Bike test: Vitus Dee 29

Vitus Dee 29

Bike test: Vitus Dee 29

Vitus Dee 29 singlespeed mountain bike
Vitus Dee 29
Is it possible to have fun off-road on a budget? Cycle magazine editor Dan Joyce finds out with the 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

Inexpensive upgrades

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. 

Related Publication

Cycle Magazine, February / March 2017 Cycle Magazine, February / March 2017
In this issue: Why Rights of Way rules need revising; decent bikes for £250; touring tips for women; West Highland by MTB; Josie Dew in full flood.

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