Originally a road bike builder in 1970s France, Vitus was bought by Belfast-based online bike shop Chain Reaction Cycles in 2011. It’s the sole distributor of Vitus bikes.
Frame and equipment: mid-sized model
You expect a carbon hardtail with a big, press-fit BB30 bottom bracket and a 142x12mm DT Swiss rear axle to be a couple of things – stiff and light – and the Vitus is both. You might also expect 29in wheels, but while the Rapide is available as a 29er for the same price, we wanted to see if the smaller wheels work.
The Rapide is 11.02kg (24.3lb) without pedals, and while it’s well specced it’s not using anything crazy-light. Derailleurs and shifters are Shimano XT, while the alloy 2x10 crankset is an FSA Afterburner. The brakes are SLX on 180mm rotors, and the finishing kit is alloy. The 720mm flat bars, 90mm stem and layback seatpost are all Vitus’ own.
The head angle on the Rapide is 69.5 degrees
The 100mm RockShox Reba RL fork is smooth and supportive, and the tapered alloy steerer and 15mm axle keeps it tracking true for its weight. The lack of proper indexing on the rebound adjuster is a niggle though.
Easton’s EA70 XLs are stiff and light, and with a 20mm internal rim width they hold the (oddly draggy, at low pressure) 2.2in Continental X-Kings securely. Head angle is a nippy 69.5-degrees, top tube (16mm) on our Large test machine is 618mm and, even equipped with a 90mm, stem the Vitus has an enthusiastic feel.
Shimano XT takes care of shifting duties
Sizing could be an issue for taller riders, as this not-particularly long Large is the biggest available. If you’re over 6ft you’ll be stuck with that 90mm stem – which is a shame as a 70mm would tighten up the steering – and if you’re much taller you’ll be cramped. Things seem better at the other end of the three-size scale: the Small has a 562mm top tube and a short 380mm seat tube.
The frame is warrantied for five years, the parts for two via Chain Reaction.
Ride and handling: fast and fun cross-country ride
The Rapide is stiff but not brutal, and it manages that carbon hardtail trick of feeling quite muted and smooth against small vibrations before surprising you with its iron bar-like lack of give under bigger impacts or hard pedalling.
There’s a subtle give at the edges of every impact, though in the end the seatstays don’t move much more than the rocks do. Drive is consequently very direct, and on smooth surfaces it’s super-efficient.
The Rapide's Reba fork is smooth and well controlled, and can be leaned on pretty hard
Better still, it’s not instantly out of its comfort zone once things get steeper and rougher as you come back down, either, though the non-Black Chili X-Kings and bolted seat collar do hold it back.
The Rapide is an assured, high-value cross-country ride that eschews the old 'steep, short and tall' shapes of road-bike inspired XC frames, and it's all the faster – and more fun – for it.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.