Vitus is now selling more complete bikes through Irish retail giant Chain Reaction Cycles than any other brand. After a recent visit from the guys behind the brand we took a closer look at what Vitus has to offer for 2014.
As far as Vitus is concerned, the 26in wheel is very nearly dead. You'll find just one model in the Vitus 2014 line-up with 26in hoops: the Nucleus 260, a £425 hardtail. Its other 26in models have been revised to 650b spec.
Here at BikeRadar, we've always been a fan of the Escarpe. Since its introduction back in 2012 the Escarpe trail bike has offered solid value that even the biggest of manufacturers can struggle to match. The 2014 range will comprise three 650b models as well as the slightly shorter travel (120mm) 29in wheeled version.
The frame still looks very familiar, with its 140mm four-bar rear end – its geometry has been revised to accomodate the larger wheel size though. There are now ISCG tabs, and every Escarpe frame is now compatible with the Reverb Stealth. Escarpe models stick to a 2x10 drivetrain but for 2014, the transmission (with the exception of an FSA chainset) and braking components are sourced from Shimano instead of SRAM .
The cheapest way to get your leg over an Escarpe is the £1,349 275 model. The cost is kept low by using mostly Deore components and Suntour air suspension at each end. For £1,499.99 there's the Escarpe 275 VR, similar to the entry-level bike but with mostly SLX components and RockShox suspension. The range topper is the Escarpe VRS. For £1,849.99 there's mostly XT componentry, an upgrade to a RockShox Sektor Gold fork and an Easton EA70 XL wheelset. So well under two grand will get you a tough 13.6kg (30lb) trail bike.
The bigger-wheeled Escarpe 290 is a £1,599.99 trail bike with 120mm travel at the rear and 140mm up front. It benefits from a similar component package to the other bikes and tips the scales at a claimed 14.4kg (31.8lb). We've been running a 2013 Vitus Gravir 29er for nearly a year now (expect a long-term review very soon) and know just how good these bikes can be.
The VRS badging is shared with certain fast Skoda vehicles, and the Escarpe can be likened to one of these vehicles in many ways.. Like a fast Skoda, it's the thinking man's choice, a purchase you make with your head rather than your heart.
The Rapide is Vitus' cross-country/marathon carbon hardtail, and like the Escarpe, it's now available with either 650b or 29in wheels. A RockShox Reba RL fork provides 100mm of travel in a chassis that uses a 15mm axle and tapered steerer to maximise steering efficiency without a large weight penalty.
The Rapide has mostly Shimano XT componentry and uses a 2x10 transmission with a Shadow Plus rear mech to keep the drivetrain taut. The claimed weight is 11.1kg (24.5lb) for both versions. Last year's Rapide 29er was also the weapon of choice for motorcycle racer and general legend Guy Martin!
The Nucleus is Vitus' entry-level hardtail and it's available in all three wheel sizes. It looks set to offer good value regardless of its hoop size.
The cheapest choice is the 26in wheeled Nuceleus 260 – for £424.99 it packs Suntour's XCM coil-sprung 120mm fork, a 24-speed Shimano/Suntour drivetrain and Tektro mechanical disc brakes. Own-brand wheels and finishing kit complete the package, which we think is ideal for a beginner rider to upgrade.
For £599.99 there's the Nucleus 275. It has 650b wheels along with a nine-speed cassette and an upgrade to Tektro hydraulic discs. The Nucleus 290 is the 29er version Nucleus and costs £499.99. The 29er has 27 gears and hydraulic discs rather than mechanical. Because of its larger wheels, Vitus opted for a 100mm travel fork and a flat handlebar.
The 29er is the heaviest Nucleus, with a claimed weight of 13.9kg (30.64lb), closely followed by the 26in bike, which weighs a claimed 13.8kg (30.5lb). The 650b (27.5in) model is the lightest, at a claimed 13.6kg (30lbs), which is probably down to it having lighter Continental X-King tyres, rather than the WTB Bronson models found on the other models.