At A Glance
At a penny short of a grand (currently just £899.99on CRC), Vitus' Sentier 29 VR sits on that price point on which mountain bikes really start to get good. It's also at this price where a decision is made about hardtail versus full suspension. Full suss rigs can be bought around this price, but the level of quality kit on a hardtail at this price is far better. Difficult decisions all around, but the Sentier represents a proper bike, with excellent options for upgrading, as and when budgets allow.Buy Hard Tails on
At its heart, the Sentier benefits from some modern geometry in the form of a longish reach at 446mm on the large and a slack 66.5-degree head angle. This sets the bike up as a stable performer and with the ability to run a short stem and attack the descents. Seat tubes are short to allow for droppers, and there is stealth routing for one should you wish. Strangely there is exposed cabling for the rear mech (rather than full outer casing) on the top tube, but the routing is neat and all external.
External bottom bracket, boost wheels and 31.6mm seatpost make life easy for servicing and upgrading. The spec on the bike is well thought out with some stand out components such as Maxxis tyres in a grippy compound and a Double Down rear tyre for reliability. The short stem and wide bars give a sense that this isn't a watered-down bike in terms of ability, only in price. SRAM's NX groupset is great and reliable, giving all the gears in a simple one-ring package.
The suspension is over to RockShox, which in this case is their Recon Gold RL fork, which serves up 130mm of travel, easily adjustable to rider weight with the air spring. WTB rims and Novatec hubs keep it rolling and stopping is handled by the ever-reliable (more so than their more expensive models) Shimano MT500.
On The Trail
For a rider buying a Sentier, it could well be their first intro to modern mountain bikes, and this is what it delivers. No old-fashioned cockpit or terrible tyres, this is ridable from the box, even the wheels were set up tubeless. Just swing a leg over and go for it.
The ride position is roomy and comfortable, the length isn't huge, but the Sentier is more or a balanced package as opposed to a boundary-pushing machine. The seat angle is a little on the slack side, so tall riders (with a long seatpost) will find the front wheel wandering on the steep climbs. The rear tyre is great, especially in it's reinforced version, but being a semi-slick, the mud and loose terrain leave it struggling.
Get the Sentier up to speed, and the balanced geometry comes into play. There is a playfulness to the ride, and the stiff aluminium frame transfers power well to the rear wheel giving bursts of acceleration. On undulating trails, the lack of dropper post is distressing for a rider such as myself which has long lost the ability to ride fast with a seat up. This is far less of an issue on 'winch and plummet' trails where ascent and descent and mutually exclusive endeavours.
Pointing down, and the Sentier dives in with confidence. The supple fork keeps traction coming and the Maxxis Minion tyre up front digs into the dirt. With the seat slammed, you can tap into the rowdy nature of the bike, and it's happy to be pushed hard. The rear tyre is character building in the wet and gets out of hand pretty quick, but in the dry it's perfect. Heading into a British winter with a semi-slick would be a bold move.
Stable through the steeps, the Sentier doesn't excel in just one particular area, rather it strikes a balance between disciplines. Pumping berms and trail centre pedalling is definitely where the bike feels at home, but you can go and push the limits if needed. Add a dropper, and the prospects open up, even more, providing a more flowing and enjoyable riding experience.
The lack of dropper aside, the components list on the Sentier is excellent. The NX drivetrain continues to impress, and although there is now NX Eagle, this 11-speed version does the job very well. Shimanos MT500 brakes are a pleasure to use and remind me how good Shimano brakes can be when they are predictable as these.
Upgrades to the Sentier would be centred firmly on a dropper post and then the wheels. Although sturdy, a lighter set of wheels would liven up the Sentier no end and improve the ride feel. Overall though, it's hard to think of any component that I would have to change, as the Sentier put a smile on my face just as it is.
Benefiting from many modern trends in mountain bike but without a ridiculous price tag, the Sentier is a fantastic all rounder which can handle a huge variety of terrain. Happy to have a pop at anything and look after the rider in the process, I'm sure the Sentier will introduce many a rider into the happy world of mountain biking with very few limits.
This review was in Issue 56 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.