There's a huge choice when looking for an urban bike, and something to suit everyone's needs and wallet.
Edinburgh have a reputation for supplying good value bikes through Revolution, their own brand, and this hubgeared, MTB-derived offering is, at £349, at the cheaper end of the market. There's an eight-speed derailleur model in the range, too, as well as a 700c-wheeled variation.
The Nexus-geared bike is aimed more at the occasional commuter, and built for utility more than speed - the internal gears mean less maintenance and it will take full mudguards or a rear rack. The premium for having the eight-speed hub is £100 over the standard derailleur model, so is it money well spent?
Well built Mtb geometry The 7005 aluminium frame is the same one that features on Revolution's Cuillin Mtbs, with the geometry being standard off-road fare. Transferred to a road environment, this makes for quite a compact bike with a reasonably short top-tube that's good for shorter commutes. If planning any longer trips, you may want to go up a size for the extra room. Shorter riders will have to anyway - the smallest available size is 18in.
The frame has rear rack and mudguard mounts, as well as two sets of bottle bosses. On the bottom of the down-tube, three widely spaced bolts secure the hub gear cable; they're too far apart to fit a normal bottle cage and a pair of standard spaced bolts would have been useful. All the welds are tidy, and the charcoal finish with subtle graphics won't draw attention to your steed in town. The chromoly fork matches the frame well, and has all the holes necessary for a full guard.
Nimble enough despite its weight The Courier is very easy to ride and the steering feels quite quick without being twitchy. The bike has a good balance of high speed stability and low speed manoeuvrability. Around town it's very well behaved, the reasonably narrow bars adding to the compact feel of the bike. The ride is quite uncompromising; the stiff aluminium frame and solidly built wheels transfer a lot of road shock to the rider, especially through the very firm bar and stem set-up.
This is good when accelerating away from the lights, less so when riding at speed on uneven city tarmac or unsurfaced bike routes. The 29lb overall weight of the bike isn't so noticeable when darting in and out of traffic, but once you're free of town and out on the open road it becomes more of an issue, especially on climbs. If you're looking for a bike for a long commute you'd be better off looking elsewhere in the Courier range; this is a machine for the city, best suited to shorter journeys.
Nexus gets better each year considering that it costs about £200 to retro-fit a Nexus eightspeed hub, the fact that the likes of Edinburgh and Halfords manage to shoehorn one into bikes at this price point is astonishing. It's good kit, too; the gear range isn't what you'd get from a triple chainset, but it's ample for the territory the bike was designed for.
If you live somewhere hilly or you regularly load up with shopping or luggage, you may find it a bit over-geared, but Edinburgh can supply the bike fitted with a 38T Nexus chainring for an extra £25, rather than the standard 44T Suntour unit. Shifting is generally instant and precise; though the hub can skip when changing under a heavy load, it's certainly as well behaved as a derailleur, if not better.
The fact that you can change gear while stationary is a real plus in a city environment - no more grinding away from the lights in top. The shifter, with a lever (for higher gears) and a button (for lower), isn't an ergonomic masterpiece, but it works fine once you're used to it, and the display is nice and clear.
Any engineer will tell you that a hub-geared system is less efficient than a derailleur, but the gap has been closing over the last few years, and the multiple benefits of a weather-sealed system, a low-wear chain set-up and the ability to shift when at a standstill mean that for many people a hub gear is the most sensible choice around town.
Other equipment is solid and functional. The Tektro V brakes work faultlessly; the cheap brake blocks can sound a bit scratchy but there's no loss of power or modulation. The Tioga branded stem and flat bar are direct-feeling and stiff and the ergonomic grips are firm but not uncomfortable. You get a good WTB saddle on a micro-adjust seatpost, and a non- QR clamp to deter the seat thieves.
The Suntour crank has what's described as a bashguard, but in reality it's a trouser guard; it spins on a standard square taper bottom bracket and isn't the stiffest set-up, but is perfectly serviceable for the money. Edinburgh don't spec the bike with guards, but will happily factory fit a set of SKS P55s for an extra £23.95 - a good idea if you ride to work in the winter months.
Well built, but a bit slow when you're starting with 1.75kg of hub gear you know you're not going to end up with the lightest wheels, but I do feel that a slightly different spec here could really help with the feel of the bike. The Strongman double-walled rims are certainly solid, but they're overkill on a bike like this, especially considering the 36 chunky spokes keeping them in place.
A lighter rim and spokes would offset the weight of the hub a bit, as would a slightly more sporty tyre choice. The Tioga Comodo tyres are good all-round rubber that'll cope with towpaths and rougher tracks, as well as city tarmac. They're quite heavy though, and if you're not going to venture off-road you'd be better off with a faster-rolling slick, such as Continental's Sport Contact or Schwalbe's City Jet.
The Courier Nexus won't suit everyone, but it seems from the other options in the range that Edinburgh are well aware of that. The 26in derailleur model and 700c versions are lighter and quicker, but the Nexus is great for anyone who wants a low- maintenance bike about town. It's nimble enough to handle the traffic, and sensibly specced for trouble-free riding day in, day out. It's not the quickest, and the firm ride can beat you up a bit on rougher roads, but it's a sturdy utility bike you can rely on. Fit some mudguards and you've got yourself some excellent short-distance transport. Considering how much the Nexus hub costs on its own, the bike is very good value too.
Carrera Subway 8, £399 (+44(0)8457 626625 www.halfords.com) The Subway 8 is good value with Nexus drum brakes, a suspension seatpost and adjustable stem. Kona Smoke, £300 (+44 (0)1179 825500 www.konabikes.co.uk) P2 forks and a chromoly frame make for a lively ride, and you get a 24- speed Shimano transmission and mudguards. Ridgeback Tempest, £369 (www. ultimatepursuits.co.uk) The Tempest packs Shimano discs and a 24-speed transmission, with fast Conti slicks. It's aimed toward a faster and longer commute.
Hub gear - A hub gear unit uses cyclical gears inside the hub body to transfer drive from the chain to the wheel. Different gear combinations are selectable, giving between three and 14 speeds depending on the model
Micro-adjust seatpost - Allows minute adjustment of the saddle's horizontal level
Bottle bosses - Mounts on the frame for attaching bottle cages to.