We’ve had South African superbike the Momsen VIPA Team Issue in for test and it was interesting to see how a bike designed primarily for marathon and stage racing in the southern hemisphere would handle UK trail conditions. This bike is a result of the collaboration between self-proclaimed ‘Full-time Bike Geek Victor Momsen and suspension guru Patrick Morewood who is better known in the UK for his downhill and all-Mountain frame designs.
Their objective was to produce a fast and efficient race bike that could handle rough trails in marathon races and multi day races of which there are many forming a huge part of the South African MTB race scene. They felt the key to achieving this objective would be the suspension design hence Morewood’s involvement was integral to success. He has developed an 80mm short travel design with a low leverage ratio to provide a ‘bottomless feel’ which should feel more like 100mm+. The intention is to pedal well and be active on small bumps whilst able to run softer pressure and place less stress on the frame.
The Carbon front triangle has a burly look paying homage to Morewood’s downhill roots with a flared head tube and substantial round downtube curving as it approaches the bottom bracket. A nearly triangular top tube shelters a Fox Float CTD shock and flows into a very industrial looking Momsen designed DOWNer carbon stem. The rear triangle is also carbon and the asymmetric design is optimised for 1x11 set ups with the chainstays especially hefty as they broaden to meet the bottom bracket. It is certainly not a subtle XC race bike look that the big global payers have pushed in recent years, but it looks good and capable. Let’s look at how capable….
Acceleration was very impressive both open and locked out. The remote lockout is easy to operate and I found myself using it more than I would on other bikes due to the impact on speed; locked out the bike goaded you to hammer out of the saddle in bigger gears and it really brings out the XC race abilities. That’s not to say that efficiency is compromised with rear suspension open and I found traction and drive were very strong as trail conditions got rougher. The direct power transfer is aided by the substantial frame, pivot design and 142x12mm rear thru axle.
Settling into the race rhythm…
Despite the burly looks, a 10.2kg build weight including pedals for dual suspension is very acceptable and contributes to the strong climbing ability. I found the VIPA performed especially well as climbs got steeper, rougher and looser with the rear suspension holding sound traction even out of the saddle. On tricky technical climbs where lower speeds require precise wheel positioning and spot on balance, I’d describe the Momsen as exceptionally well poised.
That self-assured personality also manifests itself on fast open downhills with the throttle open and is surprising composed on smaller jumps with evenly balanced front and rear ends. That confidence ran out in the singletrack where I constantly felt like I was about to tip over the edge of the cliff of traction. We could still carry good speed but without the adherence that the VIPA exhibits out in the open. Softening the Magura TS8 fork helped to a certain extent so maybe with more time to dial in the set up this issue could be solved. The lack of agility was also a limitation through very tight singletrack turns, behaving more like a bike with a substantially longer wheelbase.
The last lap…
Out of the trees and into the open the VIPA was back into its element capitalising on the suspension design’s efficiency to smooth out rough trails and cover distance with minimal physical input. Running a Sram XX1 drivetrain with a 32T single chainring and a 10-42T cassette I feel the bike could be undergeared on some UK marathon courses with road sections and especially on some of the more mountainous European courses with high speed descents. It would be worth packing a larger chainring if heading to either. It was noticeable late in the ride that comfort was still good despite a high pace and physically demanding course.
In keeping with the marathon and stage race credentials there are some well-conceived design considerations for the privateer racer. Cables are routed externally making for easier servicing in the middle of a stage race and a second set of water bottle mounts are positioned on the top tube behind the stem to facilitate carrying an extra bottle and overcome the problem many dual suspension bikes face with lack of space inside the front triangle.
Reliability is a priority with a high quality tried and trusted build package. The Sram XX1 drivetrain worked steadfastly throughout and Formula R1 brakes were effective anchors. Rolling stock are Stan’s Valour ZTR rims laced to Stan’s 3.30 hubs; this light and proven choice helps with the spritely ride and efficient power transfer. A Syntace seatpost held up a Fabric saddle which I found to be comfortable throughout the ride. I really like the ‘girder’ style stem; it adds to the industrial look of capability but be aware that it doesn’t provide a solid mounting for a standard Garmin quarter turn mount and it was difficult to read on bumpy terrain due to the vibration. There are plenty of other options to overcome this.
The Momsen VIPA Team issue certainly meets its brief. It is a fast and efficient race bike that covers distance easily, climbs with grace and is very composed at high speeds. From a UK perspective it would handle many of our trail conditions and race courses with aplomb with the exception of tighter singletrack courses. So if you are regular on the twisty Gorrick XC races maybe look elsewhere but if you are a regular on the Marathon scene, are planning on stage racing or race XC on the open rocky courses in Wales, Scotland, the Southern Downs or the North the VIPA Team Issue is a strong contender.
Weight: Approx. 10.2kg
Price: RRP £2799.99
More info: http://momsenbikes.com/bikes/full-suspension/vipa-team/