The 650b Vitus Sentier has been a top-rated riot bike for a while. But this year it gets an all-new frame that’s both feistier and better balanced, and the VRS is equipped with some excellent componentry to match.
Thinking out of the box
As you’ll be getting your Vitus delivered direct in a big box, initial impressions are probably more important than most. Firstly, don’t worry if the forks look back to front as the brace is meant to be on the back on a Manitou fork.
The Manitou Minute Comp fork is a decent enough little unit
Don’t freak out if there’s a horrible clunk when you bounce them the first few times either. It sometimes just takes the Minute Comp a couple of good drags on the damper to get the rebound circuit filled and working properly. The unique half-turn ‘bayonet’ lock action on the semi-hexagonal QR15 axle can be a pain to learn too, but it’s fast once you’re fluent.
What you really need to know about the VRS though is that within seconds of hitting the trail you’ll forget about any of that and just be blown away by how sorted it feels. The new frame has a low 320mm bottom bracket centre of gravity, a stretched 630mm top tube and steeper 73 degree seat angle. That’s put plenty of weight through the wide 740mm bars and usefully smooth 140mm suspension stroke onto the soft compound ‘High Grip’ version of the WTB Vigilante front tyre.
Stable yet snappy
The slack 66.5 degree head angle and long front centre gives the front end a naturally very stable and automatically self-correcting feel but the short 60mm stem means you can tweak the front wheel immediately and effortlessly to snatch back traction.
Hit the trails and the Sentier's sorted character shines through immediately
While it’s slightly flexy when compared to pricier models, the thru-axled Minute Comp fork is sound compared with many other forks you’ll find at this price and it means you’ve already got a 15mm-axle-compatible front wheel if you do decide to upgrade later.
The new frame gets a 142x12mm rear axle too, increasing security and stiffness of the Novatec/WTB wheelset, and the fast-rolling WTB Trail Boss rear rubber adds an extra speed kick when you’re hustling the singletrack.
The 2x10 Shimano Deore/SLX transmission is durable and reliable
Add the excellent modulation of the Shimano M615 brakes with 180mm front rotor power boost and durable, reliable Shimano Deore/SLX transmission, and Vitus has put together a very capable and complete package for the money.
Keep in mind though that even though the frame is relatively forgiving, the lightweight 2.25in rear tyre on a relatively narrow rim means you’re still limited on what you can mow through like an ignorant thug compared with a plus or a full suspension bike.
Commencal Meta HT AM
Sporting a 160mm travel fork and a dropper post, the Meta HT AM is billed as a 'semi-rigid enduro bike,'and wants to get rowdy when the trail points down. Read our full Commencal Meta HT AM review.
Bird Zero AM2
With a long, low and slack geometry, supple, supportive and adjustable fork and great stock spec, this Bird is definitely a hardcore hardtail that'll take on full-suss machines when the going gets gnarly. Read our full Bird Zero AM2 review.
Ragley Mmmbop 27.5
Fancy grabbing hold of a hard-edged, corner-carving beast of a hardtail and mostly pointing it down hills?Read our full Ragley Mmmbop 27.5 review.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.