The 140mm-travel (5.5in) Escarpe bikes are the longer-travel half of two new full-suspension platforms Vitus are adding to their established high-value hardtail range for 2012.
Ride & handling: Well balanced and easily ridable
The Escarpe 1's 700mm-wide handlebar and 90mm stem are a fair reﬂection on the overall feel of the bike. It comes across as well balanced and easily ridable, rather than something radical. The steering is slack enough not to shrink your nuts as soon as things get steep or the fork starts getting a real workout, but not so laidback that it ﬂops and ﬂounders on steep climbs or feels like you’re chasing a wheelbarrow around on ﬂat singletrack.
Through-axles at either end underline the calmly obedient character with useful accuracy. There’s enough meat in the wheels and tyres to keep speed and survival expectations high on technical rocky trails. The bar ﬁts between trees and it's far enough away to let you breathe on longer climbs.
The suspension is similarly easy and effective. Vitus have picked a shock tune that really ﬂatters the RockShox Monarch RT shock and lets the rear wheel track and grip smoothly without demanding any particular pedal action to compensate. The Revelation fork beneﬁts from accurate setup. Once that’s fettled it's controlled enough to handle anything that doesn't require body armour.
Frame & equipment: Plenty of bang for your buck
The hydroformed frame starts at the tapered head and ends with a screw-through 12mm axle with replaceable bolt-in dropouts. The dropped top tube has a seat tube reinforcing strut, while the curved down tube gives room for the vertically mounted shock. The four-bar suspension system gets a middle-ring level main pivot and dropped chainstay pivots. The bottom bracket is conventional while the front mech is direct mount.
Getting a bike in a box – however well it’s set up before it reaches you – means you’re missing out on setup and servicing support from your local bike shop. But direct sell from Chain Reaction Cycles does mean you’re getting a lot for your loot, for example, a 15mm-axled tapered-top Revelation fork up front rather than the more common Sektor. Most hardtails would be proud to have SRAM X9 shift kit wound up with a SRAM double and stopped with Avid Elixir brakes at this price too.
Full-length cables help keep it running okay through bad weather, although it’s still not as smooth as Shimano in the long term. Fulcrum’s Red Power XL wheels are a quality wheel-plumping choice and the Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres are decent all-round rubber for most situations. The 700mm bar is slightly narrow for really letting rip, but okay for less lairy riding. If you’re on a more limited budget, the £1,299.99 Escarpe 2 with RockShox Sektor fork but otherwise similar componentry looks outstanding value.