- Endorfin VP-4 SL
- £1,399 frame only; complete bikes from £1,999
- Handmade in Germany
- Available in more colours than any rainbow
Endorfin specialises in lightweight frames hand-made in Germany. It promises “the highest quality and attention to detail possible”, and does all its building, painting (in a huge choice of colours) and assembly in-house. Endorfin produces a range of MTB and road bikes – the VP-4 is its full-suspension platform, available in three versions. We’re looking at the conventionally-geared VP-4 SL, but there’s also the Rohloff-specific VP-4 R SL and the women’s VP-4 Lady.
All dimensions based on Medium frame
- Effective top tube length (TT) 595mm (23.4in)
- Seat tube (ST) 48cm (18.9in)
- Chainstay (CS) 427mm (16.8in)
- Head angle 71°
- Seat angle 73.5°
- Frame weight 2.6kg (5.75lb)
We’re sure that there are German-made frames that don’t wear their engineered hearts on their sleeves, but we’ve yet to come across one. Brands like Nicolai and Proceed like to show off their machining, welding and gussetry. Endorfin is no exception, but it’s all rather more subtle.
Take, for example, the downtube. At first glance, it looks like just a tube. But look more closely and you notice that it’s got a gentle flare to it. The shock and pivot mounts are all no meatier than they need to be, but all of the pivot bearings are generously sized (particularly the heavily-loaded chainstay pivot). They’re nearly all hidden away from the dirt, too, with only the chainstay one exposed.
The rocker arm and seatstay assembly is particularly eyecatching. The rocker is a three-part construction, with a pair of side plates joined by a bolt-in cross brace. Meanwhile, the square-section seatstays are cut off horizontally and a machined rocker mount welded on, complete with a handy flat plate that the serial number is stamped on for all to see.
The whole thing has a distinct hint of the Turner about it, but then the same is true of any four-bar bike with a vertical shock and a little strut at the seat tube/top tube junction. It’s got a definite racey stance, too – it looks like a fast bike in all senses.
One thing’s for sure, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to colours for your Endorfin. “Every colour of the rainbow” doesn’t even come close – rainbows only have seven colours, and Endorfin’s colour chart lists hundreds. If it’s got a RAL number, you can have it, pretty much. Then there’s decal colour options on top of that. All in all, there’s no way you’re going to be able to use not liking the colour as an excuse not to buy on of these.
The sizing of the VP-4 is quite interesting, with the medium and large sizes all sharing a 48cm (centre to centre) seat tube but proportionally longer top tubes. Rear travel is 100mm.
We’d expect that most Endorfin buyers would go for the frame-only option and fit their own choice of parts, but Endorfin UK does a range of complete bike options from £1,999 to £3,199. You can also have Endorfin but the whole bike together to your spec if you wish. The test bike was equipped mainly with “safe bet” components like XT chainset, SRAM mech and shifters, Race Face finishing kit and a Fox F100 fork. The only bit that didn’t behave itself impeccably was the German:A POG rear hub that worked itself loose during the test period, causing the wheel to rattle from side to side. It was the work of a moment to tighten it back up again, though, and there wasn’t a repeat.
Many years ago, when nearly all mountain bikes emerged from the US, there was a big thing about “West Coast” and “East Coast” bikes. The distinction, which did have a degree of merit for a while, was that riding conditions on the opposing sides of North America were sufficiently different that the bikes were better suited to better things. Conventional wisdom had it that West Coast bikes were a bit longer, slightly more relaxed and more at home on fast, sweeping trails, while East Coast bikes were short, steep, high up and happiest on slower, tight, technical trails.
For the most part, that kind of distinction has disappeared – it’s now a global market, most people want bikes that are decent all-rounders and of course considerably more bikes have very little to do with the US. There are still clear regional preferences in bike design, though. Which brings us to the Endorphin, which is a very German bike.
Several people who saw the Endorfin commented that it looked like it had run in to something. They have a point – it looks shorter and steeper than the numbers would suggest. It feels it, too. The top tube is a middling kind of length, but the angles are on the steep side. It makes for a very quick-handling bike, but it may prove a little too quick for some riders – it can get to be a bit of a handful. This, to be fair, isn’t much of a surprise – Endorfin says that the VP-4 has “race-oriented geometry which maximizes forward thrust”. It’s entirely capable, but if you want a bike that’ll look after you rather than one that demands you take charge, this one may not be for you.
We didn’t expect any surprises from the entirely conventional rear suspension layout, and didn’t get any. It’s at its best run on the firm side and taking advantage of the light weight and fast handling to patter over a lot of stuff. Don’t aim for a magic-carpet small-bump rider, the VP-4 just isn’t that kind of bike – you’ll end up with wallow and bounce instead. We have to say that the DT Swiss shock isn’t one of our favourites, being a little finicky on setup and prone to making strange gasping noises and getting a little overworked, but there’s a set-up sweet spot in there. Once you’ve found it, you end up with an inspiring and agile ride. Try before you buy, though – if you’re used to the more relaxed geometries currently in vogue, the VP-4 may catch you out.
It’s worth noting that Endorfin say that the VP-4 will take forks from 80-120mm of travel. We’re not sure if any human brain operates fast enough to run an 80mm fork on it, but a slightly longer fork than the Fox F100 fitted to the test bike may well broaden the Endorfin’s appeal.
Positives: Fast handling, beautifully made, a bit different (without being wacky), decent value, light
Negatives: Can be a bit of a handful, finicky rear shock
Verdict: We like the VP-4, but you have to adopt a somewhat gung-ho attitude to get the best out of it. One rider’s “agile” is another’s “terrifying”, but kudos to Endorfin for not ploughing the safe middle ground when it comes to geometry. If you’re looking for a fast, well-made (in all senses) marathon/enduro bike that’s not the same as everybody else’s then have a good look at Endorfin.