It’s been called the first South African superbike. We got the first 650B version of the Momsen Vipa full-suspension carbon fibre race bike to see if the ‘superbike’ status is earned…
– Photos: Dino Lloyd
We got to ride an aluminium prototype version of the Vipa in Port Elizabeth in September 2012 and the 29er carbon race bike made it’s debut at the 2013 ABSA Cape Epic where Nico Pfitzenmaier won the Master’s title and claimed four stage wins, securing the Vipa some instant stage-race cred. Now there’s a 27.5-inch (650b) version of the same bike because small people are mountain bikers too.
The frame is high modulus carbon fibre that’s been appropriately shape for a blend of lightness and strength. Patrick Morewood (yes, the Pyga guy) designed the frame around a suspension that offers a rising to falling linear suspension curve. This makes it possible for 80mm of travel to feel more than adequate for stage racers, who are more concerned about speed and recovery than play.
The frame has a dropper seatpost internal cable routing, but, following stage race mechanic feedback, external routing for brake and gearshift cables/housing. The front derailleur hanger is direct mount and the headtube, like most, is tapered for increased front-end stability. There are two threaded mounts on the toptube near the headtube, which is for Momen’s soon-to-be launched carbon storage compartment. The rear shock is a Fox Float with 80mm of trail-tuned travel and CTD options matched to a Fox Float 100mm travel fork with CTD and 15mm Thru-Axle.
The wheelset is Stan’s Crest with Kenda Slant Six tyres and the groupset is complete Shimano XT 10-speed with Ritchey bars, stem and seatpost completing the package. The matte black with gold and red accents looks classy although some of our testers felt the red chequered pattern in the headtube region was a bit overdone. The bike comes with a very classy hardcover, glossy, full-colour manual, which is a really nice touch. The 650b is the size Small option in the Vipa range, with the Medium and Large sizes assigned to the 29-inch wheel version.
Our testers never got to ride a stage race on the Vipa, but among other test sessions, one of our female testers (164cm; 53.5kg) raced the Crater Cruise marathon on it, putting it under the race-condition pressure it’s designed for. She’s raced both 26-inch and 29-inch bikes in marathons and XC and felt that her position on the Vipa was the most in control she has been on any bike.
Overall, our testers (male and female) felt the Vipa climbed with superb agility, our lighter testers happy to keep the rear shock in Trail mode on all but the smoothest ascents, while heavier testers were content to leave it in the Descent mode. The front end stayed well grounded on steep climbs without any noticeable rear-wheel traction sacrifice. This is important on marathon bike.
All were impressed with the Vipa’s planted feel through tight, fast turns, while a blend of singletrack stability and agility inspired confidence in the less skilled testers. As expected, the Shimano XT groupset was superb and is still our favourite when it comes to brakesets. The 2×10 drivetrain gave our testers a good range of gears, especially the weaker riders on steep climbs. All testers reported that the Vipa feels “stable and compact” even over very rocky terrain and on technical descents.
Is the 650b wheelsize necessary in a marathon bike? We think it is. Sure, smaller men and women can ride a small 29er (if you can get one), but their saddle won’t be able to be set higher than the handlebars, which is critical in terms of bike control and pedalling position efficiency. The 650b Vipa enables the smaller rider to be set up properly for control and efficiency, both essential in marathons and stage races.
Does it roll as well as a 29er? No, but this isn’t a surprise. It does roll better than a 26-inch wheel though and that is what smaller people were limited to in the past. What do we consider a small person? Borderline: 165cm-170cm; Definite: Shorter than 165cm. If you’re small and looking for a performance bike to race on, the Vipa 650b offers everything you need. If you’re not small, then consider the impressive value-for-money you’re getting on a Medium or Large Vipa compared to other brands that cost as much, if not more, than a third more…
SIZES: S (16-inch/650b), M (17-inch/29er), L (19-inch/29er)
TOPTUBE LENGTH: 565mm
SEATTUBE LENGTH: 406mm
HEADTUBE ANGLE: 71 degrees
SEATTUBE ANGLE: 73 degrees
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: 425mm
WHEEL BASE: 1048mm
PRICE: R49 999
COLOURS: Matte black carbon with red/gold accents
FRAME: High modulus carbon fibre main frame and swingarm
WEIGHT: 11.13kg (without pedals)
FORK: Fox Float CTD with 100mm travel & 15mm Thru-Axle
REAR SHOCK: FOX Float CTD with 80mm travel
SHIFTERS: Shimano XT
FRONT DERAILLER: Shimano XT
REAR DERAILLER: Shimano XT 10-speed
CRANKSET: Shimano XT 38/24
BRAKES: Shimano XT hydraulic disc with 160 mm travel front and rear
WHEELS: Stan’s Crest wheelset with 15mm front thru-axle & 142x 2mm rear thru-axle
TYRES: Kenda Slant Six 27.5 (650b) x 2.1
OTHERS: Ritchey Comp 720mm bars, stem and seatpost & Fizik Tundra 2 MG saddle
CONTACT: www.momsenbikes.com; email@example.com; 041 372 1418
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*Originally published in TREAD Issue 26, 2013 – All rights reserved