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Oxford Bike Works Model 1E review

Handmade, light steel tourer with all-round aspirations

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
The 1E is iightweight and comfortable with an upright riding position.

Our review

High-quality, British-built light touring steel all-rounder
Pros: Handmade British frame; quality wheels; well-chosen kit
Cons: Slightly weighty; limited gear range; budget decals
Skip to view product specifications

Oxford Bike Works’ steel Model 1E is the company’s least expensive model.

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Oxford proudly claims that its chromoly steel frames are made in the UK, by Coventry’s well-respected Lee Cooper Cycles.

This ups the cost of the bike, but the Model 1E’s frame is lovely, foregoing the usual TIG welding for a super-smooth fillet-brazed construction.

The frame and fork have fittings for racks and mudguards, and there’s also a kickstand plate.

Steel, that most venerable of frame materials, is paired with a mix of components that span the last few years.

There’s a modern 1x chainset with a choice of chainring sizes, but gear changes come courtesy of an old-school bar-end shifter and braking is taken care of by the now rarely seen V-brakes.

How we tested

We tested four bikes around the £1,000 mark that are all suitable for commuting, but can be used for much more than the daily grind to work.

Their aspirations take in leisure riding, fast fitness and perhaps even racing ambitions, plus loading up for trips away.

As such, while they are all around the same price, each offers a distinct set of characteristics and features.

Be sure to check out all four reviews to see which one might just be a good fit for you and the cycling you do.

Also on test

Oxford Bike Works Model 1E brakes and kit

The Oxford Bike Works Model 1E road bike is equipped with a Men’s Terry Fisio Gel saddle
The saddle is more padded than many, but wasn’t a problem.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

I set off on my first ride with a sense of trepidation. But then I remembered that even within my lifetime, V-brakes were once seen as a genuine upgrade, and the Oxford’s braking was actually very good. It has excellent power and control with no squealing, in both the £1,299 flat- and drop-bar configurations the bike is offered in.

Richard from Oxford Bike Works says he uses V-brakes because it means you don’t have to overbuild the fork and lose the springiness and comfort of steel. If you’re set on disc brakes, these are available for an extra £200.

Don’t worry about the length of our bike’s steerer. Oxford doesn’t have a huge fleet, so we didn’t cut the steerer, but if you were to buy one, it would be cut to length after a bike-fitting session that is included in the cost.

Being such a small company – Richard tells us it has “one and a half” staff – means Oxford can’t offer some of the services that multinational manufacturers can, but it can provide a few personal touches.

In addition to the bike fitting, you get some limited kit choices on the 1E, with much more customisation possible on Oxford’s more expensive bikes. But you do get a year-long ‘comfort guarantee’, so if you don’t get on with the saddle, stem or bar, you can swap them.

And while Oxford can’t offer a Bike2Work tax break, it does offer its own high-interest savings scheme.

Oxford Bike Works Model 1E ride impressions

Male cyclist in orange top Oxford Bike Works Model 1E road bike
It’s everything you’d expect of a chromoly steel bike with wide tyres and touring-friendly geometry.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

What does all of this mean when it comes to the ride? Well, it’s everything you’d expect of a chromoly steel bike with supple 32mm-wide tyres and slack, touring-friendly geometry. It’s smooth, comfortable and shock absorbing with an upright riding position that put no strain on my back.

This regal position is great for both seeing and being seen, with the slightly ovalised handlebar tops comfy for long commutes and big days out. I thought the Terry men’s saddle would feel overly padded, but I got on with it very well.

The tyres are just about the right width for light touring, commuting and general riding, offering comfort on smooth and unsurfaced routes, and decent grip on towpaths, light gravel and broken country lanes.

The single chainring will always mean a limited gear range, and this bike’s 36-tooth chainring and 11-42 cassette offer a 23-88in range; for flatter, faster riding I’d go for a larger chainring, for loaded touring I’d go smaller still. But for the great majority of my testing, the gearing was fine, just occasionally spinning out on descents.

The components are well chosen throughout, with little sign of cost-cutting. In addition to the brakes, chainring and Deore rear derailleur, both hubs are also from Shimano and, with the cabling all externally routed, even the vaguely competent home mechanic should be able to cope with most of the spannering.

Oxford Bike Works Model 1E road bike head tube with metal badge
The head tube has a metal badge, but it’s stickers for the frame.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

Rounding out a well-considered package are a kickstand – very handy for loaded touring – full-length mudguards and a beautiful-sounding brass bell.

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One of my very few criticisms is that, while the head tube sports a proper metal badge, the frame decals are just clear sticky plastic, but that’s aesthetic rather than practical.

Oxford Bike Works Model 1E geometry

M
Seat angle (degrees)72.5
Head angle (degrees)71.5
Chainstay (mm)450
Seat tube (mm)494
Top tube (mm)570
Fork offset (mm)50
Trail (mm)63
Bottom bracket height (mm)276
Wheelbase (mm)1,060
Standover (mm)805

Also consider

A little more

  • Oxford Bike Works Model 1
  • £1,589

This is very similar to the Model 1E in its flat-bar guise, but instead of our test bike’s stripped-back 1x setup, it has a Shimano triple chainset. Choose the 44/32/22 version and you’ll get a super-low, touring-friendly 22×34 ratio.

A little more again

  • Oxford Bike Works Model 2
  • £1,889

The Reynolds 525-framed model 2 goes further up the Shimano hierarchy to Deore XT, with a triple 10-speed chainset or an 11-speed double chainset as a special order. A braking option is Magura’s hydraulic V-brakes.

A lot more

  • Oxford Bike Works Expedition Bike
  • £2,359

Want to explore the world? Oxford’s Expedition machine is available with its favourite V-brakes, or you can upgrade to disc brakes. It comes with front and rear racks, tough 26in wheels and a Shimano 8-speed triple drivetrain.

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £1440.00
Weight 13.28kg (M)
Brand Oxford

Features

Available sizes S, M, L, XL
Headset Ergotec threadless
Tyres 622x32c Panaracer Pasela ProTite
Stem RaceFace (non-test bike gets Deda Zero)
Shifter Shimano bar-end
Seatpost 27.2mm Ergotec aluminium
Saddle Men’s Terry Fisio Gel
Rear derailleur Shimano Deore
Handlebar Cinelli (non-test bike gets Deda Zero)
Bottom bracket Neco cartridge
Frame Double-butted steel
Fork Steel
Cranks Shimano FC-T3010, 36t
Chain SRAM PC1031 10-speed
Cassette Shimano 10-speed 11-42
Brakes Shimano BR-T4000 V-brakes, Tektro levers
Wheels Zac 2000 front, Exal LX17 rear rim, Shimano RS-300 front hub, Shimano Deore LX rear