Until you get to 140 millimeters of wheel travel, setting up your shock and fork is one dimensional - it's either firm with little bottoming, or smooth with acceptable bottoming. Any action you take on one extreme negates most benefits of the other. At and above 140, however, you can work the suspension's mid-stroke with some degree of success. Get the mid-stroke right and the bike sets into the turns evenly and keeps the suspension at the correct ride height to maximize its useful travel. That miracle, however usually involves shuffling air-volume spacers - or high-speed damping adjustments that the Deluxe RT shock lacks
I say this because the Vitus, by design or otherwise, naturally remains stable in the sweet spot of its suspension travel. Initially, with the shock sag point at 30 percent the Vitus felt like it was asleep at the wheel. A little more pressure in the shock, though, and the bike woke right up. With the shock sagged at 25-percent (maybe a smidgen less) and the fork at 20 percent, with one click in on its compression dial, the Escarpe melted into the landscape. It was so easy to ride that it became my go-to bike for the second half of the summer season.Climbing and acceleration:
Starting with its weight: 32 pounds is not shameful, but the Escarpe is a heavy trail bike. That said, the feel at the pedals is as efficient as 32-pound bikes get - to the extent that long climbs were much better than survivable. It gets out of corners pretty quickly too. With anti-squat numbers near 135 percent, I'd say it has enough of the good stuff built into the kinematics to keep most riders eager when the time comes to turn on the hurt. Will you need the shock's climb switch? I doubt it. The upright position is so close to lockout that it's only useful on smooth surfaces and the Escarpe pedals well enough wide open that I was inclined to leave it there full time.What it does best:
Hop aboard this bike and you're going to be searching for the perfect corner. That ride-height stability keeps its chassis composed, so I could brake late and tuck into surprise turns. That stability, along with the combination of wide Maxxis tires and 29-inch wheels, help maintain grip and composure over all kinds of terrain. I anticipated that some of the Escarpe's turning magic came from a short-offset fork, but the lowers were marked 51mm - standard 29er fare. No matter, the steering feels balanced and light, and the chassis seems like it sets up for the corners on its own. Push it too hard and the tail end drifts until your speed comes back in check. Quite fun.Technical riding:
My Escarpment 29 felt invincible at trail speeds, and I learned to trust it and drop down mystery lines that defied its not-so-slack head tube angle. But, the superman effect faded as speeds and features reach a defined magnitude. Landing to flat will exhaust the rear suspension travel in a hurry and, as burly as the rear suspension seems to the eye, I could sense it flexing while I caromed through rocks and root balls. Negatives? To some riders, yes, but the chassis still feels trustworthy when push comes to shove, so I treated those moments as yellow lights - reminders that my speedster trail bike (or its pilot) had reached the redline.Suspension action:
Some of the composed feel of this bike at speed could be attributed to its axle path. Technical climbing also seemed to be easier with the Vitus's rear suspension. Back to back rides proved that the rear wheel of the Escarpe got up and over janky rocks and roots better than most bikes. The Vitus carried more momentum when pedaling through chop or picking my way through rock gardens with no defined lines. I would have insisted that chain growth - the negative aspect of its the rearward axle path - would have erased the improved roll-over of the suspension kinematics, but that did not seem to be the case. I would speculate that the resistance at the pedals that chain growth creates develops more smoothly with this suspension and thus is less apparent under power.