Hewitt Chiltern £1499

Ideal audax ride

BikeRadar score 4/5

‘Dependable’ is a good word for the Hewitt. Whether it’s the ride to work, a 100-miler on a sunny Sunday or a light tour, the Chiltern gets the job done without fuss. It's no featherweight but it rides like a much lighter bike, and it's great value for money.

Ride & handling: Stable at speed, holds its line in corners and climbs as well as many lighter bikes

This is a bike that feels lighter to ride than the scales suggest. It climbs well, and the triple chainset accommodates low climbing gears without big jumps between the sprockets on the rear cassette. The latest 2011 Shimano 105 groupset delivers crisp and precise shifts even under pressure. Head back down the hill and the Hewitt is stable and steady.

There’s a little movement at the bottom bracket, but you really have to be stomping on the pedals to notice. What’s more apparent is the Chiltern’s forgiving ride. Although made from lower grade Reynolds steel rather than the pricier 853, the steel fork and frame take the sting out of rough roads well, even with 23mm tyres fitted.

We’d be tempted to fit slightly wider rubber to make it truly plush, and the long-reach Shimano brakes leave room for tyres of up to 28mm, even with the  mudguards fitted. The Reynolds 525 fork may take the edge off bumps in the road, but it’s stiff laterally, so there’s no vagueness to the steering. In short, the Chiltern’s a no-nonsense bike for no-nonsense riding and well worth a look as an all-rounder.

Frame: Steel chassis with all the braze-ons you’d expect, plus pump pegs

Although Hewitt make custom frames, the Chiltern is an off-the-peg model, but each bike is fitted to the individual customer and with their own choice of components. Ideally, Paul Hewitt likes to assess each rider on the frame-fitting jig at his shop in Leyland, Lancashire. Failing that, customers are asked to send certain body measurements or take the dimensions of an existing bike they’re already happy with.

Our test bike was built to the dimensions of one of our tester’s everyday bikes. So it came as no surprise, then, that straight out of the bike box it felt comfy. However, an unusually long stem (150mm) and a number of headset spacers were used to get the setup just right. A larger frame would have avoided this slightly ungainly solution, but our XL frame is the biggest of the four sizes available.

The frame itself is TIG-welded in Taiwan from Reynolds tubing. The main triangle uses 631 tubes, while the stays and fork are Reynolds 525. Though not as flash as 853 steel, this is still a quality set of tubing. The Chiltern comes with bosses for mudguards and a rear rack, and it also has pump pegs – something you don’t see too often these days.

Equipment: Durable wheelset, slick shifting and quality finishing kit

Continental Ultra Gatorskin tyres are a good choice on a bike that’s likely to be used all year round, with an aramid belt under the tread for puncture protection and slash-resistant sidewalls. For four-season rubber, they’re no slouches too. It’s not a shock to see these tyres fitted to a set of handbuilt wheels either, since Paul Hewitt is well known for his wheel-building prowess.

The Chiltern’s Mavic Open Pro rims laced to Shimano 105 hubs are sensible, no-nonsense wheels that should provide years of service if looked after. With 32 spokes on the front and 36 on the back, they should shrug off the odd pothole and will be easy to repair if they don’t. There’s a weight penalty to having 36 spokes on the rear rather than 32, but it’s not huge, and the extra strength will be worth it if you want a bike that can cope with some light touring.

When it comes to the rest of the spec, 2011 Shimano 105 is slick and smooth, the Fizik Arione saddle is comfortable, and the finishing kit is high quality. No arguments at all for the money.

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