Pete has ridden every incarnation of the Vitus Escarpe 29 and has just received the revised 2021 CRS model to find out how it rides with all the changes.
With a carbon front triangle, revised suspension, lower standover, shorter seat posts with more dropper insertion helps the Vitus Escarpe come of age.
Previous models have promised a lot but been hampered by a few key issues, these should all be ironed out with the 2021 model. Pete has been braving the Scottish autumn elements to find out what the changes mean on the trail.
The new Escarpe comes with a T700 carbon front triangle and a 6061 alloy rear, and in the CRS guise in a rather fetching candy apple red hue. Cable routing throughout is internal to keep things neat and tidy, with the downtube frame protector now only serving to see off errant trail debris on the new frame. Gone too is the live lower shock mount.
Suspension is handled by a Rockshox Pike Select in 150mm flavour and a Deluxe Select + air unit out back.
Drive train is handled exclusively by Shimano’s excellent SLX 12-speed groupset, with an SLX 4-pot brake on the front and a 2-pot number out back, with a 200mm front rotor and a 180mm rear.
DT Swiss M1900 alloy wheels come shod tubeless with Maxxis MaxxTerra 3C EXO+ tyres, namely a 2.5″ Assegai on the front and a 2.4″ Dissector on the back.
Cockpit is a Nukeproof Neutron/Horizon combo, with a WTB Volt saddle sitting atop a Brand X Ascend 150mm dropper.
You get a 451mm reach and a 410mm seat tube on the 29″ Escarpe in size Medium. Head angle is one degree steeper than the Sommet at 65 degrees with a suitably steep 77 degree seat tube angle, again, size specific. Chainstays are fixed at 435mm.
The shifted main pivot means that I can now sling myself over the size Medium as I’d always wanted to on the Escarpe. With the dropper slammed, it’s the perfect height for me at 5′ 4″.
With the Rockshox dampers being at the lower end of the spectrum, setup was pretty straightforward, especially so with the handy sag markers on the stanchions. Sag set to 30%, speed the rebound up, let a bit of wind out of the tyres (I’m 9 stone), get the lever throw on the brakes where I like them and away we go.
Out the back of the house, the climb to the trails climbs a good 260m vertical, mercifully, all on fire road. What became immediately apparent is that the changes to the rear suspension had made the Escarpe a far more efficient climbing machine. That combined with a lower weight courtesy of the carbon front end, climbing is far easier on the new machine. There’s barely any noticeable wallow from the rear shock, something that was fairly prevalent in the outgoing design.
With less energy expended on the way up, you’ve more gas to give on the way back down. I’ll start by saying it’s been wet of late. Very wet. Three inches in 36 hours wet. Speeds, therefore, were likely lower than usual but the first thing I noticed was that the insanely supple, bump-munching rear that made the old Escarpe so good on the descents, is no more.
It’s not all bad though, don’t fret. While you don’t get the same terrain-swallowing 140mm you used to, the front wheel will now come off the ground at a moment’s notice, and it seems easier to match the feel of the fork and shock. Before, you’d had a ludicrously plush rear with a fork that just didn’t seem to want to be as good.
The cheaper dampers do lack the refinement of their more expensive brethren, so if you’re a tweaker, you may want to splash the cash on the VRX to get the Fox Factory units. As speeds rise though, the Pike and Deluxe dampers might start to sing a little louder.
I’m yet to be convinced by a Dissector as an option for off-piste riding but if you ride a lot of trail centres or rock, it’ll speed you along nicely. If you ride anything remotely slick though, you may wish to invest in something slightly grippier.
All that said, the Escarpe feels right the moment you swing a leg over it. It’s a faster machine overall now, whereas the outgoing design begrudgingly got to the top of the hill, only to fly down it. The new Escarpe feels fast everywhere.
Check out the full 2021 Vitus Escarpe range review here.
Read Pete’s review of the outgoing Vitus Escarpe 29 VRX here.
2021 Vitus Escarpe 29 VRS Review
It’s been a soggy and wintery four months with the 2021 Vitus Escarpe 29 CRS but for the most part, it’s been a reliable performer for daily laps without really putting a foot wrong. The candy red direct sales machine has really set the bar for value when it comes to all-mountain machines in that time.
With the days shortening and the mud not likely to be dry for several months yet, the Dissector had to go in favour of something with a little more bite, in this case, a Schwalbe Magic Mary, that added considerable grip in all situations, at the expense of some rolling resistance. For the duration of our winter tyre grouptest I opted to swap the Assegai out for a Continental Mud King, again, exchanging some rolling speed for comical levels of grip in all situations.
There were a few issues to contend with before things really got going though, that highlighted why direct sales don’t always work. Both SLX brakes appeared to have wandering bite points, and still do. Uneven pad wear and some fairly unpleasant reverb coming off the front rotor chief amongst the issues. Something any good bike shop would pick up before the bike left the building. Harder to notice but still problematic is a slightly inverted air seal head seal which is causing the fork to not extend to full travel when unweighted.
Both of these would be something I’d simply get used to but might cost a fair penny to rectify in your local bike shop, or the time take to deal with under warranty.
With rear wheel grip sorted and the issue above in hand, if not sorted, the Escarpe became the bike I would go to for a daily lap of the hill. A quick 90 minute blast to get the legs moving occurred most days from November onwards, and as a result, the bike has racked up some impressive miles despite never leaving my postcode. It’s done a couple of big hills when lockdowns allowed but nothing like a ‘normal’ year.
The Vitus started well and continued in this vein, being easy to tell where to go and responding well to pretty much every trail situation. For most people, the base tunes for the two Rockshox units will likely be spot on. Getting that extra adjustability though means either going up a model and the hefty increase in price, or replacing the internals of the dampers fitted.
It’s only four months in but as the speed begins to rise that the lack of adjustment on the dampers has started to become more apparent. Damper upgrades are available for the Pikes, coming in at £235 RRP for the Charger2 RCT3 upgrade kit and whatever fitting would cost, but it would be an outright replacement of the rear shock to get more adjustability. Most people will be fine with the stock dampers, but anyone who knows what they’re looking for may want to upgrade for more knobs.
I should definitely point out that at this stage, that the Vitus has been exemplary in almost all situations. The Shimano drive train has put up with some serious winter crud, even when working below par, the SLX anchors have been good enough, the dropper remains flawless although the lever has gone a little stiff. The entry level DT Swiss wheels are still tight and true, which is far from surprising.
What do we think?
For the money, you really would be hard pushed to find a better performing 140mm bike. With some fancier dampers, either in the CRX guise or upgraded internals, this bike would be a veritable rocketsled. Even without them, the bike can be slung hard up or down hills and it will keep asking for more.
A fast, great value machine
No nonsense, solid spec
Could do better:
Not an awful lot
Check out the full 2021 Vitus Escarpe range review here.