At A Glance
Vitus' E-Sommet was one of the first E-MTBs that really shone for me, excelling in both performance and price amidst a world of ugly, ebikes that were poorly designed and executed. For 2020 Vitus expand their range of ebikes to include the E-Escarpe, which is based on their impressive 140mm 29er trail bike.Buy Electric Bikes on
Vitus' proven suspension design carries over to the electric version but rather than 29er front and rear we get a 650b plus out back, which in theory means more grip for all that power. Rather than go down the route of internal batteries they stayed with the excellent external batteries from Shimano. This allows for a second battery to be carried easily to have big days out on the bike.
Of the four models of E-Escarpe available, this is the base model with the more advanced models getting additional letters (VR, VRS, VRX), better specs and higher prices. This model gets the E7000 motor which lacks 10Nm of torque from the more powerful E8000 system. It does get the tidy remote on the handlebars and the small display, which are all aspects of the Shimano system that I enjoy.
At a penny under £3200, the spec on the bike was always going to be a challenge, but Vitus has done a great job of pulling it all together. The aforementioned E7000 is good, and Shimano Deore on the drivetrain is a perfect match, especially considering the vulnerability of rear mechs on ebikes and the cost of replacements. Nukeproof do the cockpit, which gives the bike a touch of class.
Tyres are good and grippy from Maxxis and having an Assegai upfront is a bonus and will add confidence. The Marzocchi Bomber Z2 fork is a real smart move here as it offers a budget fork, which performs way beyond its price.
On The Trail
Despite squeezing the E-Escarpe into a very tight budget, there is nothing that feels cheap about the bike or the spec. Nothing that irritates or needs to be changed straight away, which is impressive given how fussy I can be. From the wide Nukeproof cockpit to the decent tyres from Maxxis it's truly ready to hit the trails straight from the box.
Sizing was an issue when I rode the non-electric Escarpe a couple of years back and the tall seat tube still carries through to the electric version. I'm 190cm and was testing the extra-large where I needed to run the seat post slammed. This, coupled with a not so generous 488mm reach makes it a little tall, and a little short for me.
The Shimano E7000 motor helps keep the cost down, but other than dropping 10Nm of torque, it's the same smooth system as the E8000. The remote and display are compact, easy to use and unless you did back to back tests you're not going to notice the power difference. On climbs, the E-Escarpe happily attacks the climbs with plenty of grip from the rear tyre and the chainstays are a good length for keeping the front end down on steep gradients.
The suspension system offers a very plush ride without wallowing in its travel and coupled with the Bomber Z2 fork give a great ride. The Bomber is a budget model, but I can't think of a better fork for this priced bike. Stiffer than a Fox 34, the Bomber does a great job of keeping the bike pointing where you need it to go and sucking up all but the biggest hits.
The 65degree head angle is very helpful when things get steep and the E-Escarpe does a great job of holding its own on tough trails. Enduro trails are not however where the E-Escarpe shines but it performs solidly as a do-it-all trail bike. This is not a downhill bike with built-in uplift, but a trail bike with added power. Playful, manoeuvrable and confident in equal measure, this is an ebike that will breathe life into trail centre flow trails and won't feel like you're wrestling a monster at slower speeds.
Flowing trails, which need a constant top-up of speed, were an absolute joy, and punchy climbs could be demolished with the additional power on tap. Over rollers and jumps the E-Escarpe loves getting playful and was happy to manual and skim over terrain rather than being stuck to the ground. It will even get airborne with little persuasion and felt stable and confident while doing so!
Providing I steered clear of the steepest of tracks, the E-Escarpe never failed to put a smile on my face. If you want to push the limits further then the E-Sommet is probably the way to go but it's great to ride a bike that is clear about its intentions and delivering them with style.
The removable battery system is still my favourite, and having a spare in my pack means I'm out for a good day of riding with no range anxiety! If I'm to find an issue with the spec It would be the brakes, which struggle to get the bike under control when things get fast. The large rotors mitigate for this to an extent, but big riders will find the limits of these brakes. Although the rear tyre survived, an insert for plus tyres is a good idea given their thin sidewalls, and this allows lower pressures to be run confidently.
A great trail bike with added power from the ever-reliable Shimano Steps motor. Bringing the price in at £3200 is no mean feat and Vitus have absolutely nailed it here, offering a bike ready to hit the trails with very little compromise over the more expensive models.
This review was in Issue 62 of IMB.For more information visit Vitus
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.