Bike of the Week | Vitus Vee-1 29

Faithful town bike proves simplicity is key

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Vitus Vee-1 29

You’re looking at the most useful bike in my life. Yes, this singlespeed town bike is surprisingly fun to ride and I guess it’s alright to look at, but it really is exceptional at… just being a bike – and that’s something I’ve really taken for granted at times.

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Part of the reason I’ve not appreciated this bike perhaps as much as I should have is its absolute dependability. I’m not particularly proud to say it, but this is a bike that has lived outside for at least 18 months of its life.

Once covered by a tarpaulin sheet at the rear of my previous residence, it was always denied the limited dry and secure bike storage of other bikes. Then, when the shed roof collapsed at my parent’s house, the tarpaulin was moved to a more urgent job, which left the Vitus out in the rain.

Most bikes that live outside quickly deteriorate, and I wasn’t expecting anything different from the Vitus, but it just didn’t happen. 

Vitus Vee-1 29 bike locked outside
Clever spec choices and good security mean the Vitus is happy enough living outside.
Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media

Whoever specced this bike originally did a great job of foreseeing the sort of abuse it might come to expect.

There are what I assume to be galvanised alloy bolts at the stem, which have shown no sign of corrosion. I’m convinced that the factory-fit KMC galvanised chain would also degrease back to looking almost brand new, and I’m still scratching my head as to why there aren’t more of these about.

The nuts that secure each of the wheels are also without rust and the fact they aren’t quick release – along with the seatpost – is a very deliberate move to prevent parts being stolen.

That leads me to another big plus point on this bike. As much as there’s no doubt that the Vitus would have some appeal to thieves, I feel it generally manages to stay under the radar.

Mine is secured by the incredibly fancy – if slightly fiddly – Altor Apex Ti and so far it’s remained unchallenged by Bristol’s bike thieves, and long may that continue, too, because I’ve grown to really love this thing.

What is the Vitus Vee-1 29?

The Vee-1 29 was sold as a utility bike by Chain Reaction Cycles’ own brand Vitus. Originally part of the Vee family of bikes, several different specs were available with a choice of 26in or 29in wheels and numerous drivetrain configurations. This model always stood out thanks to its utilitarian simplicity and low price.

The Vitus Vee line remains a part of the Vitus line-up for 2020.

The Vee-1 undeniably has simplicity on its side; there’s no suspension fork, only one gear and v-brakes. It’s not an especially heavy bike either, coming in at approximately 11kg / 24lbs.

Vitus Vee-1 29 bike
The inconspicuous Vee-1 29 is a surprisingly fun and capable bike.
Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media

What I’ve failed to mention so far is just how much of a little weirdo this bike is. On the surface it kind of looks like a big wheel BMX, even in this larger 19in frame size, yet The Vee-1 has 29in/700c wheels.

Its geometry is somewhere between that of a hardtail mountain bike and a hybrid, so you get fast steering and real agility but a bike that still feels confident at speed.

The ride is definitely not as playful as you might expect though, with a front end that’s strangely difficult to pop and some of that early 29in awkwardness that’s not really encountered today.

Its v-brakes are plenty powerful enough, even in the wet, but they lack the feel required to give you total confidence when, say, misbehaving on the bike’s back wheel.

Still, point it at a tame mountain bike trail or gravel path and you can have the sort of fun that old school mountain bikes or today’s gravel bikes deliver.

It’s also the bike that I reach for when I’m short on time or when I don’t want to get dressed up in riding kit.

It feels better to travel slowly on this bike than almost any other that I’ve had before it, and sometimes that’s exactly what I need.

Sunny day bike on the grass
This modest bike has transported me to and from countless good times.
Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media

It has cost very little indeed to keep this bike running over the years. The original Kenda tyres were rock hard by the time they were replaced, despite their tread still being very much intact. I’ve had to tighten the brakes a few times and have had the rear wheel rebuilt recently. That’s it. 

This very example was tested by the late, great Steve Worland back in 2012. Worland narrowly avoided giving it full marks in his review, citing excessively tall gearing and a lack of mudguard/rack compatibility as its only negatives.

A photograph from Steve Worland's original test in 2013
A photograph from Steve Worland’s original test in 2013.
Steve Worland/Future Publishing

He was totally right on both points, of course. The 39 x 11 gearing is okay on flats but a real chore to winch up steep sections, and it seems Vitus responded by dropping the chainring size to 38t on later bikes. I think I’d like to pop a 36t ring on myself.

Newer models also get rack and mudguard mountings as part of an updated alloy frame and fork.

Buying a cheap bike is easy, but finding a cheap bike that’s not going to fall apart or have you wishing you spent more…that’s a lot trickier and it’s something I think Vitus completely nailed here.

Vitus Vee-1 29 bike non-driveside
The Vee-1 29 proves that simplicity is key for cheaper bikes.
Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media

The Vee-1 29 lives on in the form of its spiritual successor, the Vitus Vee 29 City Bike SS. It’s a bike I’ve not personally ridden but will definitely have to do so.

Amazingly, the newer bike retails at only £299, which is £25 cheaper than this original bike’s RRP in 2012. No wonder there are none in stock right now.

Plusher versions of the same frame and fork are also dressed with disc brakes and hub/derailleur gears for a small premium in the form of the Vitus Dee range.

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Vitus Vee-1 29 specification (2013)

  • Frame: Aluminium
  • Fork: Hi tensile steel
  • Drivetrain: FSA Vero 39-tooth with guard, 11t rear sprocket
  • Wheels: Unbranded 36 hole 700c
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Century 2in (formerly Kenda Small Block Eight 2.1in)
  • Weight: 11kg / 24lbs
  • Price: £324.99 (in 2012)