Before we get stuck into the review let me clarify that this is the 2015 spec. Although the 2016 models have been announced and are already available, the frame is fundamentally the same and is still an interesting comparison to the carbon version. Specifications
FrameAlloy Front Triangle, Carbon Rear Triangle, 80mm Rear Wheel TravelSizesSmall, Medium, Large, X-LargeForkFOX Float CTD, 100mm Travel, 15mm Thru-AxleRear ShockFOX Float CTD Rear ShockChainwheelShimano XT, 38/24TBottom BracketShimano PressfitF. DerailleurShimano SLX Direct MountR. DerailleurShimano XTShifterShimano Deore TriggerBrake LeversShimano M615 HydraulicBrakesShimano M615 HydraulicCassetteShimano HG50-10, 11-36TRimsStan’s No Tubes ZTR Rapid Tubeless Ready, 32HTiresKenda Honey Badger XC Pro, 29×2.05 SCT TubelessPedalsN/AHandlebarAlloy Flat Top 29er, 700mmStemAlloy Forged, 31.8mm OversizeSeatpostAlloy Micro-AdjustSeatSelle Royal Seta S1HeadsetAlloy TaperColorsGrey w/Gold, Black and White DetailsChainKMC 10 SpeedHubsetShimano Deore, 15mm Front, 142 x 12mm Rear, 32HSpokesStainless Butted with Alloy NipplesGripsSilicone RaceWeightMedium: 12.35kg (Excl. Pedals)Retail PriceR 37 995.00
Frame The VIPA AC is an aluminium and carbon hybrid which features a carbon rear triangle and aluminium front end. The geometry matches that of the carbon version with the only key difference (aside from material) being that the AC is also available in XL, whereas the carbon models stop at Large. Differences versus the 2016 model? Looking at only the frame the most significant change is the inclusion of a second bottle cage mount in the front triangle (M, L and XL only).
Suspension The VIPA AC 2015 features the same Evolution Series Fox Float CTD as used on the 2015 VIPA XT (minus the remote lockout). Thanks to the widely reported issues with the range in 2013, anything from Fox with a CTD label tends to get a bad rep these days. After some initial issues though, Fox did make improvements from 2014 onwards resulting in a more reliable performance. My experiences with the suspension setup in nearly 14 months of riding on my own carbon VIPA and this test model have been positive. I’ve had no hassles whatsoever and the CTD modes work well for me with a definite lock-out in Climb mode and notable differences between Trail and Descend. It is undoubtedly a mid-range spec, but one which gets the job done.
Groupset The VIPA AC 2015 has a mix of Shimano XT, SLX and Deore: XT Cranks, XT rear derailleur with an SLX front derailleur and Deore trigger shifters. The XT/SLX drivetrain needs no fluffing, it’s a proven, reliable setup that works. I did turn my nose up at the Deore shifters looking at the spec, but to be honest I didn’t notice much difference on the bike if any. Brakes The Shimano M615 Hydraulic brakes lean towards the entry level in their range, but I found they performed well. Certainly not as responsive and assured as the XT’s I’m used to, but I never felt concerned about their stopping power or the feel. Wheels The Stan’s No Tubes ZTR Rapid rims are an OEM only product which offer a more affordable, but durable tubeless-ready rim. At 455g per rim it is 75g heavier than a Crest rim, but uses the same Bead Socket Technology (BST) said to give better tubeless performance. In the relatively brief test period these were reliable and held up to some unreserved riding, but down the line this is an area where the bike could benefit from an upgrade to shed weight and reduce flex.
Handlebar, stem and seat post The bike comes standard with some generic alloy bits which help keep the price tag reasonable. The one out of the three I’d want to change is the stem: 1) because my preference would be something slightly shorter 2) it looks a little flimsy for my liking (although it held up with no issues through testing).
On the trail The Momsen VIPA AC we received for testing matched the size and geometry of my own VIPA meaning I was very at home and comfortable from the get go. The only minor difference was the slightly longer stem on the AC vs my setup.With a little more added weight I’d expected to feel the major difference while climbing, but it wasn’t noticeably sluggish or cumbersome. In windy and technical single track though, the difference was more distinct. The bike felt very planted and secure on descents, but did require a little more effort to move about through turns and accelerations. This is likely partly due to the heavier aluminium front triangle along with the heavier rims. One of the biggest surprises for me was the skinny (by my standards) Kenda Honey Badger 2.05 tyres. They were remarkably grippy and resilient through a range of loose gravel, light mud and sharp rocks. Initially these would have been the first on my “post purchase upgrade list”, but they performed impressively well in terms of grip and puncture resistance. As with most bikes though, I would convert them to tubeless from the get go (since they carry Kenda's SCT badge they are tubeless ready). In the end Overall I was suitably impressed by the Momsen VIPA AC. There are certainly areas where an upgrade and some weight shedding is possible, but out the box the build really is good to go. Coming from the carbon VIPA I admittedly did feel comfortable very quickly, but for me the aluminium-carbon comparison was most interesting. Looking at all-round performance the differences are marginal and from a price / performance perspective the VIPA AC offers outstanding value.The 2015 models Momsen VIPA AC will become less available as dealers clear out stock to make way for 2016 models, but keep your eyes peeled. You’re likely to find some great deals on these at pre exchange rate apocalypse pricing.
Visit momsenbikes.com for information or to locate a dealer near you.