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A steel touring bike in an £1,800 build

Back in December, I went up to Hewitt Cycles in Leyland for a bike fitting and I'll be testing two bikes off the back of that. The first one, a Cheviot SE tourer, has arrived in Devon for extensive testing.

The Cheviot SE is a traditional steel-framed touring bike, albeit with some modern touches, like the sloping top-tube. It's an off-the-peg frame but Hewitt also sell a fully custom version, the Grampian, should you wish. The standard build costs £1,599 but the version I'll be testing has a few upgrades and comes in at £1,805.

The frame is made from Reynolds 725 tubing – no funny profiles here, all the tubes are pleasingly round. Hewitt have their off-the-peg frames made in Taiwan – hopefully we're well past the days when people looked down their noses at Far Eastern craftsmanship as it's beautifully finished, with very tidy TIG welded joints.

There are three sets of bottle bosses, pump pegs (on the off-side seatstay) and some really lovely polished stainless steel dropouts. There also are proper brazed-on cable guides to protect the head tube which are always nice to see.

The fork is steel, this time in 631, with a traditional curve, low-rider mounts and a dynamo mounting tab. The test bike has an upgraded paint job, with white panels on the seat tube and down tube – that's an extra £80 but it does look very smart. It may be a small thing, but the colour is described as 'Anquetil Blue'. I have no idea if dark blue was Maitre Jacques' favourite colour, but it made me smile.

If I have a single criticism before the testing starts it's that the short head tube inevitably means a rather inelegant stack of spacers. The extra long steerer tube does allow plenty of flexibility when setting up the bike, but it's not pretty. It's only an aesthetic consideration though and the inch of spacer sitting on top of the stem could easily be dispensed with if this was actually my bike (they all go back, you know). As it's going to be sold as 'ex-demonstrator' it seems reasonable to leave some wiggle room to accommodate a prospective purchaser.

The 9-speed drivetrain is a tried and tested mix of Shimano Deore bits – a 22/32/44 chainset, Hollowtech bottom bracket, long-cage XT rear mech and an enormous 11-34 SLX cassette, which gives a bottom gear lower than an ant's kneecaps – 17.5in to be precise (they must have some big ants in Devon – Ed). It's a setup that well suits a bike which is designed for fully-loaded touring.

I've opted for Dura-Ace bar end shifters because there's something immensely satisfying about clunking through the gears and it's easy to change several in a single shift.

Braking is taken care of by Tektro 720 cantis working from Cane Creek levers. They're wide and strong and so far I've been impressed by the performance they offer (okay, I've already taken it for a spin around the block a couple of times).

Hewitt are known for their wheels (if they're good enough for Bradley....) and the Cheviot comes with a handbuilt pair – Ryde Sputnik rims laced to Deore XT hubs with DT spokes on the front, and a mixture of DT and Sapim spokes on the back. Tyres are Conti Touring Plus Reflex in a 32c flavour but the frame will accommodate fatter rubber if you wish.

The finishing kit can be mixed up to suit but I've gone with pretty much the stock set-up. Deda compact bars are wrapped in Cinelli Gel bar tape (my personal favourite) and attached to a Deda stem. The seatpost is an alloy System EX and the mudguards are SKS P45s. None of the kit is particularly exotic, but it's all solid, reliable and well-proven stuff.

I've chosen a San Marco Rolls instead of my usual Brooks. It's a tourists' favourite but not a saddle I've tried before. The leather cover also looks like the crust on tiger bread and small things like that always please me.

As I said earlier, the test bike has a few upgrades over the standard kit. One is the paint job, the others are the rack and front carrier. The standard build comes with a Blackburn EX2 rack included but we've got a Tubus Logo, which adds another £56. The standard build doesn't include a front carrier, but we've got a Tubus Ergo, which matches the rear rack and costs an additional £70.

Paul Hewitt was at pains to stress that this is a touring bike and should be reviewed as such. That's fair enough (and I will be taking it on some fully-loaded adventures) but I'd bet that plenty of Cheviots also spend time commuting, shopping and hunting out cake shops, which is what this one will be doing a lot of the time. It's a serious tourer, but it's also one of those practical do-almost-anything kind of bikes. It might even be coming on an audax or two, where it can keep my mate Lizzy's Cheviot company.

Although the Cheviot is an off-the-peg frame, I've been fully measured up by Paul and there's no reason why it shouldn't fit perfectly. So far I've been riding it with my own 'feels about right' set-up, which does feel very comfortable, but I'll be breaking out the tape measure and setting it to Paul's measurements for the bulk of the test.

Full report to follow, once I've given it a jolly good going over. If you've got any comments or questions, stick 'em below the line and I'll try to find answers during the test period.

In the meantime, head over to www.hewittcycles.co.uk for more details on the range.

15 comments

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Harvey Wang [10 posts] 3 years ago
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I've had one of these for a few years now and it's great. No complaints at all (mine came without pump pegs, but that's hardly a dealbreaker). I don't understand why anyone would want a front luggage rack though. How far do you want to go? I've been just about everywhere in UK, including E2E, and found rear panniers more than sufficient. I think if you were crossing continents you might need luggage front and rear, but how many people actually do that?

And your reviewer is correct, stripped of luggage it is still a handy all-rounder.

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Rob Simmonds [251 posts] 3 years ago
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Harvey Wang wrote:

I've had one of these for a few years now and it's great. No complaints at all (mine came without pump pegs, but that's hardly a dealbreaker). I don't understand why anyone would want a front luggage rack though. How far do you want to go? I've been just about everywhere in UK, including E2E, and found rear panniers more than sufficient. I think if you were crossing continents you might need luggage front and rear, but how many people actually do that?

And your reviewer is correct, stripped of luggage it is still a handy all-rounder.

I must admit, I don't normally use front panniers either, but many tourists do, so it only seems fair to stick some on and see how it handles. We take our testing very seriously at Road.cc.  26

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G-bitch [323 posts] 3 years ago
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I use front panniers - to put it simply, I tour on the cheap so that means all sleeping and eating kit needed, space for food/water for wild camps etc. Plus the bike is more balanced, and I can carry far more than my wife to balance out the fitness levels between us. It's amazing how much less money you burn through when you don't eat out or pay for accommodation, and how much freedom/flexibility afforded to you too!

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PJ McNally [591 posts] 3 years ago
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Front panniers let you put a child on the back!

Alternatively, one school of touring thinking is, choose and pack all your stuff so it fits in 2 panniers - then split it into 4. I quite like this, and the bike certainly handles nicely as a result.

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cavasta [216 posts] 3 years ago
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I would never even consider buying a touring bike that didn't have braze ons for a front rack. I've done plenty of touring using just a saddle bag (weekend hostel trips), two rear panniers (week or more hostel/BnB tours), and two front and two rear panniers (full on camping tours of a week or more). My tourer (Dawes Galaxy) gets used for the daily commute, weekly shop, day rides, and touring holidays. The great majority of the time I don't need a front rack fitted; but when I do need to use front panniers, I'm glad the option to a fit a front rack is there.

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munded [54 posts] 3 years ago
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Sorry, but it's not fillet brazing far as I can see, just normal TIG welding.

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Harvey Wang [10 posts] 3 years ago
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Fair enough, I had overlooked the cycle-camping angle. Though why you would be looking at an £1,800 bike if the idea is to keep costs down I don't know. If you stick to the minimalist ideal a bike like the Cheviot still feels light and responsive - you enjoy the ride. If you want a workhorse, there are probably cheaper options around, but each to his own. To me cycle-camping gives you the worst of both worlds. You can never take enough kit to be truly comfortable and the stuff you do take weighs you down too much. And don't even get started on rainy days with no facilities to properly dry your tent/kit/washing.

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charlie_elise [17 posts] 3 years ago
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I saw someone on my commute this morning with two full front panniers and nothing on the back. She steered very carefully round a bend. Have to admit I thnk this wass the first time I've ever seen this set up! Maybe she wanted to keep an eye on her belongings?

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Rob Simmonds [251 posts] 3 years ago
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munded wrote:

Sorry, but it's not fillet brazing far as I can see, just normal TIG welding.

Actually, I think you're right. My mistake...  40

Very tidy though.  4

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Ad Hynkel [140 posts] 3 years ago
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charlie_elise wrote:

I saw someone on my commute this morning with two full front panniers and nothing on the back. She steered very carefully round a bend. Have to admit I thnk this wass the first time I've ever seen this set up! Maybe she wanted to keep an eye on her belongings?

Maybe she had just dropped off a nipper and child seat from rear of bike? I remember my sister wishing she had this sort of set up to balance things out when she had child seat mounted at the back. Obviously that balance goes once you remove the weight at rear. But at least the weight is low down at the front I suppose.

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arrieredupeleton [579 posts] 3 years ago
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'The leather cover also looks like the crust on tiger bread'.... or a particularly nasty handbag?  31

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localsurfer [202 posts] 3 years ago
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munded wrote:

Sorry, but it's not fillet brazing far as I can see, just normal TIG welding.

You beat me to it. If that's brazed, it's very ropey.
That said, it's quite an expensive frame for TiG

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m0rjc [36 posts] 3 years ago
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I remember a recommendation to split load 60:40 rear:front. I have front and rear racks on my Specialized Tricross. I'd be tempted by one of these, but the Tricross is a good bike, and I wonder how steel compares to the composite carbon/alloy frame. I suspect the cost of upgrading would not be worthwhile for the benefit I'd see.

I've used all four panniers for things like travel to St John duty, where the large and heavy enough defibrillator takes one pannier, the first aid kit another and I'm carrying uniform, spare clothing, lunch and such across the remaining space. When I was a cycle responder for them the bikes we had used four panniers of kit.

I've done 25 mile commutes each way for this before which were quite fun in their own right. The lower gears of the Cheviot would really help in some of the more remote hilly places we go to. I've also used four panniers for things like travelling to amateur dramatics rehearsal carrying the kit I need.

When we used to go cycle camping we were on a Dawes Galaxy Twin, and used a cargo trailer to carry things like the tent. The trailer is a very viable approach to heavily laden touring. I'm doing get-in for the amateur dramatics group this weekend and, weather permitting, wonder if I could carry the mixing desk on the trailer  1

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Rob Simmonds [251 posts] 3 years ago
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localsurfer wrote:
munded wrote:

Sorry, but it's not fillet brazing far as I can see, just normal TIG welding.

You beat me to it. If that's brazed, it's very ropey.
That said, it's quite an expensive frame for TiG

Looks like the Editorial Hand has amended the text.  1

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richardhtc [1 post] 2 years ago
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I have a Hewitt Cheviot SE and similarly confess that I've never used my front bags for touring, but they're invaluable for the run to Sainsbury's !