Vitus’s 135mm travel Escarpe did really well in our monster Trail Bike of the Year test so we expected great things from it’s identical looking but longer travel Sommet sibling.
Frame and equipment: ground-hugging goodness
The Sommet frame, made from 6061-T6 alloy takes its cues from the Escarpe, with a floating horizontal shock mount to help it glide over trouble.
The Marzocchi 350NCR up front takes a few rides to smooth out but it’s a seriously succulent fork that’ll suck traction out of the most random trail surfaces and take multiple rock slaps or slam downs without flinching.
The Sommet impresses with its succulent high-traction smoothness
The back end isn’t the simplest to set up, as it’s got a strong mechanical lock from the vertical lower shock link and upper linkage alignment when unloaded. It rolls forward off that into an increasingly progressive feel as you get into the stroke and we found both the fork and Monarch Plus RC3 piggyback shock ran best with around 30 percent sag.
The result is an oily orgy of ground hugging traction as the shock pumps away between the legs of the split seat tube and the damping of the fork squelches away up front.
Settling the bike deeper into its travel also offsets what looks like a tall bottom bracket on paper, hunkering the Sommet down into the belly of berms where it rests on the stable mid stroke before storming out.
Ride and handling: a high-traction smoothie
With the main pivot bang on line with the top of the chainring and a chain stay pivot, the suspension is impressively neutral under pedalling even when set up soft, so it’s just a case of point and pedal up technical climbs.
While the 14.28kg weight is obvious when accelerating, a smooth roll over stutter bumps and an eager response to body weight shifts means it sustains speed with a playful swagger on singletrack. The super heavyweight WTB Trail Boss rubber out back and generous early stroke movement means the low speed compression adjust lever on the rear shock is handy for steep or strenuous climbs though.
Vitus's Sommet VRX is a great value package that draws on the impressive Escarpe trail bike
The payback for patience on climbs is always worth it too. Top stroke traction and mid stroke support are well-balanced front to rear and it doesn’t get fazed even when you’re battering through big heaps of rocks or baked summer rut sections either.
That means you can properly take liberties with line choices or late braking. Even though it’s not the stiffest frame here, it can handle more hammer than the Whyte and has an impressive knack of making even the maddest lines seem tame and coming out exactly where you want eager for more.
As long as you’re OK setting it up from a box the fact Chain Reaction Cycles have just knocked £540 / $1,156 / AU$1,840 off the price makes it a total bargain too.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.