Vitus is the house brand of global cycle megastore Chain Reaction Cycles, and the 135 mm trail-focused Vitus Escarpe has a lot going for it. This 14.73 kg beast features the same low-slung and burly frame as its more premium racy brothers, but with a much more affordable build kit.
With its low and slack (66.5 degree head angle) frame it exudes toughness, the big welds and chunky tubing proving it’s certainly no svelte supermodel – more a battle-hardened cage fighter ready for a scrap. The cockpit is all business with a 760 mm Nukeproof Warhead bar and stubby 50 mm Zero Stem: not the lightest, but certainly in tune with the ruggedness of the bike. The omission of a dropper post is disappointing, but as the Escarpe is the cheapest in the test, we would recommend the slightly more expensive VR model (which has a much improved specification and still comes in under €2000).
On the trail, the Escarpe remained true to our initial impressions: the ride is punchy and playful, certainly one of the easiest bikes in the test to throw into the air. Even ground-hugging riders will soon be racking up the air miles! The Horst link suspension is well designed and results in a very active and supportive feel, even though the RockShox Monarch RT did give up its travel a little too easily with heavier riders (tokens help). The riding position is central and playful, making the Escarpe easy to slide and drift. Manuals and bunny hops are a cinch. While the seat tube angle feels a little slacker and more lethargic than the 74.5 degrees would suggest, it does haul up hills well enough. However, it’s a heavy beast and you feel that you’re hauling the freight. In testament to the bike’s easy speed, the budget RockShox Sektor fork cannot really keep up with the action, ramping up firmly over big, fast hits.
The Vitus Escarpe in detail
Forks: RockShox Sector TK 140 mm
Rear shock: RockShox Monarch RT 135 mm
Brakes: Shimano M396
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore
Seatpost: Vitus Alloy
Stem: Vitus Alloy
Bars: Nukeproof Riser Bar
Wheels: WTB ST i23 TCS
Tires: WTB Vigilante / Trail Boss TRS
Weight: 14.73 kg
Price: € 1,750
A better fork (The VR model comes with a Fox Performance 34) would unlock this bike’s potential, as it’s a frame that loves to be ragged hard. The cheap Shimano M315 brakes worked well enough, but lacked bite and grab, causing us to resort to two fingers to scrub speed fast enough when pinned. The tires sit well on the WTB i23 rims, which are tough, reliable, and caused no issues during testing. As with all bikes in this group test, the trail-ready WTB Vigilante and Trail Boss tires have great patterns, but we did find the cheaper ‘high grip compound’ was anything but, especially over wet rocks, where they caused a few butt-clenching moments.
The Vitus Escarpe is a great handler, happily charging at freight train speeds and eagerly hitting every jump. The basic fork and brakes reign in the fun when dropping into hard trails, but if you are the sort of rider looking to thrash a bike ‘round the woods and rack up the airtime, you will love it. It’s a heavy beast, however. We would certainly recommend saving a little more for the Escarpe VR model, which is an amazing value.
- Aggressive geometry kicks ass
- A bike to get wild on
- It’s a bruiser… with a weight to match
- No dropper post
For more information head to vitusbikes.com!
For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: Five affordable trail bikes under € 2,000. Are these the real ‘bikes for the people?’
Other bikes in this group test: Cube Stereo 120 HPA Race | Lapierre Edge AM 527 | Radon Slide 130 8.0 | Trek Fuel EX 29 5.0 | Vitus Escarpe
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