To be perfectly honest with you, I was quite happy with my old bike! When I was first approached about testing out a VIPA I was a little hesitant. A XC bike you say? Have you seen the mountains in Salzburg?
The VIPA is designed in South Africa by Patrick Morewood and the company’s owner Victor Momsen for XC racing and has been tested and proven on the trails of South Africa which are vastly different to the ridiculously steep up and down mountains where I live. But the more I looked into the bike the more I began getting excited about it. You see for one thing it’s fully carbon fibre so its super light, and I figured that with a build focused towards more aggressive riding it could actually end up being a seriously quick bike on the uphills and flats and if I got some decent suspension it could also potentially handle the DH parts pretty well.
A few years ago I went from a 160mm travel 26 inch Commencal Meta to a 130mm 29er Transition and found a joy in pedalling a bicycle I had long forgotten and it still handled most of the downhills remarkably well too. With 2 kids my uplifts days have shrunk to a couple a year and my lunchtime work rides have taken over as the main riding I get to do nowadays, and those involve almost non stop pedalling. The geometry is quite similar to the Specialized Epic which is an extremely good bike. The bike boasts the honour of being South Africa’s first ever full carbon fiber full suspension production bike.
So would a 100mm Superlight XC machine work for me? It was full suspension after all. Well, only one way to find out!
The bike’s frame arrived less than a week before a trip I had planned to Formentera so it was a rush to get it built up in time. I was originally planning to switch over a load of stuff from my old bike, but in the end I just took the reverb seatpost (a stealth post can be used with internal cable routing but my reverb was pretty new so I didn’t want to buy another), my Renthal stem, pedals, grips and wheels which really need some different GFX to match better. For the other stuff, I bit the bullet and bought my first set of the absolutely brilliant SRAM XO cranks and shifter, with an XX1 rear mech since that was all they had in the shop. XT brakes with oversized rotors provide impeccable stopping power and a carbon fibre Momsen bar sits at the front.
The bike was originally setup to come with the new XTR system from Shimano ready with the press fit bottom bracket, but Shimano didn’t deliver it on time. I actually prefer the simplicity as well as the look of the SRAM system anyway though. The new electronic XTR was certainly one of the hot topics at the recent Eurobike show, but they had 3 systems setup to try and one of them the bolt had come loose so it wasn’t possible to try, one of them had a dead battery and wouldn’t work and the 3rd was just a regular cable XTR system which was nice but didn’t set me on fire. The bike has been designed specifically with a 1×11 system in mind which suits me perfectly but it also has a place for a front mech if you want more gears up front.
The bike came with FOX 32 100 mm factory forks and rear shock with a remote to lock them out. I can kind of see the point but having so many cables in front of the bike bugged me. After a couple of days riding without really using the fork and shock lockout switch, I took it off, and switched the rear shock over to a Cane Creek DB inline double barrel thing which Victor had kindly given me to try out, and boy what a difference that made!! It feels like you have way more travel because it has close to 50% more oil than a regular shock of the same length. Changing it over was dead simple, and took about 5 mins. I virtually never use the climb switch unless I’m hitting a long climb on the road, but when you do use it, it’s a progressive system, not just on and off so offers a lot of fine tuning ride possibilities on the fly. Really impressed with the shock overall.
So what about the ride you ask? Well I will make another post soon with some riding photos and a full ride review, but let me just say that this thing is an absolute whippet! It’s so fast! And it climbs things I never even considered possible by anybody let alone myself. Just point it and keep the pedals turning and up it goes. It’s so light, and the geometry feels so dialled that you just find yourself going ridiculously fast all the time, even over gnarly terrain. I have never ridden a mountain bike anywhere like Formentera where I am now and it’s just brilliant. Really technical due to the rocks and ledges and stones and just a blast to fly along cliff tops and sands tracks and over drops caused by the rocks being eroded. This bike is really in it’s element on trails like this which are a lot like South Africa in places I would imagine.
The ONLY fault I can find with this bike lies not in the bike itself, but in the front fork. It’s ok for XC, but when it gets fast and steep and rocky the fox 32 / 100mm travel forks just flex way too much for my liking and provide a pretty rough ride. Having said that I absolutely smashed the old Strava KOM time on the only thing which could be considered close to a proper DH trail on this island, by 50 seconds on a 2.55 segment!! Less travel just means you need to be even smarter about line choice which is quite fun. The first ever proper DH I did was when I lived in Switzerland for a couple of years when I was a teen and we would ride from the top of the mountain to the bottom with NO suspension and I don’t remember having any less fun!
The 29er wheels I put on the VIPA are amazingly light Tubeless ZTR Arch EX laced with DT swiss hubs and they roll so well over everything and have stayed true after 4 months of pretty heavy abuse. I went with some quite chunky Nobby Nic tyres which I was initially unsure about but the rocks are really sharp here and they have not ripped yet and they also hook up and roll well over some of the sand sections so I am happy with the choice. The only thing I want to change on the bike after putting in 2 weeks on it is to get a 130 front fork and a wider handlebar.
The frame is a monocoque-type carbon construction with T800 and T1000 carbon lay-up, a rear thru-axle, tapered headtube and 80mm of travel.
What do they say about 2 wheels moving your soul? Well, I could agree with that, and this thing moves you fast! It’s an absolute blast to ride. My wife thinks I am in love with the bike and I think she may just be right!!
My bike built up like this weighs 11.5 with the heavy pedals.
Considering how good this thing is and that it is full Carbon fiber it’s price of 29,250.00 ZAR / 2,048.54 EUR for the frame is pretty impressive and is also about half that of some of it’s rivals!