Why would you buy a bike designed, at least in theory, for the off-road world of cyclocross for more urban duties? Well, in spite of the sport’s growing popularity we reckon more cyclocross bikes see action solely on city streets and country roads than competitive mud-plugging duties.
Verenti’s distributor Wiggle alludes to the wider ambitions of its Substance by saying that it’s also designed to be "a bit of fun around town, a sturdy commuter and a weekend rambler". Ah, it all makes sense now.
The gearing is certainly more all-rounder than 'crosser. Competitive ’cross bikes need their gears closer together, hence the common 46/36 setup. That might be handy for racing, but it leaves you short at both ends of the range when it comes to more general cycling.
Cable-actuated disc brakes offer ample power
The Substance’s 50/34 compact is a much better call for most uses, and gives a very impressive range when combined with the 11-32 cassette. The nine-speed Sora setup does mean biggish gaps between gears, especially at the lower gear range (bigger sprockets), but we think that’s a price worth paying. The 34x32 will get you up even the steepest hills (or help you carry loads comfortably), and only the likes of Mark Cavendish will find the 50x11 too small at the top.
Comfort and versatility
Around town the Substance lives up to its name, bringing a substantial number of strengths to the urban party. The 32mm tyres make it comfortable, and if you want to go quicker – or fit mudguards – you could drop down to 28mm wide rubber with a less substantial tread.
As it is, the tyres are fine even for gravel or poorly surfaced tracks; the Alex rims should be tough enough for a fair amount of urban use too, or for even longer days out. You can fit a rear rack to make further use of the Verenti’s long-distance capabilities.
The brakes are Avid’s BB5 road cable discs with 140mm rotors. These offer very decent braking in all conditions despite not being as inspiring as hydraulic discs.
You may not be hitting PBs, but we found the Verenti plenty nippy
The riding position is slightly more upright than with a standard road bike, thanks to a shorter top tube, though the head tube isn’t that tall, so it’s not exactly a sit-up-and-beg ride. The slightly slack head angle also means the handling isn’t as sharp as a road bike’s, though we found it fine for nipping through city streets at a fair old lick, the wider tyres meaning we didn’t need to take as much care over poor surfaces.
The butted steel frame and steel fork have plenty of comfort, helped by a gently sloping top tube and a 27.2mm diameter seatpost. The finishing kit from 4ZA – Ridley’s house brand – is all decent quality, and with the price subject to discounts as we publish this, you could invest in a carbon seatpost and a high-end saddle with some of the money you’ve saved.
The Verenti is well suited to long days out, a spot of touring, and even rides like sportives. Personal bests won’t be on your agenda, but comfort and fun will. As for city riding, this will do the lot, flat or hilly, tough or gentle.