Bike test: Vitus Dee 29
Bike test: Vitus Dee 29
This 2016 version of the Dee 29 was discounted down to £209.99 in December when I got it. The 2017 version will be £279.99 – still a good deal. It’s pitched as a city bike and has mounts for mudguards and racks; low-rider fork bosses make it easy to fit a front mudguard without fouling the disc calliper. The 38/18 gear (62in) is fine on road but too high where I mostly rode it: off-road.
A rigid, singlespeed 29er will not be everyone’s mountain bike of choice. Yet if you can tolerate a non-variable gear, the Dee 29 rides well and is kilos lighter than anything close to it on price – and some bikes that are much dearer. Its rigid fork is far better than a cheap coil suspension fork with no damping, providing taut, predictable handling. A rigid bike is hard work on stutter bumps but elsewhere those 29er wheels hold their momentum well – once you’ve thrashed the single gear up to speed.
The one change I made, other than fitting budget SPD pedals, was to the gearing. I’d have liked a 32t chainring, but that’s not feasible with a five-arm 110 BCD chainset so I fitted a spare 34t from a road bike and shortened the chain. That reduced the gear to 55in. A better option, requiring spare 1/8in chain links, would be a 22t Sturmey Archer freewheel (£12). That’d give an easier 50in gear with the original chainset and let you jettison the 18t freewheel, whose knocky bearings promise a short life.
Above: Chain tension is via short track ends. Longer ones would simplify wheel refitting by providing more slack
If I owned the Dee 29, I’d replace the front tyre with a grippier one with more volume; Chain Reaction were doing a 29×2.4in wire-bead Continental Mountain King for £15.99 at time of writing. I’d also add cheap bar-ends (~£10) as a rigid fork gets jarring with one hand position. Adding gears is possible – given a new rear wheel and a DMR Chain Tug Mech Hanger – but isn’t cost effective.
Vitus might intend the Dee 29 as an urban mountain bike, but it doesn’t take much to return this 29er to its roots (sic). It’s a proper mountain bike, albeit a basic one, and it’s properly fun to ride.
PRICE: £209.99 (2016 model)
SIZES: 16in, 19in (tested)
WEIGHT: 12.2kg (inc pedals)
FRAME & FORK: 6061-T6 aluminium frame with fittings for 1 bottle, rear rack, mudguard. Chrome-moly steel fork with fittings for mudguard & front rack.
WHEELS: 53-622 Maxxis Sphinx tyres, Jalco JV200 aluminium rims, 32×3 2.0mm spokes, Vitus aluminium solid-axle disc hubs
TRANSMISSION: Flat pedals (swapped for M424 SPDs), 170mm 5-arm chainset with 38T chainring and guard, square taper bottom bracket, KMC singlespeed chain, 18T freewheel. One ratio, 62in (reduced to 55in for test)
BRAKING: Tektro M280 mechanical discs with 160mm rotors
STEERING & SEATING: 660×31.8mm Vitus aluminium flat bar, 90×10˚ Vitus aluminium stem, 1 1/8in threadless headset. Vitus saddle, 27.2×400mm Vitus aluminium micro-adjust seatpost
Another rigid 29er, but its 3×7 Shimano Tourney gears make it the more sensible off-road option for many. Has V-brakes instead of mechanical discs.
One eye on the future (650B wheels), one on the past (quill stem), this bike avoids the cheap suspension fork trap, and its 3×6 Tourney gears include a 42-32-22 chainset.