Now owned by mail order megastore Chain Reaction Cycles, Vitus offer a compact range of mountain bikes targeted at enthusiast riders but priced to take the fight straight to the big names. The Zircon One is the higher priced of two long-forked hardtails designed for all-round trail use.
Ride & handling: Relaxed, easygoing character for day-long trail fun
Relaxed angles and a tall head tube with wide bar hint at an unhurried approach to covering the ground, and that’s exactly what you get with the Vitus. Sitting relatively high and upright, the broad stance from those Truvativ bars builds plenty of confidence for muscling through fast, choppy sections of trail.
The fork’s a willing accomplice in all this, in spite of our test sample’s slightly constipated performance, although the steering is noticeably less precise than it would be with a 15mm through-axle up front in place of the quick-release.
The upright ride position may be good for admiring the view, but it’s on the verge of being a little too high for our liking. On descents the relatively simple build of the Zircon’s rear triangle – straight stays with little in the way of ‘give’ – makes for a talkative rear end that keeps up a constant barrage of information about exactly what the rear wheel’s tracking over.
To compensate for this harshness we’d normally shift forward over the fork to make it earn its keep, but the high front means this weight shift has to be slightly more pronounced.
This is more of a problem on steep climbs, on which the Vitus’s front wheel has a tendency to unweight and wander around on its own. In fairness, the choice of relatively high 2x10 gearing means you’re likely to run out of gears and be pushing up before this becomes an insoluble problem, but a slightly shorter head tube would still be preferable.
High front aside, the Zircon’s a decent bet for all-round trail duties, though – in spite of its competitive price and spec – it never really shines. If Vitus were to sort out our niggles about the harsh rear end and the high front end – granted, that’s quite a big ask – it’d be a winner. As it stands, it’s simply a decent option that’s worth a second look.
Frame & equipment: Decent spec and trail-focused geometry
It’s become de rigueur for down tubes to curve away from the head tube junction to help distribute stress away from this vulnerable area. The Zircon One doesn’t buck this trend, but takes the very unusual step of adding an extra open-ended gusset underneath in belt-and-braces fashion. At least you know it’s going to be strong.
The front triangle gets the full hydroforming treatment with faux swage lines in both main tubes and a tapered head tube acting as a torsionally stiff backbone. The rear triangle is far more conventional in comparison – no swoopy stays or bridgeless shenanigans here.
As a result, mud room is distinctly average with the supplied 2.25in width tyres – but a set of rack mounts is a nice touch if you’re looking for a bike that will double up as a tourer or commuting hack. Welds are chunky and functional rather than beautiful, but the cable routing is neat and the overall finish of the Zircon is fine.
Your Vitus will come with a goody bag containing a bottle with sachets of energy drink and a workshop-quality pedal spanner – small but welcome touches. Finishing kit by Truvativ – bar, stem, grips plus seatpost – is all well designed and made, and British company X-Lite provide the saddle.
SRAM’s mid-range X7 component group with Avid Elixir 3 disc brakes is a familiar sight by now, but on the Zircon One it’s in the slightly less common 2x10 format. You lose a little in low range gearing, but gain simplified shifting and fewer duplicated ratios. A 180mm diameter brake rotor in place of the supplied 160mm unit would be a better bet for long, fast descents though.
Holding up the front end and keeping the front wheel tracking where you point it is a RockShox Recon fork of the 120mm (4.7in), coil-sprung variety. This is a decent entry-level fork, even if Vitus couldn’t find room in the budget for the through-axle version to improve steering accuracy.
There was a problem with our test sample, unfortunately, which meant we only ever managed to coax 100mm (3.9in) of the available travel from it despite some spirited riding. We’ve ridden plenty of coil Recons with no problems though, so we assume this is a one-off.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.