Bike test: Vitus Dee 29

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 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.

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.

First published in Cycle magazine, February/March 2017 issue. All information correct at time of publishing.

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Tech spec

Vitus Dee 29

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

Other options

Wiggle Mountain Bike £250

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.

Raleigh Helion 1.0 £280

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.