Though featured only in last month’s issue, the story of Momsen Bikes’ new venture actually began a long time ago. Victor Momsen’s bike brand was still a fledgling operation in which, like many others, he sourced his frames from vendors in the East. But back then he knew he’d only ever become a serous player if he developed his own proprietary-design bikes. He set the peg as high as it gets in the bike world in terms of lead times, design and complexity – an all-carbon, full-suspension, marathon-racing frame. Not only do the linkage kinematics have to be highly efficient under pedal load, the frame is required to be light and robust too.
Roping in Patrick Morewood as a consultant was a good move (leave the suspension up to a proven expert); and between Morewood, Momsen and 3D designer Mark Hopkins (also of Morewood’s new bike brand, Pyga), they made this: a monocoque-type carbon frame, with T800 and T1000 carbon lay-up, a rear thru-axle, tapered headtube, single pivot (positioned on seat tube), shock mounted to the top tube, 80mm travel, external brake and shifter cable routing and internal dropper seatpost cable routing. Claimed weight is 1 800g (without shock).
If you read one sentence in this whole review, read this: it’s really good. In fact, before we’d ridden even a few hours, it was clear we were on a winner here. Momsen understands the psyche of the South African mountain biker well. His typical customer is race-mad, and is after performance and value in equal measure, and lots of it. His answer is the Vipa. On the first few rough climbs it was clear that this bike is designed to be pedalled hard. There’s no lull on a sudden application of power, or any sluggishness under consistent load; it just leaps forward. Of course, it helps that it’s super-light, at under 2 200g including the rear shock (RockShox Monarch).
For those who like to chuck it about a bit, the Vipa isn’t a hardcore trail bike that’ll rival the Pygas and Santa Cruzes of this world in terms of versatility. It’s a single-purpose machine – which is more a compliment than not; it’s still fun to ride (chiefly because it’s so fast!). Turn-in is among the quickest we’ve tested, but under speed, the big wheels still keep things stable. Eighty millimetres isn’t a lot of travel, but somehow it feels like more. On those crazy, loose, rocky downs characteristic of the Western Cape races, it’ll protect your butt from a beating and keep things under control. As a stage racer, this is a serious threat to the more well known Sparks, Anthems and Epics.