A pure bred stage racing machine. We test the Momsen Vipa Ultra.
Words: Mike Blewitt Photos: Lachlan Ryan
Momsen Bikes come from across the Indian Ocean, straight out of South Africa. Anyone with a broad view of mountain biking will know that South Africa is the heartland for marathon and stage race mountain biking. The home of the Cape Epic has spawned enough stage races that some pro riders claim they can do a stage race each week or weekend throughout the year.
In 2018 we tested the Momsen Vipa Race Two, and the Momsen Vipa Trail. Both were 29” wheeled bikes, and the former was focused on racing while the latter would happily mix racing and trail riding, like many longer travel XC bikes that are now hitting shop floors and trails. Both bikes had a reliable, progressive suspension system that pedalled well without the need to reach for the lock out all the time, and a long reach that created a balanced ride.
Tester: Mike Blewitt
Riding Experience: Too much time faffing on bikes to develop employable skills doing anything else.
Generally Rides: Norco Revolver FS and HT
Bike Test Track: Bayview Recreation Area, Gap Creek, Iron Bark, Bunya
At the Cape Epic in 2018, the Momsen Vipa Ultra appeared. With some visual cues from the Vipa Race, the Ultra looked like it had gained inspiration from a battleship. The frame sported large, angular carbon main tubes, with enough room to have two in-frame storage units. Only two sizes would be available, based on 100mm of rear travel, 100mm or 120mm forks and two geometry settings. The bike had a long reach, a slack head angle, and was designed around a 40mm stem. It was a huge departure from the majority of bikes seen at the Cape Epic, using modern geometry and aiming to push it to the limit.
The Momsen Vipa Ultra is available as a frame kit, with free shipping to Australia. The kit includes the frame and rear shock, but also a 40mm and 50mm stem. It has all the hardware you need to build the bike for 1x or 2x, and with the parts for the in-frame storage. The frame comes in a compact box with the swing arms off. It sounds like a hassle but any new bike rides best if you take the time to prepare all the pivots properly – so that's a nod of approval from us.
Opening the box, the first impression is of the girth of the bike. The room behind the head tube is huge, and along with the area in front of the bottom bracket, this is where the storage areas fit. It is also where Momsen have used a higher modulus carbon fibre to keep the stiffness the greatest. These locations mean the bike is stiff under pedalling, and the steering stays direct.
Handling the frame, it's amazing to feel how broad the top tube is, the Momsen Vipa Ultra is clearly a bike that has been designed to be ridden hard. A closer look at the frame parts shows that the main frame has internal cable routing, and a removable hanger for a front derailleur with a SideSwing routing option. The rear brake hose and rear derailleur cable stay outside the swing arms, which is a lot easier for bearing services or maintenance whether at home or in a race camp.
There are instructions with the parts, and while the frame goes together much better than flat pack furniture, if you aren't in the habit of stripping and building bike frames, this might be a job for your trusted local bike shop. Torque ratings are written on the bolt heads, so it's easy to set your torque wrench and adjust to spec as you go. What's neat is the flip chip at the front of the Trunnion shock mount. You can set the bike in a steep or slack setting, and the graphic shows how that will change your head angle depending on if you have a 100mm or 120mm fork. I opted for slack with a 120mm Fox 34 SC to start with.
The frame isn't super light at 2.82kg confirmed on my scales for the size 2. If you consider that the new Pivot Mach 4 SL weighs under 2kg for a frame and shock, it's a different league. But that's ok, it's a different bike too. The rest of the build was a mix of my own parts like some carbon wheels and a KS Lev Integra dropper post, and a majority Shimano XTR M9100 12-speed group set, save for the hubs, cranks and rotors. The total weight was 11.75kg. And that's with 2.4”/2.35” tyres and a dropper.
Built up the bike looks like it's ready for battle, with the huge angular lines in a stealth black and grey finish creating the look of a factory ride – especially with the bright orange Fox 34 SC up front. It looks long and slack and aggressive, and my only concern was whether the seat angle of 73.5 degrees when in the slack position with a 120mm fork would be a little too relaxed given the trends to move them to 75 degrees and beyond. Slacker works for sitting and pedalling, which is what you do a lot of in a stage race or marathon – so maybe it's just right? Of course, given the fork and flip chip options the frame can be run as steep as 74.6 degrees in the seat angle, with a 100mm fork and a capable 69.1 degree head angle.
The frame kit didn't come with a shock setting guide, but the shock length and suspension layout is a little bit reminiscent of low leverage designs like the new Canyon LUX. So I started at 110pso which didn't quite give me the sag I wanted, so I dropped a little from there and was set to hit the dirt. All I had to do was drop some Allen's Party Mix into the top tube container first!