The Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX weighs into the mid-travel 29er fight with a spec that most other direct sales brands reserve for their carbon models.
You would be hard pushed to find an alloy-framed full suspension bike with a spec as dripping with bike jewellery as the Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX.
£3,599.99 gets you a shred-ready full bouncer that won’t need any upgrades to ride hard out of the box.
- Fox Float 36 Factory FIT GRIP 2 150mm fork
- Fox Float DPS Factory shock
- Shimano XT/XTR 12-speed drive
- Shimano XT M8000 brakes
- DT Swiss XM1500 Spline 30 wheels
- Brand X Ascend dropper
- £3,599.99 RRP
Frame and Build
There really is nothing you’d need to change on the Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX once you’ve wheeled it out of the full size box it arrives in. Much like to the 2017 Escarpe 29 VRX I rode in 2017, this top of the range model is incredible value for what you get.
Frame wise, you get alloy throughout, with travel increasing to 140mm over previous models, with a large portion of the rear suspension being rearward, this bike does not slow down the way that some bikes do.
Fox Factory dampers handle the 140mm out the back and 150mm up front, being a DPS shock and 36 FIT Grip 2 respectively. Plush is an understatement.
Gearing comes in the form of Shimano’s new 12 speed XT M8000 groupset, combined with an XTR rear mech and a RaceFace Next R carbon crank. There’s no corners been cut either, with an XT cassette and chain keeping things matchy matchy. Brakes are Shimano XT 2-pot units, but again, no corners have been cut. You get a 203mm IceTech front rotor and a 180mm rear, both come with finned, steel-backed pads. This would be my first test bike with the new Shimano 12-speed and the updated brakes. I had high hopes.
It’s nice to see DT Swiss XM1501 wheels on this bike as they are solid, dependable and crazy light for an alloy wheel, and the one by which I measure all others by. These come wrapped in some 3C EXO+ Maxxis tyres, in this case an Assegai out front and a Minion II R.
Finishing kit is made up of Nukeproof Horizon alloy bar and stem, WTB saddle and a Brand X Ascend dropper.
Geometry is modern without being anything particularly mad, meaning the Vitus is likely to put in a good showing on a variety of terrain. I opted for the size small, as the 50mm increase in seat tube to the medium would have put the slightly longer reach available out of my leg range.
On the small you get a suitably clipped 382mm seat tube, keeping the standover ludicrously low with the hydroformed top tube rising to the bars. My Tallboy has a similar seat tube length but the same reach as the medium Escarpe. One thing to note is, that like the Tallboy, the saddle sits behind the BB, so reach figures can be misleading.
In any case, the 432mm reach on the small isn’t exactly short for a small, and combined with the low seat tube this thing can be flung about at will. The Fox 36s give you a 66 degree head angle, combined with a 74.5 degree seat tube angle.
Despite the glistening spec list, the Vitus doesn’t feel on that light when you pick it up, and the slightly regressive initial shock rate sees the back end bobbing somewhat on the climbs. That said, you can simply lock the shock out with the three-position dial or pedal a little smoother to counteract this.
While everyone screams for carbon models of existing bikes, I’d actually love to see Vitus go down the route of really fine-tuning this alloy frame to shed some weight rather than going down the carbon route.
What that very supple upper part of the travel does give you though is some tremendous climbing traction. If you enjoy technical climbs, the Vitus will take you places some other bikes might not. It does take some time to work out where to put down the horsepower, but keep the cadence high and the bike will stick like glue to whatever you point it at.
Possibly a result of me being somewhat in between a Small and a Medium, the shorter dropper post on the Small is too short for my liking. At the right height for the saddle, I have easily three inches of post proud of the frame, so could easily swap the 100mm drop unit out for a 150 to keep the saddle out of the way on the downs.
It is on the downs that the Escarpe really comes to life. The Fox Factory suspension helps you fine tune your ride and the you won’t really ever get bored of how the rear axle moves out of the way of the hits, big or small.
On trail chatter, the bigger wheel and rearward axle path mean you usually speed up rather than slowing down. Square-edged hits are dispatched with ease and at full compression the bike doesn’t feel that short in the wheelbase either.
Ride it badly and you’ll notice the rear end dealing with your ineptitude. Put the bike where you want it, believe the wheels will grip and you’ll be firing into corners far too fast. Thankfully, the XT brakes have a tight hold of the reins and do a solid job of taming the speed of the Escarpe.
As you get used to the Vitus’ ability to provide grip and composure in almost every situation, you’ll start to read a trail differently, looking for the fast lines rather than the safe ones.
The only thing stopping this bike becoming a runaway train is the dropper. I get that on a size small, you’re going to have small people riding it, that’s not really an issue. I will need to fit a 150mm dropper to get the saddle out of the way to really tap into the potential this bike has.
What do we think?
Having ridden the 2017 Escarpe VRX, I had high hopes for the updated model. My main issues were the weak tyres and over-worked brakes. The Maxxis 3C EXO+ tyres were a welcome sight compared to the plastic WTB numbers on the last bike, and the jump from SLX 2-pots to the new XT 2-pots with all the bells and whistles really help this bike sing.
Everything I loved about the old Escarpe has stayed, the spec now reflects what the bike is capable of and it’s really hard to tell you just how good that rear suspension feels.
Check out the Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX and the rest of the 2020 Vitus range on their website here.
Read all our bike reviews over on our website here.
Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX Review
It’s been a few months since I took the Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX in and it’s been everywhere with me since then. From chilled lockdown miles to slithering about the woods above the house or hammering some big old mountains, the Vitus has done it all.
Spec has stayed the same as it came out of the box as I felt that little needed changing. The only thing I did change was the dropper. While I stuck with the Brand-X Ascend dropper that had been flawless, but bumped it to a 125mm drop and that is where I discovered why the 100mm had been fitted in the first place.
On the size small, with the shock and rear end trunnion mount piercing the seat tube, a 100mm dropper is all that would comfortably fit. A 125mm will fit, but the action at the base of the post will be left exposed to the elements. At 5′ 3″ the 100mm drop never got the saddle out of the way enough to really let the bike fly on the downs. I don’t recall ever having this issue on the size small 2017 Escarpe…
With the fit fine tuned, the Factory Fox dampers allowing me to get them exactly how I like them, the bike started to fly on the downs. Ideally, I’d like to have a shock with high and low speed adjustments but I doubt an X2 shock would fit. In any case, the dampers were faultless.
Other than a few flats on the rear, the bike has sailed through the test period and has really come into its own once lockdown had lifted. Now the only thing holding the Escarpe back is the somewhat weighty nature of the frame itself and it would appear it’s in the frame is where the Escarpe can be improved.
If the Escarpe frame could go on a diet and sort the set tube arrangement, it would be truly an amazing bike, but would that development push the cost of the bike up beyond bargain it is currently? A slightly lighter Escarpe would be a real rocket ship.
Oh, and the rear axle would not stay tight unless liberally applied with grease and triple checked before every ride.
What do we think?
Vitus have tweaked a very good bike to keep with the ever increasing pace of bicycle riding and they haven’t disappointed. Look at any other bike with this spec and you’d be hard pushed to get within a thousand pounds of it. The spec has been high performance yet solid throughout.
The frame needs to go on a diet and the seat tube arrangement chokes the ability to go up a size to get the reach or just run a massive dropper.
- Spec is bang on
- Dialled suspension
- Amazing value
Could do better:
- Frame needs to go on a diet
- Seat tube too short to run a long dropper.