In an industry crammed with hype about the latest technological advances in gearing, suspension, braking and chassis configurations, there's something refreshing about a one-geared, rigid forked, round tubed, all-black utility bike that's equally at home on Tarmac or the trail.
Ride & handling: One gear but great tyres and great fun
The ride feel of the Vee-1 29 is comfortably neutral, the construction is tough, the aesthetics are plain enough to minimise unwanted attention and it's easy to care for. The big bonus, though, is that its simple design keeps cost and weight low. Our test bike weighed in at 11.02kg (24.3lb).
The Vee-1 29 comes with Kenda's popular Small Block Eight 2.1in tyres, and we've spent the last few weeks having a lot of fun riding it on relatively rough woodsy trails as well as around town.
From a rough road or trail point of view, a rigid fork is easy to rationalise on a 29er because bigger wheels and tyres roll more smoothly over bumpy terrain. It makes sense to design a bike like this with enough space for proper MTB tyres – the more volume a tyre has, the more comfort and shock absorption it will offer, with rolling variations tuned easily via tyre pressures.
The Vee-1 29's tyres are a fine compromise. The close, small knobbed tread pattern rolls easily on solid surfaces and offers excellent traction on most trails, apart from in sticky mud when it blocks easily. Obviously, the 700c rims also allow you to fit fast road tyres, but there's room for more aggressive mountain treads if they appeal.
There's enough clearance to suit your riding style
If you do want to use the Vitus off road, you'd be advised to fit a much smaller chainring up front. The fact that it comes with a 39-tooth and an 18-tooth freewheel is indicative of the fact that the suppliers expect most owners to use it as an urban utility bike, and the gear ratio is ideal for steady flat-land riding.
A 34-tooth chainring would obviously lessen the intensity of climbing struggles, especially off road, but you'd end up spinning out on easy roads. It's the obvious downside of single-geared bikes – gear choice is a compromise.
The upside is that the bike is low in maintenance, and that regularly riding a single gear over all types of terrain will soon add substantial strength and agility to your pedalling style. Combined with the rim brakes and a rigid fork, it's also the only way of creating an easy-rolling big-wheeler that's this light.
An 11kg (24.3lb) bike with 29in wheels, comfortable fast-rolling tyres and handling that's agile and confident, the Vee-1 29 is an easy bike to ride. The top tube stretch on our 19in sample was about 23in, and there's loads of adjustment built into the stem and saddle, providing the potential for it to suit both beginners and more experienced riders looking for a do-everything hack bike. A 16in version is available too.
Frame & equipment: Functional, with room for variation
The aluminium frame has lots of standover room, and is reinforced behind the head tube. There's one set of bottle bosses but, surprisingly, no rack mounts on the seatstays or mudguard eyelets on the rear dropouts.
The straight bladed, high tensile steel fork is fairly harsh on the bumps if you run your tyre pressures high, but forgiving with bigger tyres run softer. The nutted axle, long nippled, 36-spoke wheels are well built and tough, and the rim brakes are fine unless you plan to ride filthy trails, in which case we would recommend paying the extra £50 for discs.
A 26in riser handlebar seems to suit most riders and we're always happy to see bolt-on grips on a budget bike. The Vitus saddle is pretty comfy and the FSA Vero 170mm crankset is a decent quality unit, with a chainguard and square-taper bottom bracket axle.
The 39T chainring is a good match for commuters – trail users might want to swap it
There's also a 26in-wheeled model that weighs less than 11.3kg (25lb) for £25 less. Plus disc brake models of both wheel formats for £50 more, and a 27-speed version of the 26er for £75 more. While all the bikes slot neatly into the urban hybrid category, the fact that there's room for big MTB tyres introduces a whole new angle of appeal.