I have a lot of time for the Vitus Escarpe 29. Around seven or eight years ago it was a way better 29er trail bike than bikes from the Big Brands. How is the Escarpe holding up in 2022 though? Let’s find out…
- Brand: Vitus
- Product: Escarpe 29 CRS
- Price: £3,199.99
- From: Vitus Bikes
- Review by: Benji for 3 months
Three things I loved
- Roomy sizing
- Massive upgrade potential
- Beautiful climber
Three things I’d change
- Rattly rebound knob
- MIsmatched calliper feel
- Slacker head angle would be nice
One thing that has change since the pioneering Escarpe 29 of the previous decade is frame material. There is no longer an aluminium option. It’s carbon fibre all the way. And I mean all the way; even the swing arm is carbon these days. On this CRS version anyway, the £2,299 CR has an alloy back end.
The only framey thing left made from good ol’ alloy on this CRS is the rocker linkage. The lack of a wholly alloy Escarpe seems a bit of a shame but I suppose Vitus have the cheaper Mythique full sus range available for those who don’t want to fork out the premium for carbon (or just plain don’t like carbon).
The use of carbon does save a bit of weight, if you’re bothered about that sort of thing. For me, the main benefit is either going to be in the frame chassis feel, and/or the fact that carbon bikes are often easier than clean than alloy ones!
The frame then. It’s certainly looks the part. It’s glossy, smooth and slick. There’s some well executed rubber frame protection on the chainstay and the underside of the downtube. There’s bosses for a water bottle and bosses for an accessory on the underside of the top tube (plus a port for Fox Live Valve mounting, should you go that route).
There’s a flip-chip on the lower rear shock mounting (+/- 6mm BB height, +/-1° frame angles), which I left in lowest/slackest setting. The headset is a normal semi-integrated affair, so you can run an aftermarket angle-adjust headset in there if desired. Cable routing is internal.
Oh, nearly forgot. The suspension layout design wise, it’s a pretty standard Horst Link 4-bar design giving out 140mm of travel.
Geometry time. For me, the Escarpe 29 is something of a so-very-nearly-there bike in terms of its numbers. The reach is great. The seat angle is brilliant. The chainstays are a good length. The head tube is suitable for the size. The BB height is perfectly fine. It’s just the head angle that niggles.
At 65° the head angle is hardly steep but when the rest of the frame numbers are so capable and inspiring, 65° runs into trouble fairly frequently, for me at least. If it was my bike I wouldn’t hesitate to slap an angle adjust headset in there. As it isn’t my bike, I sort of made do by running the suspension a bit firmer up front and softer at the back to effectively dynamically slacken the bike. If your riding doesn’t involve much in the way of steep, tight pitches, you may well be fine with 65° as is.
Build kit. There’s not a whole lot wrong here. It is all perfectly serviceable stuff that’s capable. The tyres are good. The grips are great. The dropper is fab. The drivetrain was so good I can’t say I even thought about it once. I’d prefer to see a slightly shorter stem (35mm) on there personally. And I do think that 25mm rise handlebars aren’t lofty enough for a size XL bike.
The brakes were interesting. The concept of running 4-pot calliper up front and 2-pot in the rear kinda makes sense on paper. It’s a bit like running a larger front rotor and a smaller rear rotor (which is also the case here). For me though, I just like both my brakes to feel the same. Individually I could deal with a 2-pot plus 180mm setups front and rear, or (even better) 4-pot plus 203mm setups front and rear. As it was, I didn’t quite get on with the differing feels of each brake. I’d buy a 4-pot calliper and plumb into the rear ASAP. Having said that, I think this is fairly Princess-and-the-pea stuff and the vast majority of normal people will be fine with these stoppers.
Suspension. The rear suspension is the tried and true Horst Link 4-bar. It’s a nicely supple design and gives up its travel without hesitation. Some heavier or more aggressive riders may wish to put more volume spacers in the rear shock to ramp things up a bit in the latter stages of the travel use but I didn’t mind its swallowy vibe.
Sometimes the back ends of Horst Link bikes can be a bit flexy side-to-side but this wasn’t the case on the Escarpe 29. Even with the seat stays missing a support brace the back end tracked along just fine and didn’t do any alarming firing-sideways out of turns or across rough cambers etc.
The RockShox Deluxe Select+ RT is a decent performer. If you’re used to having a bit of low speed compression (LSC) adjustment on a bike, you do miss it here, but if you’ve never had LSC, ignorance is bliss. It is possible to reduce the amount of pitch and wallow by increasing the rebound but that has the effect of de-funning the feel of the bike too.
The lock-out lever is exactly that. I used lock-out occasionally on tarmac or fireroad climbs. On proper off-road climbs the loss of traction and comfort wasn’t worth it. The bike bobs a bit for sure but I didn’t really mind this. It makes for a very grippy and just plain fun bike when it gets to the terrain that I’m interested in.
The 150mm travel RockShox Lyrik Select wasn’t quite as agreeable. Again, if you’ve never had ‘fancier’ forks, you’ll be perfectly fine on it. For me though, the Charger RC damper just felt a bit unpredictable on fast descents. Sometimes it felt like it was packing down, then sometimes it felt like it was firing back at you. The chassis is fine. No complaints there. A fork damper upgrade would be something I would put on the To Do List if I had this bike. No rush. But eventually.
The rebound adjuster on our fork was also really rattly. It drove me fairly mad trying to fathom what the noise was (for the life of me it sounded like it was the internal cabling) but I eventually tracked it down to the rebound dial on the bottom of the fork leg. Tightening the grub screws made no difference. A bit of Gorilla tape silenced it. Not ideal but hey. I think a judicious use of a suitably sized rubber O-ring would sort the rattle out too.
We also had an issue with the valve core on the rear shock leaking slowly over the course of a few days. The leak was solved by tightening up the valve core with a schrader valve tool (a suitably sized flat blade screwdriver sometimes does the job too).
Or maybe even look at the model below the CRS. The £2,299 Vitus Escarpe 29 CR has a Marzocchi Bomber Z2, which is a great fork. Sure, the swing arm is alloy and the groupset goes down a tier or two, but that has less of an effect on the ride in my opinion).
But I’m probably being harsh here. It doesn’t help the Escarpe 29’s case that I’ve recently been riding megabucks bling bikes with top-drawer dampers and such. Getting back on a real world every(wo)man mountain bike has revealed the difference. So apologies for moaning that three grand bike doesn’t quite ride like a ten grand bike. Top end bikes are better. Shocker. They aren’t as much better as you might expect though.
The Vitus Escarpe 29 CRS is fundamentally a really good mountain bike. Aside from being slightly undergunned up front on tekkers terrain, it’s been a joy to ride around on this bike. It’s one of the comfiest all-day rigs I’ve had the pleasure to perch upon. It’s also a nicely quiet bike – once I’d taped up the rebound knob. Minimal drivetrain noise. Quiet running brakes.
It is actually something of a stellar climbing bike. Yes, despite what people bang on about regarding pedal bob, out on the trails the Vitus Escarpe 29 is really calm, balanced and grippy. There’s noticeably less faff, panic and hustle involved when making uphill progress. Whether it’s on smooth stuff or scrabbly stuff, the Escarpe 29 glides up without fuss.
On the traversing trails although it can eagerly sink into its travel a bit during sat down dips, you get used to it and learn to appreciate that it’s also a very bump-soaking experience. Don’t forget, the relative softness of the back end is at least partly due to me running it with a healthy amount of sag (30-40%). If you were to run it in the 25-30% sag range it wouldn’t be much of an issue (though the subsequent steeper handling front end would be).
It was the descents that the Vitus Escarpe 29 CRS was something of a double edged sword. The length and lowness (and tyres) of the bike wrote cheques that the head angle and the fork damper couldn’t quite cash. There were a few heart-stopping moments at speeds over 20mph, or gradients over 20%, where the front end twitched or spat back. No crashes though, to be fair.
The thing here to remember here though is that this aspect is ‘curable’ (angle adjust headset, damper upgrade). It may not even turn out to be an issue for some riders who just don’t do such aggro terrain.
The Vitus Escarpe 29 CRS is fundamentally an exceptional platform for upgrading over time. Which bits you’d upgrade will depend on where and how you ride. And in the meantime, the bike is more capable than most at this price point. I still have a lot of time for the Escarpe 29.
- Frame // T800 Carbon, 140mm
- Shock // RockShox Deluxe Select+ RT
- Fork // RockShox Lyrik Select, 150mm
- Wheels // Nukeproof Neutron V2
- Front Tyre // Maxxis Assegai 29×2.5in WT 3C MaxxTerra EXO TR
- Rear Tyre // Maxxis Dissector 29×2.4in WT 3C MaxxTerra EXO+ TR
- Chainset // Shimano SLX, 170mm, 30T
- Shifter // Shimano SLX 12sp
- Rear Mech // Shimano SLX 12sp
- Cassette // Shimano SLX 10-51T
- Brakes // Shimano SLX (4-pot fornt, 2-pot rear), 203/180mm rotors
- Stem // Nukeproof Neutron AM, 31.8mm, 45mm
- Bars // Nukeproof Horizon V2, 31.8mm, 780x25mm
- Grips // Vitus Lock On
- Seatpost // Brand X Ascend, 170mm
- BB // Shimano
- Size Tested // XL
- Sizes Available // S, M, L, XL
- Weight // 15.35kg
Geometry of our size XL test bike
- Head angle // 65°
- Effective seat angle // 78°
- Seat tube length // 480mm
- Head tube length // 130mm
- Chainstay // 440mm
- Wheelbase // 1,281mm
- Effective top tube // 643mm
- BB height // 35mm BB drop
- Reach // 505mm
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|Product:||Escarpe 29 CRS|
|Tested:||by Benji for 3 months|
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