First Look Review : Pete’s Vitus Escarpe 29 CRX.

The Vitus Escarpe has always fared well in our eyes and for 2022, the venerable trail bike platform gets a carbon fibre rear end to match the front.

The fifth Vitus Escarpe to come Pete’s way, the 2022 Escarpe 29 CRX brings a jump in spec compared to his outgoing test machine and an all-new carbon fibre rear end.

Can the fancier dampers help wring extra performance out of the 140mm platform?

Photos by Pete Scullion.

Key features:

  • Fox 36 Factory 150mm fork
  • Fox DPS Factory shock
  • Shimano XT 12-speed drive
  • Shimano XT brakes (4-pot front, 2-pot rear)
  • Nukeproof Horizon wheels
  • Brand X Ascend dropper
  • £3,999.99 RRP
  • VitusBikes.com

The 2021 Vitus Escarpe that I had on test last year proved that with a sorted chassis and homework done properly on getting damper tune right regardless of the complexity of the dampers could produce a seriously hard to beat package.

Vitus have stuck with what they know, only giving the chainstays and seatstays an upgrade, now carbon fibre instead of the aluminium offered on the outgoing model. For 2022, Vitus have sent the one from the top spec Escarpe rather than the base model and the weight drop is noticeable from the off. That’s not to say the 2021 vessel was weighty though.

Fox Factory 36 and DPS2 shocks handle the damping duties, with a full XT 12-speed drive train managing the power and shifting. An XT 4-pot deals with the front wheel and a 2-pot, the rear. Not surprisingly, the rest of the kit is Nukeproof-heavy. Horizon wheels are shod with Maxxis EXO+ Assegai and Dissector front and rear, Horizon cockpit with a 170mm Brand-X dropper and Nukeproof saddle.

Geometry

With the frames staying the same, and me sticking with a size Medium, it’s no real surprise that the geometry hasn’t changed either. Reach on the Medium is 451mm mated to a 410mm seat tube. Head angle is 65 degrees with a seat tube angle of 77. Chainstays 440mm long with a wheelbase of 1218mm.

Opening Moves

With shock sag and rebound set, the forks offering slightly more adjustment, it didn’t take long before the bike was out and going faster than expected. The low weight and fast-rolling Dissector meant the bike was humming along the fireroads towards the first descent with an ease that felt a bit like cheating.

On the opening descents, the Escarpe felt very much similar to the outgoing model, meaning I could concentrate on spooling the turbos. While the bike would happily crack along at a good pace on almost any trail, I felt the Fox dampers a little lacking in feel at the low speed compression end. On slower, techier trails, the bike feels slightly overdamped, but when things get fast and rough, the bike comes to life.

While speeding up the rebound on the shock helped to make the rear end come alive, the forks felt vague despite my best efforts, so getting the two to sing from the same hymn sheet wasn’t so easy. After a winter of cruising about the woods, maybe getting too content with cantering, it was time to assume the attack position once again and see what the Escarpe could do.

Thankfully, everything else was running a treat. While Shimano’s brakes have been guilty of wandering bite points in the past, the XT anchors here have been faultless regardless of the near-constant deluge we’ve experienced in 2022. The XT drivetrain once again sets the benchmark for smooth, crisp shifting in all weathers too.

While I’m yet to be convinced by the Dissector, it’s fast rolling is undeniable. On the downs it seems to lack braking grip and tends to want to send the bike in a straight line when locked up. Traction on my home turf is at a premium however, and I’d imagine if you don’t ride grease 365 days a year, then it will serve you well. The Assegai has been faultless, doing a lot of heavy lifting in lieu of the lack of traction from the fork. Nukeproof’s Horizon wheels sound like a swarm of angry bees behind your heel, have stayed stiff and true without being harsh.

As it stands, the Escarpe feels like a rocket ship, keen to fly whenever I swing a leg over it. Vitus have, once again, delivered a serious quantity of bike for the money. At £500 more than the Stumpjumper EVO I also have on test, you get full carbon frame over alloy, full XT instead of NX/GX and full Fox Factory dampers instead of Rhythm and Performance. If I can get the dampers singing together then it might be another no-brainer flying machine.

You can check out the Vitus Escarpe 29 CRX on Vitus Bikes’ website here.

Keep your eyes peeled for a full review coming soon.