Vitus Escarpe 290 VR review£1,190.00

Big wheeled, full-sprung slayer that’s a blast as well as a bargain

BikeRadar score4.5/5

If there was one question we repeatedly got asked about the big wheeled Vitus it was “How much did you say that was?”, generally asked between ragged breaths by riders who’d just been left floundering in its wake.

To be fair, the low price is due to an ongoing price reduction from the original £1,700 / $2,703 / AU$3,740, only made possible because the bike is shipped direct to your door after a full setup check at the Chain Reaction Cycles megastore in Ireland. It’s hardly a level playing field for conventional dealers, but ultimately what value you put on help from your local shop is your decision not ours.

What’s undeniable is that you’re getting an incredible amount for your money. The most impressive part is the inclusion of a KS E-Ten external cable dropper post as standard. That means there are no immediate upgrades to be made to create a totally trail ready bike and also makes it clear that this is primarily a big hitting fun bike.

The monarch rl-augmented suspension starts plush but retains its poise when cornering:
The monarch rl-augmented suspension starts plush but retains its poise when cornering:

The Monarch RL-augmented suspension starts plush but retains its poise when cornering

Manitou forks are a rare sight these days and while the Minute Expert is long in the tooth, it’s impressively supple, adjustable and well proven. A Hexlock 15mm axle keeps tracking accuracy bearable once you’ve got the hang of the awkward twist lock closure.

A proper trail tank

The Monarch RL rear shock floats between a short linkage and the rear swingarm to create an initially falling then rising shock rate for a plush start but planted cornering poise. It also amplifies the feeling of the 135mm of rear wheel travel to match the smooth 140mm stroke up front.

The naturally smooth-rolling, speed-sustaining effect of the large volume 29ertyres, on reasonably wide tubeless-ready rims, maximises 29er control and momentum. All in all you’ve got a proper trail tank that mows through long stretches of serious sized debris without flinching.

The escarpe needs little invitation to cane its way downhill:
The escarpe needs little invitation to cane its way downhill:

The Escarpe needs little invitation to cane its way downhill

Okay, the skinny fork legs do definitely flex when driven hard. But there’s enough control in the 740mm bar, 60mm stem and big Vigilante front tyre on broad WTB rims to hold the front wheel onto your chosen line.

Vitus has been wise enough to fit 180mm rotors for when you do want to stop the runaway train effect too.

You definitely need serious muscle to get the big wheels and considerable 14.7kg bulk of the Vitus going in the first place, but it takes a lot to spill speed pedalling out of rhythm. Climbing traction is excellent, enabling it to carry momentum on roller coaster trails. It even finished XC style rides with surprisingly good speed.

Best mountain bikes under £1,500 / $2,300

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

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