The Momsen VIPA Trail is a 120 mm travel race orientated trail bike launched in the wake of the success of its more race oriented brother, the 80mm VIPA marathon/ cross-country bike.
I put this proudly South African bike through its paces over the past weeks, heading from my local trails in Paarl to the open gravel roads of the Karoo to help shed some light on what could be the ideal all round do-it-all race rig.
In their own words, Momsen set out to build ‘a bike that makes you feel younger and faster no matter the terrain’. To achieve this they’ve settled on a 120mm frame capable of handling 2.4 inch tyres and up to 130mm of travel up front.
The Trail is offered in fours sizes from Small to X-Large. At first, I was skeptical of the Large frame I was given to test (I’m 176mm tall). However, the compact geometry of the Trail featuring a moderate 1149 mm wheelbase, a shortish reach of 422 mm and a suitably slack head angle of 67.8 degrees, the Large frame fitted like a glove. The test rig featured an 65 mm stem.
The VIPA Trail may share a measure of aesthetic qualities with the Specialized Camber, but some aspects of the Trail’s geometry are more in line with racing bikes than the trail family: making it accessible to a wider audience. This positions the Trail nicely as an all round bike capable of competing at the sharp end with relative ease, as well as allowing you to spend a fun day out on the trails.
In terms of looks, Momsen pulled off a badass paint job that made me want to ride the bike fast even while walking past it at night. The contour details could possibly have stayed in 2016 though. Momsen has paid exceptional attention to detail with the Trail’s cable management system and beefy (but not overly so) pivots, and beautiful linkage which is similar to the original VIPA. The Trail even features routing provisions for Shimano’s electronic Di2 drivetrain.
Something that Momsen always seem to get right is their choice in suspension. In the rear, you have a 120mm Fox Float EVol (Extra Volume) shock. An all purpose shock that is capable of handling very big hits but still locks the rear out in the truest sense of the term: the perfect addition to a racing trail bike. Up front the tried and tested 120mm Pike makes light work of rocks, roots, and drops with its bottomless plush feel. This fork is simply brilliant.
The suspension setup of the Trail paired with the custom tuned Fox shock makes for a very efficient experience on both the uphills and the downhills, with a progressive stroke throughout the travel.
A feature I’d like to see in future editions of this bike would be the addition of a second bottle cage, something we’re all starting to expect from dual suspension marathon bikes. I hear you saying that this is not a marathon bike but hang in there, we’ll get to the ride review.
By calling it the Trail you might unfairly assume (myself included) that the Trail would climb like a rock and make you descend like Mr. Min on a Santa Cruz V10. But no. In fact, head to head against a dedicated trail bike: something like the YT Jeffsy, the Trail stands little to no chance. It is when you climb that the Trail feels refreshingly familiar and sheds light on the possibility of a new era for 120mm marathon bikes. Especially in South Africa where the go-to bike for any stage race seems to be 100mm dedicated race bike.
My first rides on the Trail were naturally to test how much faster I could ride downhill, and it comes as no surprise that the Trail moves on the downhills. It makes light work of technical terrain and where you’d expect to feel a little uncomfortable on your typical XC dual suspension, the Trail, with it’s added 20 millimetres of suspension as ammo, sails right through.
The bike has an inherent ability to add confidence to your usual downhill approach, and allowed me to hit road gaps and drops usually out of mind: but that is what 20% more travel can do. To top it off, the Trail is well balanced with its relatively low center of gravity and well placed rear suspension.
It was on my way back up of from my ever faster downhill runs that the true colors of this unique bike came to the fore. On the climbs, I felt at home, much like I would on my Swift Carbon Evil Twin race bike. The Trail, although fitted with wider tyres and a lot more travel easily held it’s own when doing efforts on the climbs which made me realise that the Trail really is a bike built for riding and racing: not just weekend trail days.
For some time now I have been asking why so many riders, especially those in the buffalo (90kg and up) category, rock up at races with the wrong bikes, and finally here you have a mountain bike so well fitted to the market that I find myself asking if the Vipa Trail is not the future. Blame local bike shops or good ol’ CEO pride for this, but it’s hard to argue that the 120mm XC Trail doesn’t have a bright future ahead. A race bike with 20% more to give and a lot more added fun.
As a ‘proposed’ all round mountain bike, I figured that the Trail should be fairly tested in all scenarios so I took it along on a trip to the Karoo for some gravel grinding. Although not in its element, the Trail was a pleasure to spend some hours on. I did a few three-hour rides on the flat open roads and the compact but slack geometry of the Trail makes for a very comfortable ride, unlike many race rigs, with very little loss of power during some sprint efforts.
In the end
Over the past 10 years, the South African mountain bike market has enjoyed immense growth with a quick uptake by the market to new technologies such as 29er wheel sizes, 11-speed drive trains and dual suspension bikes. Paired with the healthy competitive spirit of most South Africans and a densely populated racing calendar, it’s not difficult to see why most South Africans are riding lesser travel ‘racing’ bikes. However, with advancements in technologies, lighter parts and improved suspension systems buying the right bike, as opposed to the lightest bike will become more and more important.
The VIPA stands as a mountain bike truly fit for service to most, if not any mountain biker, wanting to own one bicycle. The VIPA Trail is essentially a racing bike built for the trails and not a trail bike built for racing which is a bold but almost predictable move by Momsen, a proudly South African brand catering for the local market at its heart. So perhaps they got it exactly right, perhaps the VIPA Trail is where mountain bikes are headed!
- FrameMomsen VIPA Trail
- ForkRockShox Pike RCT3 120mm
- ShockFox Float DPS Factory
- RimscSixx 9 Series
- Front tyreMaxxis High Roller
- Rear tyreMaxxis Agressor
- HandlebarscSixx XCM LO-RISER BAR 750mm
- StemRace Face Atlas 65mm
- HeadsetCane Creek
- BrakesSRAM Guide RSC
- Shifters + cablingSRAM XX1
- DerailleurSRAM XO1
- CassetteE thirteen Race 9-46T
- CranksRace Face Next SL
- ChainringcSixx 34T Oval
- Bottom BracketE thirteen
- PedalsShimano XT Trail
- SeatpostRockShox Reverb Stealth, 150mm
- SaddleSpecialized Power Pro
- Bottle cagesSpecialized Zee Cage II
- Computer mountK-Edge Adjustable Stem Mount