Vitus Escarpe review$2,400.00

Hardcore full-gas package at a remarkable price

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Fantastic geometry, excellent suspension and a remarkable spec for the price make the Vitus an unbeatable complete package for attacking the trails.

Vitus Escarpe frame

Vitus Escarpe
Vitus Escarpe

Lots of complex hydroforming is evident on the frame, not least on the split seat-tube, which allows the shock to attach to the chainstay tips, creating a ‘floating’ mount. 

A tapered head tube, ISCG-05 chain guide mount, Boost rear-end and semi-internal cable routing tick all the boxes, and there’s clearance for a 27.5x2.8in tyre. Geometry is enduro slack and long, which is rare at this price.

Vitus Escarpe kit

The remarkably good spec includes £120-worth of Maxxis tyres in a great fast-enduro combination (Minion DHF EXO front, Minion SS DD rear). 

Yet again, the WTB rims offer plenty of tyre support and the Recon fork impresses even when going flat out. The bar and stem are well-shaped for getting full potential from the geometry, and the grips are clamped in place. 

While the Shimano Deore transmission is only 10-speed, you get a mini chain guide as standard. It comes with an internally routed dropper too.

Vitus Escarpe ride

It’s not the longest-travel option in Vitus’s trail/enduro line-up (that’s the 160mm Sommet), but the Escarpe still lets you ride flat out. 

The 800mm bar gives power-steering leverage and the 50mm stem keeps the steering light and easy to tweak despite the slack 66-degree head angle. This naturally keeps the front wheel on target and, combined with the long reach (470mm on the Large), stretches the front centre (distance from bottom bracket to front wheel axle) way out, making the bike a lot more stable and harder to trip up if the front wheel tucks under or slides out.

Vitus has revised the back end to keep it more active and stop it stiffening up as much under power. The metric RockShox Deluxe shock is smoother and better-damped than its imperial equivalent, the Monarch. 

Here, a trunnion mount maximises its already outstanding sensitivity. This simplest R version also has more oil flow in open mode than pricier models. Combined with the four-bar rear end and floating mount, the result is a fluid, rock- and drop-melting suspension feel that seems to get better the harder you ride.

There’s no need to worry about tyre survival, as the DoubleDown carcass at the rear is designed to suck up punishment, without feeling too harsh or heavy. Add the freedom to move your weight around once you drop the post out of the way, and the Escarpe is effortlessly rapid, even on seriously rocky or rooty trails that would choke a lot of bikes with similar travel to a standstill. 

Despite its active suspension feel, the Vitus still pedals okay, and I only missed being able to lock out the rear shock when stomping up long, smooth climbs.

The 66-degree head angle and 470mm reach of the large size give the Escarpe more swagger than many enduro bikes
The 66-degree head angle and 470mm reach of the large size give the Escarpe more swagger than many enduro bikes

Its ability to carry serious speed through the roughest sections does put a lot of pressure on the Shimano M395 brakes. Their wooden feel can make it hard to modulate braking as well as you can control steering. 

The 10-speed cassette and mech are another spec compromise, but not one I noticed on the trail — the gear range is still perfectly adequate for most riders.

While it’s a pain to keep the slack front end on-line on climbs at first, you soon learn to use the reasonably steep seat angle to keep the bike obedient. Navigating the long wheelbase through tight, slow corners also becomes easier with practice. That means the only downside with the Escarpe is the relatively flexy frame. Up front, this leaves the steering not feeling as pinpoint accurate as it could. 

The way the rear end narrows at the main pivot also lets tangible twist and softness into the back end. That same flex helps it shrug off or shimmy through straight-line trouble better than a really rigid bike, though, and also reduces rattle and fatigue over time. That means it’s still an awesome ready-to-rave package for the money.

A triple-compound Maxxis Minion DHF front tyre and reinforced Minion SS rear would set you back nearly £120 at retail prices
A triple-compound Maxxis Minion DHF front tyre and reinforced Minion SS rear would set you back nearly £120 at retail prices

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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