Can the Miami-Vice themed, direct sale e-Bike stand out from the crowd? Ben has been riding the Vitus E-Sommet through lock down and beyond to find out.

Ben rode the Vitus e-Sommet VRS e-bike through lock down and beyond to find out what this excellent value enduro e-bike could do.

Photos by Dave Price.

Key features:

  • Fox Float Performance 170mm fork
  • Fox Float DPX2 Performance Elite shock
  • Shimano XT/SLX 12 speed drive train
  • Shimano Steps E8000 motor
  • Shimano E8010 500wh battery
  • SRAM Guide RE brakes
  • DT SWISS H1700 Spline 30 wheels
  • Brand-X Ascend dropper
  • £4,299.99 RRP
  • VitusBikes.com

 

Frame and Build

The purple to blue fade frame is a stout 6061 alloy affair with kinked top and down tubes and a thoroughly modern set of angles and dimensions on the geometry chart. Designed as a modern 27.5” E-Enduro bike, it sports a 65.5 degree head angle, 472mm reach for size large as tested, and 444mm chain stays. It sports a simple but capable 170mm travel Fox Float 36 Performance eBike fork up front and a Fox Float DPX2 Performance Elite shock controlling the 160mm of rear travel.

Aesthetics are a mixed bag with the paint job and yellow Vitus stickers dividing opinion amongst my mates. One thing we all agreed on is the dislike of the dated, clunky looks of E-Bikes that still have the battery sat on top of the down tube as if it was an after thought. Having said that I like to remove the battery for charging, so this setup is really convenient. I have always put performance over aesthetics and if this helps Vitus to keep the price low and competitiv,- which it is, then who cares?

The spec is very similar to the excellent Vitus Sommet 29 VRS that I reviewed recently. Highlights include a bombproof set of DT Swiss H1700 E-Bike specific wheels shod with a pair of Double Down Maxxis Assegai in sticky Maxx Grip compound. I was my first time riding the E-Bike specific SRAM Guide RE brakes and they were easily up to the job of stopping a heavy E-Bike, helped in part by speccing 200mm rotors front and rear.

Shifting was handled by a Shimano XT/SLX 12 speed groupset that gave me quite a few issues throughout the test. After a few wet rides the clutch on the XT rear mech would stick, leaving the cage in a forward position without any chain tension. This leads to a dropped chain and potential to wreck the mech and hanger if you didn’t notice and continued to pedal hard. Trailside you could pull the cage and it would spring back, applying tension again. Back in the workshop the mech needed stripping down for a grease of the clutch components.

A quick Google lead me to a how-to video on this and a lot of other riders with the same issue, including 2 of my mates. It would seem like Shimano does not seal the clutch sufficiently and that it is not supplied with enough grease to keep it running smoothly. Once fixed it worked well for a couple of months and is just starting to show signs of sticking again as I write this and return the bike.

The Vitus is supplied with a 150mm drop, Brand-X Ascend dropper post which could be smoother at the lever, but has worked consistently well. Perched on that is a very comfy WTB Volt saddle that worked well for my ‘average’ sit bones. Nukeproof provide the bars and stem and it shows a nice attention to detail that different frame sizes come with different bar widths. The large tested came with 800mm bars that I cut to 770mm.

Up Hills

I have always been a fan of the Shimano Steps E8000 motor, especially compared to the Bosch units. It seems more natural and intuitive to me with ergonomic mode shifters and a small screen tucked out of the way in the middle of the bars, near the stem. The E-Sommet comes with a 500wh battery which was pretty standard for most E-Bikes of this generation, but most modern bikes do come with 600+wh of battery life that makes a huge difference to your range.

On the note of range and efficiency I found that Maxx Grip Assegai tyres front and rear were very draggy, especially on wet and sticky fire roads. When riding with mates on their E-Bikes I had to work harder to keep up, and the draggy ride had me seriously questioning my fitness. This also led to me using my battery up a bit quicker than other 500wh bikes with similar weight riders. Recently I have been running the new Pirelli e-bike specific tyre out back and the whole bike has sped up dramatically, review coming later this year.

Merida Big.Trailtea

As always though, where a component is a compromise in one place, it can often be an advantage in another and this was certainly the case with the sticky rubber. The supple suspension and soft compound make the Miami Sunset Vitus a tenacious technical climber. The 444mm chain stays help you stay in front of the rear hub and the general climbing position was comfy and roomy for my 177cm height. Sometimes E-Bikes can wander under power when climbing in high power modes, but the E-Sommet was able to hold its path when peddling hard in Boost mode.

Down Hills

The E-Sommet is a serious bit of kit that requires serious terrain to get the most out of it. It is not a long travel trail bike, and feels more like an enduro uplift machine designed to plough the steepest and gnarliest lines.

On flatter, mellower trails (most of lock down) the Vitus needs a lot of work to keep moving, especially with the sticky tyres. You really need to pump and manhandle it and sneak a few cranks in whenever possible. It requires a physical and able rider and whilst you can hold some good speed, it is not a huge amount of fun.

When this bike comes alive is when the gravity gets turned up to 11. On the steeps of South Wales and over the roots of Forest of Dean and Triscombe this bike is a rocket ship, planted like glue, inspiring confidence and reckless lines on every run. E-bikes can be a bit of a handful on steep trails as there is so much weight and momentum to control, but I found the E-Sommet VRS to be surprisingly capable. It rewards an aggressive, over the front riding style and can handle the steepest of lines assuming the catch berm is tough enough for the impact.

The 170mm Fox fork gives you plenty of controlled and predictable grip and plenty of feedback despite being a relatively budget Performance model. With the weight of the E-Bike, it helps the bike to sit into its sag and Fox have obviously got the E-Bike tune spot on as I didn’t have to open it up and play around with any spacers. Again, the tyres play their part here too and the double Assegai combo makes you feel like you are on rails, especially in the wet, and with low 20s pressure in psi.

The general feel of the bike is of a well balanced “plougher,” and I mean that in a good way. I found it ran best with a bit of a slower suspension setup that hugged the ground more. This did make it harder to pump and pop, but I was happy that this suited the bike and the way I ride. I could have ridden a firmer and poppier setup, but don’t think this would be playing to the bike’s strengths. If you have ever read my reviews you will know that I generally dislike the trend for short chain stays and I found the long chain stays on the Sommet to be well balanced with the front centre of the size large bike tested.

The 27.5” wheels do turn in nicely, especially as I have been riding 29” all summer on my other test bikes. You can carve a lovely smooth line as the bike feels so composed and solid under your hands and feet. The low standover, lets you drop a knee in and helps you to get some decent lean angles around tighter turns and between trees.

Reliability

The only issue was the XT rear mech as mentioned above.

Compare

This bike reminds me a bit of the Mondraker Level RR that I reviewed back in September 2019.
Both bikes require serious terrain and commitment to get the most out of them, but the bargain Vitus just feels a bit more versatile and fun than the enormous 29er Mondraker. Down a steep trail, they would be neck a neck, but as soon as it got tight, the Vitus would be gone.

What do we think?

As always the direct sales model comes into play here as you can find similar build kits at this price point on big brand pedal bikes that don’t have a motor. This makes the E-Sommet VRS great value if you don’t mind the agricultural look of the frame. Performance wise it does exactly what it needs to and what it is designed for, just don’t think it will be much fun if your local trails are flat and flowy. This is a serious bike for serious terrain.

If I bought it, I would stick a Maxxis Minion DHRII in Double Down, Maxx Terra on the back for most of the DH grip of the Assegai, and a whole lot less rolling resistance.

We Love:

  • Confidence-inspiring, planted ride
  • Railing steep turns
  • Wet grip

Could do better:

  • Slow on flat trails
  • Dated bolt-on battery aesthetics

You can check out the Vitus E-Sommet on Vitus’ website here.

Read all our bike tests on our Bike Reviews page here.