Vitus Escarpe 1 - First ride review

Well balanced and versatile trail bike

BikeRadar score4/5

The 140mm-travel (5.5in) Escarpe bikes are the longer-travel half of two new full-suspension platforms Vitus are adding to their established high-value hardtail range for 2012.

Ride & handling: Well balanced and easily ridable

The Escarpe 1's 700mm-wide handlebar and 90mm stem are a fair reflection on the overall feel of the bike. It comes across as well balanced and easily ridable, rather than something radical. The steering is slack enough not to shrink your nuts as soon as things get steep or the fork starts getting a real workout, but not so laidback that it flops and flounders on steep climbs or feels like you’re chasing a wheelbarrow around on flat singletrack. 

Through-axles at either end underline the calmly obedient character with useful accuracy. There’s enough meat in the wheels and tyres to keep speed and survival expectations high on technical rocky trails. The bar fits between trees and it's far enough away to let you breathe on longer climbs.

The suspension is similarly easy and effective. Vitus have picked a shock tune that really flatters the RockShox Monarch RT shock and lets the rear wheel track and grip smoothly without demanding any particular pedal action to compensate. The Revelation fork benefits from accurate setup. Once that’s fettled it's controlled enough to handle anything that doesn't require body armour. 

Frame & equipment: Plenty of bang for your buck

The hydroformed frame starts at the tapered head and ends with a screw-through 12mm axle with replaceable bolt-in dropouts. The dropped top tube has a seat tube reinforcing strut, while the curved down tube gives room for the vertically mounted shock. The four-bar suspension system gets a middle-ring level main pivot and dropped chainstay pivots. The bottom bracket is conventional while the front mech is direct mount.

Getting a bike in a box – however well it’s set up before it reaches you – means you’re missing out on setup and servicing support from your local bike shop. But direct sell from Chain Reaction Cycles does mean you’re getting a lot for your loot, for example, a 15mm-axled tapered-top Revelation fork up front rather than the more common Sektor. Most hardtails would be proud to have SRAM X9 shift kit wound up with a SRAM double and stopped with Avid Elixir brakes at this price too. 

Full-length cables help keep it running okay through bad weather, although it’s still not as smooth as Shimano in the long term. Fulcrum’s Red Power XL wheels are a quality wheel-plumping choice and the Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres are decent all-round rubber for most situations. The 700mm bar is slightly narrow for really letting rip, but okay for less lairy riding. If you’re on a more limited budget, the £1,299.99 Escarpe 2 with RockShox Sektor fork but otherwise similar componentry looks outstanding value.

Vitus escarpe 1: vitus escarpe 1
Vitus escarpe 1: vitus escarpe 1

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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