During the 2018 Absa Cape Epic, five years on from the launch of the original Momsen Vipa, the latest reincarnation of the South African classic was introduced to the mountain biking media.
Dubbed the Vipa Ultra the bike is a distinctive machine with, flattened, oversized tubes making up the front and rear triangles. At first glance one’s eye is drawn to the seat stay, which flares out in width were it reaches the attachment point with the shock. Thereafter you’ll notice the head-, top- and down- tube junction is enlarged and the double bottle cage mounts in the main triangle.
The Ultra is clearly a modern short-travel full suspension mountain bike, showcasing the changes in bike design which have shaped the evolution of race bikes since the first Vipa was launched back in 2013. It features modern angles (with a flip clip to adjust the geometry by .6 of a degree) and a long reach, which Victor Momsen and the Imbuko Momsen team riders say makes it a far more capable machine on technical terrain than the previous model. The rear suspension travel is also up from 80mm to 100mm, which adds credence to Momsen’s claims of greater capability and comfort.
In early 2017 vertically mounted shocks seemed the future of cross country race bikes, following the launch of the SCOTT Spark RC, and on the back of the Trek TopFuel and Giant Anthem. Subsequently though the shock mounted to the top tube has made a comeback. Specialized have released their new Epic, Santa Cruz have launched the Blur, and both Canyon and Bulls had prototype full suspension bikes running that suspension layout at the Absa Cape Epic. There had been speculation that the shift to metric shock sizes would impact the ability to fit the slightly larger shocks in the space, but that clearly is not the case. In fact space is not an issue in the Utra’s front triangle at all, as two 750ml water bottles fit comfortably in the medium frame size.
Along with the double water bottle mounts and marathon focused geometry (Momsen tell us had the intension been to design a cross-country specific machine the tubes would have been slimmer and the chainstays shorter) the Vipa Ultimate also features built in storage. With inspiration taken from triathlon specific bikes, like Cervélo’s P5X, the Ultra has two integrated storage areas built into the frame. The top tube features a space about 10cm long and 4 wide for the essentials you need close at hand on a ride. The Imbuko Momsen riders were carrying a gel, tubeless repair tool, CO2 bomb and adaptor, and a multi-tool in that space in their race bikes. Then lower down, below the bottle cage mount on the downtube, there is a second storage space built into the frame. This one is perfect for the less regularly required spares like a spare tube – or if you prefer to keep the weight low down your CO2 canisters and multi-tool too. The major difference between Momsen’s integrated storage and that found on the Specialized Camber and Stumpjumper bikes is the ease of access. By providing separate entry ports, unlike the Specialized version which is located under the bottle cage mount, you do not have to fiddle with the bottle to get at a tool. The Momsen integrated storage is also boxed off within the carbon frame, meaning item can be placed in the hatch individually rather than being wrapped in the SWAT bag, as is the Specialized solution. For racing both of these are essential time saving features, which come at a slight weight penalty, but that is not the be all and end all.
The flip chip and the fact that the Ultra will be available as a frame and shock only (from July 2018, initially in limited numbers,) make it a supremely personalise-able machine. In the steeper, rear setting the head angle is increased to 69.1° when paired with a 100mm travel fork. While in the front position, which is how the Imbuko Momsen riders had their prototypes set up for the Absa Cape Epic, the head angle is a relatively slack, for a race bike, 68.5°. That’s a full degree slacker than the Specialized Epic and Cannondale Scalpel Si, and equal to the Scott Spark RC. The Ultra was also designed with 120mm travel forks in mind, which is how Victor Momsen has his personal bike set up. The longer travel fork slacken the possible head angles to 67.5° and 68° respectively, which should provide even greater control on technical singletracks. Especially when taking the bike’s potential 1 165mm wheel base and 615mm top tube length* in mind too.
My only concern, which it must be said is not for my own riding style, revolves around the 40mm stem Momsen recommend for the Ultra. The bike’s long reach and top tube length necessitate a short stem, but that could negatively impact on your ability to get the bars low over the front wheel – as you would with a long negative angle stem on most other race bikes. Some of this fear is dispelled by the 90mm head tube, but the proof of the theory lies in a lengthy test period.
|Vipa Ultra Geometry|
|Chip: Front 100mm fork||Chip: Rear
|Seat Tube Length||432mm||432mm||432mm||432mm|
|Top Tube Length||610mm||610mm||615mm||612mm|
|Head Tube Angle||68.5°||69.1°||67.5°||68°|
|Seat Tube Angle||74°||74.6°||73.5°||74.1°|
|Wheelbase||1 156mm||1 155mm||1 165mm||1 164mm|
*All measurements for frame size medium.