Vitus Escarpe 29 £1900

Determinedly unglamorous 29er

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

The 26in Vitus Escarpe impressed us when we tested it, and on paper the 29er version has similar strengths.

It’s a straightforward four-bar suspension bike with a good spec, and it stands out from the pack by wielding a full 140mm of travel up front.

Frame and equipment: back to the future

At first glance the Escarpe doesn’t necessarily excite – its lines are almost archaic – although its overwhelmingly straight tubing certainly help it stand out from the swoopy norm. The two-tone paintjob and blocky graphics also have a slight air of 1990 to them, but there’s nothing at all atavistic about the bike underneath. This is a very modern machine.

A slack-angled 29er with a 140mm travel fork is still a pretty adventurous proposition, although Vitus have saved themselves some wheel clearance headaches by keeping rear travel to 120mm.

It also deploys the common 29er tricks of a slightly curved seat tube (with the curve a fair way down so it doesn’t impede saddle dropping too much) and direct-mount front mech. The latter both boosts tyre clearance and allows for shorter chainstays for easy manoeuvrability, although at 460mm the back end isn’t radically short.

The spec is generally well thought out, although the jump between chainrings on the 36/22T double chainset feels sizable. A SRAM Type 2 clutch mech cuts clatter at the back and helps keep the chain on. These things really are worth their weight in gold. 

An Easton EA70 XC wheelset adds a bit of appeal, and although they’re a little too narrow for the widest tyres, the excellent, fast-rolling yet grippy Maxxis Ardents are pretty happy on them.

Ride and handling: gimmick free

The Escarpe may not be the most sophisticated bike, but it’s impossible not to be won over by its sense of purpose and utter lack of pretension. It’s not here to wow you, it’s here to get the job done for a sensible price, and it delivers on that promise.

Inevitably it feels like a pretty big bike when you climb on board, and you don’t have to look far to find full suspension 29ers with shorter back ends and a more agile feel, but all that suspension is well sorted. That counts for a lot. It’s RockShox stuff at both ends, and while the Monarch RT shock doesn’t quite match benchmark Fox offerings, it doesn’t have any major shortcomings. 

Chassis stiffness is adequate and you get a well thought out short stem/wide bar cockpit through which to issue commands. It’s also reasonably light for what it is, although there is a weight penalty compared to the 26in bikes.

The Escarpe doesn’t half like to charge at stuff and have a good chew on it. It’s not the most nimble bike out there, but since it’ll happily just ride through most things it doesn’t really need to be. Grab it by the scruff of the neck and it’s a blast.

  • HIGHS Good spec for the money, rolls over everything.
  • LOWS Only available mail order and it’s slightly unwieldy.
  • BUY IF… You want a confident, high-value 29er.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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