Vitus Escarpe 1 Review
With its fantastic value for money Chain Reactions bargain of the year Vitus Escarpe 2 sold out within 2 weeks of being at its reduced price of £879. That ship has sailed – but CRC still have 16″, 18″ and 20″ sizes available of the better specced Escarpe 1 available.
Ok, its over £300 more expensive but looking at its component list it still seems fantastic value for money. At that price it doesn’t have very many competetors, certainly not any with the spec of the Vitus Escarpe 1.
I have ridden the Escarpe for over 4 weeks now as it has accompanied me on a summer trip. Around 18 days of varied riding and terrain including XC loops both ‘back country’ and trail centers, two all day road / cycle path outings and 5 days in Germanys Winterberg and Willingen bike parks for some reasonably serious DH and freeride action.
The bike has handled everything fantastically. I will break down the types of riding and how the Escarpe handled it.
Road, Commuting, Smooth Trail, Bike Paths and busting a lung: Not really the best way to judge a MTB but nearly everyone of us will have to put in some road miles occasionally. Its never going to be a full suspension mountain bikes defining moment, but the Escarpe wasn’t as much of a drag on road as i initially thought. Both the forks and rear shock seemed to have quite a nice platform whilst pedaling and I didnt experience too much bob whilst seated. Out of the saddle and sprinting through the traffic lights is was a different matter and the forks were clearly too plush and long travel for serious on road use (get your shock pump out and max the pressure out) . The Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres are mid compound wide off road tyres. If you are serious at putting in road and smooth trail miles then maybe look for something faster rolling with less tread.
XC & Long Trail Rides:
As an alpine style enduro bike the Escarpe is fantastic, the grip provided by the rear wheel whilst climbing is great. The SRAM x9 groupset is smooth and having the 10 block on the back comes in handy. The escarpe seems a very light bike – lighter than the figures would suggest – the front end is especially light which makes climbing out of the saddle a pleasure. For XC use i ran the air shocks quite high pressure at around 20% sag.
The Fulcrum wheelset is pretty light and good for both XC and Gravity duties. The SRAM shifters felt great and the ability to shift upto 4 gears in one click is nice. The Geometry of the Escarpe isn’t proper XC fair, but it doesn’t feel out of place scrambling up hill and with the seat post elevated to a scaffolding position the Escarpe has the ability to feel like a short travel XC demon.
The Ecarpe isnt a lycra clad XC speed demon, if you want that buy a hard tail – the escarpe is a long travel alpine gravity bike. That being said, It was a pleasure to ride the escarpe 70km+ on XC loops.
Downhill, Freeride, Jumps and Drops:
With 140mm of travel the frame handles gnarl with ease. The Escarpe feels as if it has more travel than the quoted 140mm and at 30% sag the shock and forks feel plush, smooth and stable. Doing chair lift assisted runs on the Winterberg DH track gave a good impression of what the Escarpe can handle. She is a fast bike – but not a DH bike. Suspension wise as you would expect with 140mm of air sprung travel the bike tends to pop over rocks and levitate over roots rather than roll and absorb trail features like a long travel spring shock DH bike. The Escarpe frame is quite light weight, the tubes not too thick and not overly gusseted. Its safe to say the Vitus isnt going to be too happy doing any Bender style 10 foot drops. Trail drops and jumps though are a different matter – the frame felt quite happy tackling bike park DH trail features and I can seriously say held her own against long travel DH bikes. A different style of riding is needed than that of a LT machine, but the Vitus is very capable of going DH fast.
I have to admit the 140mm of travel came up a little short on the Willingen World Cup DH track and it is quite difficult to dial up the suspension to handle larger jumps and drops to flat whilst feeling smooth and plush on the trail. But on the Willingen freeride track and Winterberg DH track the Escarpe felt right at home. The Schwalbe tires coped pretty well in the German dust but I would probably look to upgrade them to some more specialist rubber as they are an all round tyre and did loose grip in places that a good DH tire wouldn’t. The bike felt very stable at speed and very flickable a nimble in slow sections.
The ideal riding tag for the Escarpe has to be “All Mountain”and is best suited to all day alpine riding.
The Vitus machine is certainly a durable full suspension mountain bike that can lend a hand to any type of riding.
Whilst the Avid Exilir 1 brakes on the Escarpe 2 had a tendancy to fade and overheat on heavy braking and long decents – the Exilir 3 brakes on the Escapre 1 felt absolutley fine and a drastic improvement on the cheaper model.
At this price the Rock Shox Revelation forks are a real treat with great adjustability.
The Monarch rear shock is pretty standard at this price level and does the job well.
The Truvativ finishing kit is a nice bonus, the bars feel great especially.
The Sram X9 mechs and shifters are a very nice addition at this price.
Con’s (there has to be some… right?)
– Paintwork – Vitus have cut some corners here – the paintwork is thin and not very durable. I experienced quite severe cable rub after only a few rides. You will need quite a few frame protection stickers or helicopter tape to keep the Escarpe looking nice.
– The Cable Routing is a mess – make sure you have some spare zip ties handy.
– X-Lite Saddle is complete crap – (if anyone remembers it) even worse than the infamous striped Tioga from back in 1998 – deff not suited to all day in the saddle.
– The holes in the chainstays are not suited to UK weather. Would need filling or covering in the winter. Get some fuel tank foam in there if you can source it – otherwise some heli tape or any old stickers over the holes
– Rock Shox manuals?, what manuals?. Rock Shox and Vitus seem to think that its ok to send out expensive products without any explanation how to tune or set them up. Bit of a joke really – and pretty standard in the cycling industry. Spend £1200 on a full suspension mountain bike and dont get any explanation of how to correctly set up the bicycles suspension. The monarch rear shock has something called a Gate Valve, its gold, looks cool and has 10 clicks. Unfortunately there is no explanation what the hell it does. Good work Rock Shox!!
– No Shock pump is supplied with this bike. So unless by some miracle you are the exact weight suited to whatever pressure the CRC techs ship the bikes shocks with – you will need a shock pump. No your normal pump wont work very well – get a proper shock pump.
The Topeak DXG mini shock pump is good value at £32, works great with the Monarch and Revelations and fits into a camelback fine for on the trail adjustment.
– No Pedals come with the bike – remember to pick some up on your way to the checkout.
If your looking for a budget platform pedal then look no further than the great value Welgo v8 copy – at only £12 it cant be bettered for price.
Do the positives outweigh the cons – YES definitely.
This is an absolutely fantastic bike – the escarpe rides like a much more expensive model, rides a lot better than some big name 140mm bikes, is amazing value for money and looks great!
The Escarpe 2 was crazy cheap at £879 and the Escarpe 1 is over £300 more expensive – but the Forks, Groupset, Brakes and Wheelset are much improved on this more expensive model. At its RRP price of £1749 its good value for money at the current reduced price of £1199 its fantastic value.
If your not too fussy about the little things like paintwork and cable routing – buying this bike is really a no brainer.
All in all a highly recommended, proper all mountain bike. Selling out fast, as mentioned before, the Escarpe 2 sold out in all sizes within a few weeks – CRC also have limited stock of the Escarpe 1 so be quick if your interested.
If your still in doubt check out some more owner reviews here….