who were doing a completely different sport. Budget bikes had unwieldy frames, outdated geometry, and weird suspension designs (URT, anybody?) My standard advice to anyone looking to get their first mountain bike would be to buy something second-hand. Thankfully the past few years have seen competitively priced mountain bikes really up their game, with design, components and tech finding their way down from the high end of the market more quickly than ever. It’s still not the cheapest sport to take up, but there are now a fistful of full suspension bikes around the £1k mark which are brilliant performers.
Vitus is an in-house brand of Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle, who need no introduction, except to say that if you ride bikes and shop online, you’ve probably bought something from them. Its bikes are only available directly from either of the aforementioned websites. Vitus is known for offering a number of good value full suspension bikes around the £2-4k mark, but for 2020 the brand has set its sights firmly on the burgeoning budget market. The result is the new Vitus Mythique trail bike range, which come in between £1249 and £1599.
The Vitus Mythique is pitched as a first full suspension mountain bike for someone who wants to try a bit of everything. If you’re after a more specialised machine for hitting the bike parks or racing cross country, Vitus have those in their line-up too, but with this particular model they’re aiming for versatility. That’s not to say that Mythique is a one size fits all kind of deal. All the models of Mythique are available in 27.5in or 29in, and have 130 or 140mm of travel. This model, the Vitus Mythique 29 VR, is the lowest priced in the range, and as such it’s a tempting prospect for anyone looking for their first full suspension bike. And at the time of writing, this particular model is on sale for £999, which puts it within reach of a big group of buyers, so let’s dive in for a closer look.
The Mythique range of bikes share the same frame, a neatly formed 6061 aluminium chassis. The curvy tubeset may not be to everyone’s tastes, but looks-wise there are much much divisive bikes out there. However it does come across as more of a gangly cygnet than a beautiful swan, thanks to a paint finish in the same battleship grey as many of the other bikes from its brand stable.
The suspension is a tried-and-tested four bar linkage design, and the geometry also plays it fairly safe. Reach on the medium frame is a relatively roomy 450mm, while the head angle is a reasonably relaxed 66.6 degrees. The finish and welds all look cosmetically spot on, and while there’s no internal cable routing, except for a stealth dropper post, I suspect anyone who maintains their own gears will be able to forgive this.
Suspension on the Vitus Mythique 29 VR is supplied by X-Fusion, who may not have the shiny aura of the bigger brands, but have a reputation for making products that punch above their price point. The O2 rear shock is a basic air suspension unit with just a rebound control, while the RC32 fork seems to be lacking a bit of meat compared to the forks on models further up the range, but still has 130mm of travel, Boost compatibility and a 15mm bolt-up axle.
Drivetrain on this base model bike is a mix of Shimano’s Deore 10-speed rear mech and shifter, paired with Suntour Zeron 1x-compatible cranks, a Sunrace wide range cassette, and a KMC chain. The brakes are Shimano’s basic MT401 model, which means they lack some of the features of brakes at Deore level and above, and are only compatible with softer resin brake pads.
Given its launch at the start of a miserable UK winter, it’s encouraging to see that the Vitus Mythique comes equipped with decent tyres for damp conditions. The Schwalbe Magic Mary and Hans Dampf combination should be grippy enough for anything, and they’re mounted to some 32-spoke wheels with wide WTB ST i30 rims and cartridge bearing hubs. They also come set up tubeless, so full marks to Vitus here.
Complete bikes at this price point don’t tend to come with flashy finishing kit, and the Mythique is no exception to this. However it’s all perfectly usable, including some 780mm riser bars (20mm wider on the large size bike, 20mm narrower on the small), lock-on grips and a Nukeproof saddle. Another unsurprising absence is a dropper post, meaning you’ll have to make do with the quick release seatclamp unless you can upgrade.
Overall the spec of the the Vitus Mythique VR is very much what you’d expect on a bike at this price bracket. There are no nasty surprises, and a few nice ones, particularly the wheel and tyre combination. It’s also relatively light for a trail bike, and this base model is also noticeably lighter than the ones higher up the range, thanks to the svelte drivetrain and forks, and the absence of a dropper post.
At 5’10, I was able to jump straight onto a medium Mythique and hit the trails with the minimum of faff. The riding position and geometry will feel instantly familiar to anyone who’s ridden a modern trail bike, and thanks to sensible choice of components I didn’t feel the need to do any substitution of bars, stems or saddles.
The suspension did require a bit more tweaking than some. Initially the rear shock hardly moved, but dropping 10 psi made it a bit too soft and saggy. The forks followed a similar pattern, feeling stiff and unsupple at first, but letting out air to compensate for this made it bottom out too easily. The learning point here seems to be that there’s a short bed-in period of a couple of rides or so, after which you can get it set up to your liking.
The bike also arrived with a long fork steerer tube and a load of spacers under the stem. If it was my bike I would cut the steerer tube down. Sadly it’s not, and I had to resort to the time-honoured hack of running spacers on top of the stem. The reach of the brake levers was also a long way out, but unlike some really low-end brakes, this can be adjusted with a 2.5mm hex bolt on the lever pivot. The Vitus website says “Ready to rock, out of the box…” and the Mythique certainly doesn’t need any parts swapping before the first ride, but a bit of fettling is still required, and worth planning for, given that the bike is only available online.
The first couple of rides on the Mythique were a bit sub-par thanks to the suspension issues described above. Even so, it was immediately obvious that Vitus have put together a sorted bike in terms of its handling and geometry. It’s not uber-long, low and slack, but it has enough of those characteristics to not hold it back when things get challenging. Just as importantly, any newer riders who choose the Mythique as their first trail bike won’t find themselves struggling with limousine-length top tubes or low BB-induced pedal strikes.
Many modern trail bikes seem designed to favour their descending capabilities, with climbing as a means to an end, and the Mythique is no exception. But it doesn’t disgrace itself. With a 46T cassette and a 32T chainset, the VR has slightly less gear range on offer than the other bikes in the line-up, and the gearing is on the tall side for a 29er, but it’ll still get up awkward technical climbs as well as most bikes in its category. The front wheel doesn’t lift except on the very steepest of climbs, and traction at the rear is really good, with credit shared between the suspension and the excellent Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyre.
On the way down, the Mythique VR is also pleasingly competent. Our local trails can be pretty choppy and ugly (as a Singletrack contributor, I’m contractually obliged to mention this in every review I write), but the Mythique was generally unfazed by anything I pointed it down. The rear suspension does enough to give control without sucking the fun and feedback out of the ride. At the front, the 32mm forks are a tad twangy on anything really rocky, and don’t help as much as they could on bigger hits, but for most riding they’re fine. The back end of the frame could be a bit stiffer as well, but it’s not noticeable enough to be an issue on the trail. The Shimano brakes have a gangly lever, and lack power and feel even compared to Deore units, but they’re still effective enough to put steeper, techier trails on the menu.
If the budget constraints show in the forks and brakes, the wheels and tyres go a long way towards making up for this. There aren’t many grippier front tyres out there than Schwalbe’s Magic Mary, particularly in its 29er version. The combination of tubeless and wide rims also helps the bike to stick to tricky off-camber lines. Having decent grip makes a world of difference to winter riding, and I’d say that the product developer’s budget has been wisely spent here.
The choice to spec a fixed seat post rather than a dropper is slightly less welcome. The Vitus Mythique’s seat tube is heavily kinked, meaning that a full length post might not drop as much as you need it to – possibly why the post in our test bike had been cut down in length. The cheap QR clamp becomes almost impossible to use after a couple of wet gritty rides, and needs to be cleaned and re-greased regularly to keep it working. And the seat tube is made to quite a relaxed tolerance, with the slot facing the back wheel, meaning it quickly collected grit and water. A fixed seat post is pretty standard for full sussers in this price bracket, but I’ve definitely ridden bikes where it was less of an annoyance.
Aside from the seatpost issues mentioned above, a couple of months of riding the Mythique VR exposed a few minor issues. The bike could really do with a chainstay protector of some kind. The drivetrain is noisy on the trail, thanks to contact between the chain and the frame, and it’s also thrashed off a fair bit of paint on the chainstay. The paintwork in general is a bit thin and fragile, and has chipped off in other places, such as the pivot points.
The Suntour cranks have also had their share of issues. After a couple of months of wet winter riding , the bearings in the bottom bracket have started to seize up. They do free off when I ride the bike, and as previously stated, it’s been a stinker of a winter, but it’s not a good sign for long term durability. The cranks themselves have held up OK, but they’re not as well-finished as chainsets from Shimano or SRAM, and have rapidly started to show signs of wear. In addition the pressed steel chainring has bent slightly, and occasionally drops the chain as a result.
The bike also features some odd cable routing, with one running along the chainstay right behind the chainring. I can see the logic of this, as cables under the BB are theoretically vulnerable to rock strikes, but this solution puts it very close to the chainring, where a bit of slack in the cable can cause rubbing.
One other issue I’ve had with this particular bike was a bit of a creak and a wobble coming from the rear wheel. It seems this was due to the rear dropout being assembled incorrectly, and the threaded insert for the axle was loose, instead of being held captive by a small bracket. This was easily sorted pretty easily just by removing the bracket and flipping the insert over. The derailleur hanger also mounts to this bracket and is fixed in place by a tiny hex bolt. It should be OK because, with the wheel installed, the bracket is clamped in place by the rear axle, but it’s part of the bike that’s worth keeping an eye on and checking for tightness, along with the pivot bolts.
Three Things That Could Be Improved
- The bike really needs a dropper post to get the most out of it.
- You’ll probably want to upgrade the brakes and forks shortly after getting a dropper.
- The paint finish is disappointingly fragile for something that looks like an industrial coating.
Three Things We Loved
- It’s a budget 29er trail bike with the design and performance of something much more pricey.
- It comes ready with proper tyres for UK winter conditions.
- The compromises in spec mean a lighter bike.
I feel that I’ve been slightly unfair on the Vitus Mythique by harping on about its seatpost for quite a decent chunk of this review. For any bike at this price, there will be a few compromises, including the almost inevitable absence of a dropper post. However there are definitely bikes where lack of a dropper is less noticeable than the Mythique, and if there was one thing I’d change about the build, that would be it. The fork and brakes also feel like they’re holding the bike back somewhat, although you have to batter it through some pretty rocky or steep trails before these really become an issue.
With many budget mountain bikes, you get constant reminders that you’re riding something a bit cheap, whether it’s outdated finishing kit from the back of the warehouse, grips that squirm their way off the bars, or tyres that feel like they’re trying to kill you and make it look like an accident. There’s comparatively little of this with the Mythique. Instead it can be happily ragged around everything you’d ride a posh bike on, with just the occasional reminder that you’re on a complete bike which costs several hundred pounds less than many full suspension frames.
Its spec and performance are a cut above many similarly-priced full suspension bikes, and it also has a frame that’s worthy of whatever upgrades you decide to lavish on it. It’s also a welcome addition to a price bracket where there are relatively few full suspension 29ers. For riders with shallow pockets looking to discover the joys of big wheels and full squish, the Vitus Mythique 29 VR is a great option.
Vitus Mythique 29 VR Specifications
- Frame // 6061 alloy, 130mm travel
- Fork // X-Fusion RC32, 130mm, 29er
- Shock // X-Fusion O2
- Hubs // Vitus DHF112 front 110x15mm, Vitus M5ER rear 142x12mm, 32h, sealed bearings.
- Rims // WTB ST i30 29in
- Tyres // Schwalbe Magic Mary Evo R 2.35x29in front, Schwalbe Hans Dampf Performance 2.35x29in rear
- Crankset // SR Suntour Zeron, 32T, 170mm
- Rear Mech // Shimano Deore, 10 speed
- Shifters // Shimano Deore, 10 speed
- Cassette // Sunrace CSMS2, 11-46T
- Brakes // Shimano MT401, 180mm front & rear
- Stem // Vitus, 50mm, 31.8
- Bars // Nukeproof Neutron, 20mm rise, 760mm width S, 780mm width M, 800mm width L & XL,
- Grips // Vitus, lock-on
- Seatpost // Vitus, 31.6mm
- Saddle // Nukeproof Neutron
- Size Tested // M
- Sizes available // S, M, L, XL
- Weight // 14.0 kg / 30.8 lbs
|Product:||Mythique 29 VR|
|Tested:||by Antony de Heveningham for 3 months|
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