At A Glance
While many brands are on their second or third versions of an electric bike, Vitus have rolled in casually with their E-Sommet, sensibly waiting for the dust to settle in the ebike world before launching theirs. They've obviously learnt plenty from the ebike frenzy as the E-Sommet looks to be a very well thought out ebike ready to do proper mountain bike business.Buy Electric Bikes on
Based on their successful Sommet enduro bike, the 'E' version gets a Shimano Steps E8000 system strapped on and it's ready to go. The only major change in geometry from the Sommet is just shy of 10mm on the chainstay at 444mm and a couple of mm difference on the reach. The head angle remains at 65.5, a 75-degree seat angle and on the large, the reach is 472 which is on the longer end of the spectrum.
The Shimano E8000 system is minimal, and compact, allowing for a small Q factor and easily swapped batteries which are a good size for carrying in a pack. The E-Sommet features a big 170mm Lyric RC up front and a Super Deluxe RC3 out back delivering 160mm of travel. The spec is sensible and not overly showy, with reliable DT Swiss M1900 rims with 30mm width paired up with Maxxis Wide Trail tyres.
Shimano deals with the drivetrain in a traditional fashion with no Di2 in sight and is paired up to SRAMs Guide RE brakes, which use a Guide lever with a Code Caliper. It's a well thought out affair, with parts chosen to withstand the rigours of ebike life. Nukeproof components finish off the package with bars, stem and seat while the dropper post is the basic but effective Brand X Ascend.
On The Trail
Most strikingly, the E-Sommet feels just like a normal enduro bike. There has been no messing with geometry to make it more electric, simply a proven enduro bike with added power. Initial feel and fit were good, with a roomy front end and relatively steep seat tube I felt centred and balanced. The seat tubes are a bit too long in my opinion and would be better to have them shorter and leave the option for long dropper posts.
The cockpit is a bit busy, trying to combine Shimanos power shifter with a dropper is no mean feat, but some funky angles just about allow it. With Shimano just announcing details of their new space-saving shifter, this will soon be a non-issue, hopefully.
Power through the Shimano system is always predictable and smooth, never too much of a surge. Tapping out the miles up easy climbs is comfortable even when pushing hard towards the limit it's a comfortable pedalling position to put some power down. The limit is a little clunky and rather than a fade of power, it's a slightly jarring end to the assistance and makes hovering at top speed awkward.
The well-chosen Wide Trail Minions give tonnes of traction on technical climbing and give somewhere for all the power to go. With a wide bar and short stem, it's easy to hold the line you want on tough rocky climbs and the seat angle keeps you relatively forward on the bike and the front end down. When things do get really steep the front did tend to wander, at which point a hovering, out of the saddle position was required to keep things going.
Power for steep climbs is there, but not quite as raw as a Bosch motor, which has the edge on blasting up silly gradients. If you really want to make climbing the priority for an e-bike, then longer chainstays are the way to go, and shorter cranks which were taking a fair bit of abuse on the E-Sommet.
On flatter trails, the benefits of a motor can be minimal, as top (assisted) speed can be gained pretty easily and you're left with a hefty bike to manoeuvre down the trail. With the long travel, enduro feel of the Sommet, it really calls for some intense trails, in terms of either gradient or speed. Gently spinning round a trail centre at 20kph will not show the bike at it's most capable.
Once into terrain that befits a 170mm forked bike, the E-Sommet shows just what ebikes are capable of. As the bike is essentially an enduro bike with added weight, it holds a line like nothing else, tracking down rough terrain like it's on rails. Boulders and rocks that would usually deflect a wheel simply don't register, and a calmer, more predictable ride is the result. Even slow speed roll-ins to steep terrain feel planted and secure. It's safe to say that the stretched geometry and long travel suspension really make the Sommet carry its weight well, and in descent, it feels excellent.
Where the E-Sommet and many ebikes start to shine is terrain where you can mix the additional power with the stability on descents. Gnarly tech rock climbs into steep drops are the ideal recipe for this type of bike. A diet of rocks with awkward, rough terrain really show what the Sommet is capable of. The long travel and stable geometry soak it up, whilst the power and grip get you up and over.
Wheels-on-the-ground style riding is obviously the forte of a heavy bike like this, but with the right amount of momentum and chainstays which are not super long, it's possible to get some wheels in the air. Provided the speed is there, it's happy to play off the ground and once again it feels stable with it. Manuals and wheelies feel natural, and just need added muscle to get things moving.
One issue I found with the motor was hitting it against the ground too many times. The long travel and low bottom bracket combined to have some serious arguments with trail obstacles. The orientation of the motor means it extends down and forward from the chainring, making it vulnerable to large rocks, drops or step-ups. This will be more of a problem for those on chunky rocky trails but it would be good to see it tucked away a little more.
For more adventurous outings the easily swapped and carried batteries allow for some huge rides to be achieved. At about £500-£600 for a spare Shimano battery, it's expensive but opens up a huge range for the bike. While speaking of expense the E-Sommet VR comes in at £3599.99, which is highly competitive against the other emtbs out there. What's more, there is a standard version at £3199.99 with very few compromises.
This is one of the best value, and best performing emtbs out there. Despite my niggles over catching the motor on rocks it's hard to fault the rest of the package. Vitus have managed to take an excellent enduro bike, add some power and get the best of both worlds.
This review was in Issue 55 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.