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Vitus Bikes Sentier VRX MTB review

7 Sep 2017
Verdict:

A trail hooligan that’s all about the descents

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,600

With its stocky fork, ample suspension travel and robust tyres, the all-black Sentier VRX looks like it has come to cause trouble.

With the sort of raked-out geometry that tends to prioritise stability when heading down the hills over the ability to race back up them, Vitus bills the Sentier as a hard-charging hardtail, ideal for pushing through epic singletrack or technical trail centre runs.

Available through internet giants Wiggle and Chain Reaction, we’re expecting a lot from the spec list.

The frame

Made from triple-butted 6061-T6 alloy the Sentier’s frame maybe strong, but thankfully it’s not excessively weighty. Following low to the ground, it’s easy to throw the bike around, perfect for mucking around on jumps and drops.

To achieve this, while still ensuring the saddle is able to be deployed to a decent height for pedalling, a fillet braces the junction between the top tube and the seat mast, allowing it to extend upwards.

Supporting generous helpings of suspension at 140mm, the Sentier’s short head tube keeps the bars at a sensible height, while the low bottom bracket adds stability for cornering and high-speed descending.

The tubes that make up the back of the bike sport square profiles to increase rigidity. Welding across the bike is chunky, but of neat enough quality that few will object to it being on show, especially when paired with the no-fuss matt black paint job.

While routing for the hydraulically actuated seatpost is internal, the rear brake and derailleur cable run along the underside of the top tube. This keeps them out of harm’s way while also leaving them accessible for servicing. 

Groupset

Coming direct from one of the UK’s biggest online suppliers, it’s no surprise the Sentier sports a standout groupset.

XT is equivalent to Ultegra road group in the Shimano’s MTB hierarchy. The brakes in particular are extremely powerful, which is a game-changer on long and challenging descents.

The crankset is a pricy piece of kit, so it’s nice to see it present. Light and stiff, its 32-tooth chainring is backed up by a chain-retention device.

Paired with the derailleur’s clutch mechanism, it ensures there’s zero chance of the chain skipping. 


Finishing kit

The RockShox Reverb is the standard in dropper posts. Offering 125mm of travel, it’s controlled hydraulically. The result is very smooth operation.

At 760mm across, the bars are wide but not stupidly so, making them well suited to whipping through close, tree-lined, trails. They’re paired with a stubby stem for maximum stability.

The saddle is plushly upholstered, enough to be comfy even without padded shorts. 

Wheels

Built around high-quality Novatec hubs, the WTB rims are equally high spec. They’re light, strong and simple to set up tubeless.

Unlike some alternatives, it’s reassuring to find they have proper eyelets, where the nipples join, which should increase strength and make servicing easier.

With very quick pick-up from the hub, the whole package is fast to get moving, despite being fitted with pretty robust rubber.

Tough and puncture resistant, the very aggressive tread on the front tyre is paired with a slightly more closely packed, and therefore faster rolling, design on the rear. 

First impressions

Small and pugnacious, the Sentier is clearly built to withstand a thrashing and feels absolutely indestructible.

With its high front end, low and slack geometry and short reach, this is the sort of bike that comes alive once it’s up to speed.

With that in mind, we hared straight down one of our favourite descents, full of the expectation that the Vitus was going to provide a fun few hours. 

On the trail

The pairing of a very burly front end and excellent fork ably take care of setting the bike’s direction.

However, without the smoothing effect that the larger diameter of 27.5-plus or 29er wheels can provide, the Sentier’s back wheel tends to clatter along afterwards.

It’s a characteristic universal to this style of bike, not this particular design, but the Vitus’s stiff back end doesn’t provide any additional respite.

There’s some debate as to which of the now myriad wheel systems is the fastest. However, for whipping through the tight turns on our test loop, the Sentier’s conventional 27.5in diameter hoops definitely felt both speedy and fun.

With small wheels, clipped seatstays, and a short wheelbase, the  Vitus loves to go round corners fast, a quality that’s underwritten by the very grippy tyres.

Their sidewalls are robust enough to add additional stability and bump dampening capacity to the ride of the bike. The flipside, however, is that on more sedate terrain they don’t carry speed quite as readily. 


Handling

Given its diminutive size, plentiful standover and unyielding stiffness the Vitus is clearly up for a bit of argy-bargy, and changes lane quicker than the average boy racer.

If you’re the sort who likes to chat with your mates on the ups, before slamming down the saddle and racing them on the descents, the Sentier will happily pander to your bias.

With a dropper post and wide-ratio gearing, there’s no reason that you won’t be able to make it to the top of any hill. In fact, the whole package is surprisingly light.

However, if you’re a rider who relishes the ups as much as the downs, you’re likely to find climbing on the Sentier a bit of a dry lunch.

That’s because the short reach, smaller wheels and slack head angle conspire to put you in a head-up position, with your weight slightly back of centre.

This is great for keeping control of the bike in tricky situations, but less good for propelling it upwards.

Ratings

Frame: Strong but not necessarily weighty, perfect for jumps. 8/10
Components: Shimano XT is excellent, especially the brakes. 10/10 
Wheels: Light and strong and fitted with very grippy tyres. 9/10 
The Ride: This is the sort of bike that comes alive at speed. 7/10

VERDICT

The Vitus Sentier VRX is a bit of a trail hooligan that's built to take a beating and is at its happiest charging down fast, technical descents

Geometry

Fork travel: 140mm claimed/140mm measured
Seat tube: 432mm/435mm
Top tube: 605mm/600mm
Reach: 418mm/418mm
Stack: 610mm/610mm
Head tube: 110mm/113mm
Head angle: 66.5 deg/66 deg
Seat angle: 73 deg/72.5 deg
Chainstay: 425mm/425mm
Wheelbase: 1126mm/1130mm
BB drop: 45mm/47mm

Spec

Vitus Sentier VRX
Contact vitusbikes.com
Frame Triple-butted 6061-T6 alloy, RockShox Yari RC, Solo Air fork
Groupset Shimano XT, M8000
Brakes Shimano XT, M8000
Chainset Shimano XT, M8000
Cassette Shimano SLX CS-M7000, 11-42
Bars Nukeproof Riser Bar
Stem Vitus
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth
Wheels Novatec/WTB STP i23 TCS, WTB Vigilante front tyre, Trail Boss rear tyre
Saddle Vitus

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