Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX review£3,000.00

A top-spec trail bike that demolishes tricky descents

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Vitus’s Escarpe 29 VRX is a trail bike with a killer attitude when the terrain gets steep. Vitus uses the inherent rollover ability of the 29in wheels in conjunction with 140mm of travel for a bike that eats up big, rocky descents.

  • The Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.

It’s rare that a £3,000 / $3,600 /  $5,000 bike will get full Fox Factory dampers (including the latest generation GRIP2), as well as top-spec rubber, decent wheels and a finishing kit that, save for the Brand X dropper, could easily be found on bikes at almost twice this price.

However, Vitus has managed to squeeze all of this onto the Escarpe 29 VRX, its alloy trail bike.

Shimano cranks are stiff and light
Shimano cranks are stiff and light

Vitus has an advantage over its competitors in this respect: it shares resources with Chain Reaction Cycles and its sister brand Nukeproof supplies some of the finishing kit. So, if bang for your buck is important, it's a brand you can’t go too far wrong with.

As mentioned, the Escarpe 29 VRX is no one-trick-pony. The Fox Factory 36 with 150mm of travel, Factory level piggyback DPX2 shock and triple-compound 2.5in Wide Trail Maxxis Minion tyres join forces to offer one of the most composed bikes we’ve tested at this price point.

Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX ride impressions

Despite only having 140mm of travel, Vitus proves it’s quality, not quantity that counts. The stroke is smooth and responsive, managing small bumps and big hits equally well. When it comes to all-out descending performance, the Escarpe seems hard to beat.

The floating shock delivers a smooth ride
The floating shock delivers a smooth ride

Rather than being anchored at one end to the front triangle, the shock on the Escarpe floats between two linkages. This delivers a classic bottomless feel, as well as making it incredibly supple at the start of the stroke.

On bigger hits, the control through the back end is fantastic, with plenty of restrained progression late in its stroke — none of our flat pedal testers ever felt like their feet were going to get blown off the pedals, and there was no unsightly bottom-out clunk as the shock reached full travel.

Punchy, powerful and great value, the SRAM Guide RE brakes demonstrate Vitus’s smart approach to components

That suppleness also vastly boosts traction and control over high-frequency, low-amplitude impacts. The GRIP2 damper in the fork only accentuates the bike's smooth, composed feel on rough, choppy, steep and gnarly trails, and in Finale Ligure in Italy, the Vitus really impressed.

Maxxis Minion DHFs are a favourite among BikeRadar testers, so I was pleased to see the 2.5in Wide Trails on the front of the Escarpe. The tread is spaced enough to clear mud well, but still feels decent on hard-packed trails and over rocks. The side treads are well supported and the carcass is good too.

The down tube holds the cables in some neat external routing
The down tube holds the cables in some neat external routing

At the back there’s a 2.4in Wide Trail Minion DHR II — again, a decent tyre for an aggressive trail bike, which provides predictable control when things start to drift and decent braking performance.

There is, of course, a downside to everything, and it’s on flatter, twistier trails that the Escarpe loses a bit of its shine. The supple early stroke combines with support that seems to come in later to give a fairly lazy, inefficient feel around the sag point, so pedalling doesn’t feel as punchy as more traditional trail bikes might.

While the back end is sitting deeper into its stroke, the forks tend to remain propped up, so the front of the bike rakes forwards, further accentuating this lazy feel. It starts to feel better the steeper the trail, when the fork is working as much as the back end.

Whatever the trail condition, the Escarpe never held us back
Whatever the trail condition, the Escarpe never held us back

On climbs, there’s plenty of traction when it gets loose and tech, but I was often using the compression switch on the shock. If you’re into long rides over big hills or round trail centres, I’d look elsewhere, if only to save a few watts here and there.

I've touched on the Escarpe’s spec but honourable mention should go to its choice of SRAM Guide RE brakes. Punchy, powerful and great value, they demonstrate Vitus’s smart approach to components: fitting decent parts where it matters, without breaking the bank.

The Vitus Escarpe 29 is probably not the bike I’d choose for a 40km epic in the hills, but if you’re happy to flick the compression switch on the DPX2 shock and spin to the top of a climb, you’ll be rewarded with a smooth descent on pretty much any trail you dare to tackle.

Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX specifications

Despite 140mm of rear wheel travel, the Escarpe was one of the best all-out descenders on test
Despite 140mm of rear wheel travel, the Escarpe was one of the best all-out descenders on test

  • Sizes: S, M, L
  • Frame: Alloy 140mm 29in
  • Fork: Fox Factory 36 FIT Grip2 150mm
  • Shock: Fox Factory DPX2
  • Crankset: Shimano XT
  • Shifters: Shimano XT
  • Derailleur: Shimano XT
  • Cassette: Shimano SLX
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss M1700
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5WT, Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4WT
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide RE 200/180
  • Bar: Nukeproof Horizon 800mm
  • Stem: Nukeproof Horizon 50mm
  • Seatpost: Brand X Ascend 150mm
  • Saddle: Nukeproof Horizon SL
  • Weight: 14.82kg

Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX geometry (M)

  • Seat angle: 74.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 66 degrees
  • Chainstay: 45cm / 17.72in
  • Seat tube: 43.3cm / 17.05in
  • Top tube: 62cm / 24.41in
  • Head tube: 12cm / 4.72in
  • Bottom bracket drop: 3cm / 1.18in
  • Wheelbase: 1,216mm / 47.87in
  • Stack: 62.9cm / 24.76in
  • Reach: 45cm / 17.72in

BikeRadar would like to thank 661 Protection, Northwave, Effetto Mariposa and Finale Ligure for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Age: 29
  • Height: 182cm / 5'11"
  • Weight: 82kg / 180lb
  • Waist: 81cm / 32in
  • Chest: 97cm / 38in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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