Viper's Concept is a European brand being brought into the UK for the first time by MTB Distribution. The Viper range is diverse and takes in 4X and jump bikes as well as fast cross-country race machines of a carbon persuasion. This is Viper's Scandium-framed hardtail, cunningly called the Scandium and taken from their ProLine range of bikes. It comes in a variety of spec options and we tested the Shimano Deore version.
Scandium is a rare metal that's alloyed with others to make tubing that's light yet strong. Viper's Concept have produced a very stiff and responsive frameset. The tube thickness is minimal and the bike could easily be built into a sub-24lb race machine. There's nothing overtly showy in its design. The semi-integrated headset and dual top and down tube gussets - together with a biovalised down tube, wishbone seatstays with a reinforcement plate and tidy S-bend chainstays - speak volumes for the bike's understated persona. It's taut and direct, with a stretched 23.5in effective top tube, a traditional yet proven 71-degree head angle and 73-degree seat angle, tight 16.7in chainstays and a low 12.5in bottom bracket height. They all conspire to give a surefooted and agile character.
The Deore specced rig costs £999, but for a further £1,000 there's a new XTR option with a RockShox Reba SL Pop-Loc fork, which turns the bike into a true cross-country speedster. As it is, the Deore kit, plus the UK-friendly oversized FSA 280 26in riser bar, ensures a respectable trail weight of 12.1kg (26.7lb) for our 20in test model, without pedals. Although Deore kit can handle everything admirably, it simply doesn't do the frame justice, which is why it's dragged the bike's score down.
At this spec level, the bike is also available with the option of either an 80mm (3.1in) travel Manitou Sliver fork with remote lockout or a 100mm (4in) RockShox Tora fork, both for the same price. We plumped for the lighter Manitou option and were not disappointed. Its linear stroke might not cope with harsh line choices, but with the sorted geometry of the Scandium it makes for a confidence-inspiring combination nonetheless.
The Maxxis Advantage 2.1in tyres hook up reasonably well, but the frame's tyre clearance prohibits anything wider, especially in sticky mud. That said, the Scandium should appeal to fast cross-country riders who probably wouldn't employ wider rubber anyway.
The high quality lightweight frame and sorted geometry with its low centre of gravity result in a planted and confident ride, despite the occasional pedal strike. The short chainstays and Scandium mainframe produce direct power delivery, offset somewhat by a harsh ride. But what the frame loses in compliance it more than makes up for in its mountain goat attitude to climbing and its surefooted, rapid descending ability. It may not be the most comfortable of hardtails, but it's an elegant speed freak and would make a fine frame to upgrade.