by Ben Haworth
January 28, 2010
The first in our new series of sub-£500 not-MTBs for MTBers.
This is the first in regular series of “sub-£500 bikes that aren’t mountain bikes reviewed from a mountainbiker’s perspective”. We thought “Impulse Bikes” was a catchier title. It’s a good/bad (delete as applicable) coincidence that the first Impulse Bike is similar to the Cycle To Work Scheme bikes featured in the new issue of the magazine. But that’s just the way our “fluid planning” sometimes turns out. If one of your New Year Resolutions was to ride to work a bit more, then hopefully you’ll appreciate (or at least excuse) the commuter-fest that we’ve done recently!
Over the course of the year we’ll be featuring as many different types of not-mountainbikes as possible. And we’re interested in hearing about what type of stuff we should cover – so please drop us a line or comment below.
KHS Urban Uno
From: KHS Bikes www.khsbikes.co.uk
Weight: 22 lbs
We make no apologies for choosing this bike principally because of its mudguards. Being of a certain type of cyclist (BIKE TART!) one thing that always spoils the look of otherwise quite dapper commuter bikes is mudguards. Horrible plastic things spoiling the lines of the bike. Sometimes with little rubbery flaps and reflectors. The ace thing about the mudguards on the KHS Urban Soul is that they actually make the bike look better. It’s a bonus that they actually work okay at protecting you from road spray as well; the lack of any protection at the sides hasn’t seemed to impair their performance.
Anyway, enough fetishising over the mudguards. The frame is made of Reynolds 520 double butted cromoly steel. The welds are surprisingly well finished for a bike at this price, with no excess blobbing or anything like that. The matt grey livery and skinny tubes are a nice balance of aesthetics and non-eyecatching-ness. The wheels are no-name hubs laced to Weinmann SP17 rims (the rear hub is flip-flop should you want to run fixed). Nothing special but not hideously nasty either. They’re still spinning as nicely as the day the bike arrived. The tyres are Kenda Kontender 26c. There are pannier mounts on the rear stays. There are no guides for gear cabling – this bike is singlespeed for life baby.
The crankset is a no-name affair running on a similarly no-name cartridge bearing square taper bottom bracket. The cranks are 170mm long and their five arms hold on to a 44 tooth chainring. The rear gear is a 16 tooth screw-on freewheel. KHS’ own-brand supply the seat post, saddle (very comfortable) and alloy bullhorn handlebars. The brake levers are Tektro RL720 alloy side-pulls connected to Tektro alloy dual pivot brakes.
The first things you notice as a mountainbiker when riding a bike like the Urban Uno is the increased harshness and the decreased rolling resistance. We initially ran the 26c tyres quite hard (100+ psi) and although it was fast it was a bit too uncomfortable. This is a bike for commuting not road racing. With some air let out of the tyres (80 psi ish) the bike was a whole lot nicer to ride. It was then that the feel of frame came through a bit more. It’s not a stiff ‘n’ sprightly sprinter but it does have a nice muted feel to it – which is better suited to the demands of commuting. The overall fairly light weight of 22 lbs is a nice weight for such a bike.
The riding position isn’t too “sit up and beg” nor is it “twitchy and low roadie” style. The cockpit doesn’t feel cramped but you still feel sufficiently heads-up when riding amidst traffic. The bullhorn bar “prongs” can be used in a pseudo-timetrial stylee if you feel like getting in a tuck. The prongs are also good for grabbing hold of during climbs (or standing starts at traffic lights) where you have to send a bit more power down.
The 44×16 gear ratio felt a bit large at first (even on relatively flat commutes) but after a while we “retuned” our legs (and mindset) away from “mountainbiking” and on to “commuting”. We stopped trying to spin at 90rpm cadence all the time and began to turn the pedals at a more sedate pace. It takes a while to get used to – and to use – the increased momentum and reduced rolling resistance of skinny-tyred 700c wheels. You can freewheel for much, much longer periods compared to a knobbley-tyred 26in wheel. While this is nothing we didn’t know (in theory) beforehand, it took a while to make the most of in practice.
Having a dedicated 700c commuter bike is a very different experience to just putting slick tyres on your mountain bike. It’s easier, faster and funner. Just hugely betterer in general. The difference is so marked that it makes the likelihood of you riding to work much greater. The money spent on a bike like this will quickly pay for itself in terms of car journeys saved. It takes the chore and hairshirt “wholemeal” worthiness out of commuting. it actually makes it an enjoyable experience. As well as the financial benefits you’ll also experience such side effects as increased smiling and accidental fitness!
Impulse Bike Conclusion
If you live within an hour’s ride of your work place then we’d strongly recommend getting a dedicated commuter bike. They don’t need any extra accessories that you haven’t got already and they don’t take that much getting to used to how they ride and handle.
Genesis Day One (Flat Bar)