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Verdict: 
Well-specced city bike that's enjoyable to ride and good value
Weight: 
14g
B'Twin Nework 700 city bike
7 10

B'twin's Nework 700 city bike is a good-value all-purpose bike for anyone wanting a fairly modern-looking commuter for shorter journeys. It packs in an eight-speed Alfine hub at under £600, which is a fair chunk less than most similarly-specced bikes, and the Hayes discs are decent stoppers too. I have my reservations about whether the unusual frame design is really a benefit, but overall you're getting a lot of bike for the money here.

The ride: assured, sedate

The Nework 700 isn't a bike designed to go fast: at 14kg you'll not be attacking the hills on it and the fairly upright position isn't exactly aero. But this is an A-to-B kind of a bike, designed for shorter journeys around town. And it does just fine at that. Shimano's Alfine eight-speed hub gear is a favourite for city bikes, although usually at price points well above this. It gives a gear range of over 300% from top to bottom which will cope with all but the very hilliest cities, and the well-sealed internals mean that there's very little in the way of maintenance necessary. Generally the feel of the hub is good too: although there's a couple of ratios that can feel a bit woolly at times it's a pretty efficient and tidy setup for town riding. The Nework uses an eccentric bottom bracket to tension the chain.

The unbranded 35mm-wide tyres have a big enough chamber to soak up most road imperfections and they roll well enough even at lower pressures; I had them at 60-70psi for most of my time on the bike. They also have relective sidewalls which is a big help around town. The frame decals are reflective too, though not as effectively as the tyres.

The wheels themselves are heavy but well put together. You certainly feel the heft of the wheels, and the bike as a whole, when you're pulling away from the lights but cruising around town the bike feels responsive enough without being nervous. At the 10-15mph it's designed for, the handling feels just about right. There are no surprises. Competent is probably the best way to describe it. It's not exactly exciting, but then you've got another bike for that, right?

Once you've got enough speed up that you need to haul on the brakes, they do an excellent job of slowing you down. The Hayes callipers have plenty of feel and they're not lacking for power either; the unbranded levers are decent units with not too much play in the pivots. The brakes remained dialled in pretty well throughout testing, suggesting the pad wear was fairly minimal.

The frame: well built, the elevated chainstay design kind of works

The most noticeable feature of the 6061 aluminium frame is that the two box-section chainstays are elevated at the bottom bracket, the drive side one the highest. The idea is that the drive-side chainstay, which sits above the chain, acts as a kind of chain guard to stop your trousers getting filthy on your ride in.

And it kind of works. certainly it's a barrier to errant trouser legs, albeit not an insurmountable one. It does seem like a lot of work to design the frame like that to do a reasonable job, though, when the alternative is just to fit a normal chain guard that would do a better one. The irony is that the design precludes you from fitting a standard chain case to the Nework, even if you wanted to. Which means you're stuck with the amount of chain protection the stay provides.

Other than that, the frame is well built with chunky welds and a decent finish. The matching fork is tidy too. The front mudguard uses the low-rider mount halfway up the fork leg as the mounting point, rather than the dropout, presumably to avoid interfering with the Hayes MX-5 mechanical disc brake. The rear calliper is mounted inboard on the chainstay, so it's not an issue at the back. The cable routing is internal, with the cables exiting via a slot near the bottom bracket and running along the chainstays to the hub and rear brake. It's all very neatly done.

The kit: mostly sturdy and functional

The build of the Nework 700 reflects that it's a functional bit of kit. You get alloy bars, stem and steerer and a Nework-branded saddle that's unexceptional but reasonably comfy. The plastic mudguards are slightly disappointing in terms of length; if you ride the bike on very wet roads then your feet will suffer a bit from the spray from the front wheel. You could fix that by fitting a spray flap to the bottom, although you'd need a fairly long one. Other than that they're pretty sturdy.

If you want to fit a rack (we did) then it's worth knowing that because the two rear mudguard stays are separate adding a rack too means a lot of bolt protruding from the frame; there's only one eyelet. I solved this by just removing the inner stays from the mudguard and it didn't really seem to suffer. Any standard rack will fit.

You get a fairly decent set of flat pedals with the Nework, so it's good to go out of the box. I swapped them for a set of DMR V12 flats I was testing, so I can't really comment on their longevity. For the time I used them, they were fine. They have pins to keep your feet planted, so mind your shins when you're manhandling the bike up the stairs to your flat. There's a 'One less car' headset cap, which will both amuse the rider and annoy any passing grammar nazis, so double thumbs up for that.

Overall: a good city bike for shorter rides

Assuming you don't want to travel more than about five miles in one go, the Nework 700 is a good choice for city trips. It's tidily built, the spec is good for the money and it's nice to see mudguards fitted as standard on a bike that would naturally wear them. The frame design goes some way to protecting you from wrapping your trousers or skirt around the drivetrain but to be honest it feels a bit half-a-job compared to just speccing a chaincase.

The rest of the finishing kit is solid and unremarkable stuff, with good brakes and decent wheels. If you're looking for a hub geared bike in this price bracket then here you're getting Shimano's well-regarded Alfine unit in a decent frame and fork; look elsewhere and you'll more likely be getting the lower-spec Nexus units. The bike isn't without its faults but overall it's an enjoyable and good value package.

Verdict

Well-specced city bike that's enjoyable to ride and good value

road.cc test report

Make and model: BTwin Nework 700

Size tested: 55

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

FRAME 6061 Aluminium alloy, eccentric bottom bracket chain tension adjustment system. Asymmetric chainstay which serves as a natural chain guard

Fork Aluminium 6061 alloy, blade and steerer tube.

Drive train Shimano Alfine 8, KMC anti-rust chain, Shimano bottom bracket. Aluminium bottom bracket with 170 mm crank

Braking Double HAYES mechanical disc brakes.

Position Aluminium pedals with sealed bearings and interchangeable pedal pins, 580 mm handlebar, NEWORK saddle. Semi-integrated headset. Lock-on grips

Wheels NEWORK puncture-proof urban tyres with reflective strips, skin wall, double-walled rims

Compatible accessories BCLIP pannier rack, bottle cage, bike stand

Miscellaneous weight: 13,5 kg in size M

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

cyclists who want a fast and well-equipped bike for their daily trips around the city. A fast and simple contemporary urban bike

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
7/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Workmanlike but tidy welds, interesting stay design that kind of works.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

6061 Aluminium alloy

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

I was between sizes; a larger size would have been more upright and a more leisurely position, but it was fine as it was.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

It's fairly comfortable, probably that's mostly down to the big chamber tyres.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Everything felt nicely stiff.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

The Alfine hub is better in some ratios than others but there were no problems.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

A small amount of overlap thanks to the guards.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

It's a well-behaved town bike. Steering isn't super quick but it's responsive enough.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
5/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
2/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
4/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
8/10

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
5/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
7/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
7/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, it's a very decent bike for the money and fine for shorter journeys.

Would you consider buying the bike? No, but it doesn't suit my commute or riding.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 190cm  Weight: 100kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

 

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

25 comments

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farrell [1946 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I'd be expecting longer mudguards, probably with added flaps on a bike like this.

(Just in case anyone from Decathlon is reading and wants a bit of feedback)

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btwin [20 posts] 2 years ago
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Thanks for the feedback farrell.
I'll forward it on to our product manager who is in charge of urban/city bikes.
Take care.

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farrell [1946 posts] 2 years ago
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No worries. If you do decide to change them, I'll nip up to the Stockport store to give one an extended test ride for you, just to make sure. I'm good like that!

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the infamous grouse [55 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

the elevated chainstay does however make this a shoe-in for upgrading to a gates carbon belt drive, and also easy chain-cleaning without removing pins.

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markfireblade [49 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Belt drive has got to be the way to go for bikes of this type. With hub gears it's clean and almost maintenance free

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nightwol [3 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Now that Specialized have pulled out of this market, this has to be an attractive option. I love my six year old Globe Elite with 8-speed Nexus hub but if it's ever stolen I'll have to look elsewhere. I like the idea of the disk brakes for this class of bike but, yes, I'd need to swap out the guards for full-length ones with flaps for my city commute.

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Ush [885 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

What is the eccentric-bottom bracket? Is it a grub-screw type, or is the actual frame split there, or is it more like the bushnell ones?

Also, re the rear-rack fitting, I didn't understand this bit: " because the two rear mudguard stays are separate adding a rack too means a lot of bolt protruding from the frame; there's only one eyelet". Does it mean that there are not separate rack and mudguard eyelets? Am confused by the "mudguard stays are separate" bit.

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bikebot [2120 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

This is a bike I was actually considering before I decided to build my own urban runaround instead.

I recently popped into my local Evans, to see what they could offer in this category. A basic and solid urban bike, with a hub gear. Despite having a shop overflowing with road bikes and sporty hybrids, the only thing they had that met my basic criteria, was a Pashley Princess...

We might love our road bikes, but I hope in the next few years we see more shops in the high street selling bikes which are basically designed for going to shops in the high street.

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MKultra [392 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I had that chain set on my EBC courier, the arms are fine but the chain ring is made of cheese and so thin they fit spacers behind it. I swapped it out for a much harder wearing Goldtec. It's a lot of bike for the money but I would rather see sliding drop outs over an EBB.

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sanderville [350 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
MKultra wrote:

It's a lot of bike for the money but I would rather see sliding drop outs over an EBB.

That's interesting. I've been riding a Decathlon hybrid with a 7-speed Nexus hub for 7 years and it has sliding drop-outs. Every time I get a dreaded rear puncture I wish it had an EBB instead as it can be such a pain to keep the chain correctly tensioned and the rear wheel lined up straight as I tighten the bolts.

The grass is always greener, etc.

Drop-outs aside my bike has been a totally reliable workhorse, survived a crash that was partially life-changing for me almost unscathed, and only cost about £200 if I remember rightly. I have never done any maintenance to the Nexus hub and I have only had to replace the chain once. Decathlon bikes get a big thumbs-up from this happy punter.

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Forester [123 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I've got the Alfine 8 speed on a Cube Hyde Pro at not much more, it has Shimano hydraulic discs which are really good, downside is it is heavy, with all the weight on the rear, but with Marathon Pluses on it's a good winter bike. Being able to change gear at a halt is useful in town.

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mylesrants [373 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

i will retire to this

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gmac101 [168 posts] 2 years ago
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I have a similar bike for my commute which is about 6 miles and I think the combination of hub gears and disc brakes is what about 90% of people actually need from their commuting/everyday bike and I think it's a real shame that places like Evans don't carry a few more bikes like this.

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I have a CUBE Hooper with 8 speed hub and hydraulic disc brakes, it's bomb proof and perfect for utility / winter commuting. I like the opportunity to dump the oily chain for belt drive, it's the only critisim of the CUBE Hooper.

I've even ridden it on longer rides in the South Lake District in some pretty crap weather with no problems, short bar end extensions provide the option to change positions which is a good, and cheap, up grade. I'd be happy to use this bike for touring.

The hub gears have done 1000s of miles through all sorts of weather over the last 7 years, and still work perfectly, as does the rest of the bike.

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dave atkinson [6297 posts] 2 years ago
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Ush wrote:

Am confused by the "mudguard stays are separate" bit.

normally the two stays would be a single piece of metal bent around the mounting point. here they're separate, so you have twice the width of mounting at the dropout

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dave atkinson [6297 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Ush wrote:

What is the eccentric-bottom bracket? Is it a grub-screw type, or is the actual frame split there, or is it more like the bushnell ones?

it's a split shell with an eccentric insert

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scottydug [18 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Giant seek 0. Normally on discount. Commuter/shopper. Bombproof.

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bikebot [2120 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
scottydug wrote:

Giant seek 0. Normally on discount. Commuter/shopper. Bombproof.

I've just taken a quick peek around the online retailers, and literally none of them are selling it any more. The ranges in general seem to be very similar to the situation I saw in Evans, hardly any bikes with hub gears and most of those are very traditional looking womens bikes.

I don't blame the retailers, I think there are just a lot of people in the UK buying inappropriate bikes because they don't know better. Just the other week I rescued some guy on CS7 whilst heading into town. He'd somehow bent his mech and basically had zero mechanical sense to bodge a repair.

The right bike for most people is the simple robust one that requires the least maintenance. I guess the fixie/single speed boom has filled a lot of that, which is great, but some people need to get up hills!

Anyway, I wish Decathlon luck with that range. I like the fact that they specifically sell them as city/commuting bikes, and if someone asked me for a recommendation "to get to work", I'd probably point them in their direction. Purely self interest of course, less chance of being asked to help with repairs...

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MKultra [392 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Sanderville wrote:
MKultra wrote:

It's a lot of bike for the money but I would rather see sliding drop outs over an EBB.

That's interesting. I've been riding a Decathlon hybrid with a 7-speed Nexus hub for 7 years and it has sliding drop-outs. Every time I get a dreaded rear puncture I wish it had an EBB instead as it can be such a pain to keep the chain correctly tensioned and the rear wheel lined up straight as I tighten the bolts.

The grass is always greener, etc.

Drop-outs aside my bike has been a totally reliable workhorse, survived a crash that was partially life-changing for me almost unscathed, and only cost about £200 if I remember rightly. I have never done any maintenance to the Nexus hub and I have only had to replace the chain once. Decathlon bikes get a big thumbs-up from this happy punter.

Are you quite sure you know what I mean when I say "sliding drop out" as I am not aware of Decathlon having used them.

They are quite different from semi horizontal drop outs or tracks ends in that a wheel goes into normal vertical drop outs on sliding plates. This provides repeatable chain tension for a hub gear bike. They are no where near as sensitive to chain tension as a fixed with track ends would be.

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sanderville [350 posts] 2 years ago
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MKultra wrote:

Are you quite sure you know what I mean when I say "sliding drop out"

Maybe not. The drop-outs on my bike are horizontal and there are two plastic spacers that fit over the axle which you then slide in and out of the drop-outs to tension the chain. There's nothing to keep the wheel aligned or to maintain the chain tension until you've done up the bolts with your third hand.

Whatever that's called, it's a pain in the arse.

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MKultra [392 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Sanderville wrote:
MKultra wrote:

Are you quite sure you know what I mean when I say "sliding drop out"

Maybe not. The drop-outs on my bike are horizontal and there are two plastic spacers that fit over the axle which you then slide in and out of the drop-outs to tension the chain. There's nothing to keep the wheel aligned or to maintain the chain tension until you've done up the bolts with your third hand.

Whatever that's called, it's a pain in the arse.

That's possibly a track end.

http://sheldonbrown.com/gloss_dr-z.html

This is a sliding drop out

http://www.ahrensbicycles.com/Sliding-Dropouts.htm

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uforster [3 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Just out of interest, why wouldn't there be a hub dynamo on this given the purpose it's designed for? Otherwise it looks great for trundling around town.

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E27006 [2 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

For those interested you can have this bike with a 3 speed Sram i3 hub gear for £190, certain parts have been changed for cheaper ones, ie pedals crank and the frame is in plain graphite matt finish ( ie they have omitted the top coat of lacquer), but it has the same brakes, bars wheels tyres etc.
Do not hang about though if you want one, it is a clearance offer and Decathlon are selling many, if not in stock at the shop , they supply to order at the same price.

The 8 speed price remains unchanged

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dlambfra [3 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I managed to get one of these for 350€ (reduced from 600€) in France (where I live) at the end of January. I'd wanted to try a bike with hub gears for a while, but Rohloff seemed a bit too much of an investment (especially if I didn't like it), so this was a steal. So far I'm very happy with it - the toe overlap worried me at first (never had a bike with overlap before), but in fact in daily use I rarely clip the front wheel. The gears are great, in fact on my daily commute and around town I rarely use the two 'extreme' gears, usually the 6 'middle' gears are enough. I changed the mudguards to longer SKS guards with mudflaps - the original ones were both too short and a little too narrow to give proper protection IMHO.
Regarding the elevated chainstay, I'm not terribly bothered about trouser leg protection (I wear clips anyway) and I'm not particularly convinced that that's the motivation behind the design. However, one real advantage of the frame design is that you can convert to a Gates belt drive system with ease (well, if spending a further 200€ for the kit qualifies as 'with ease')! Since the chain or belt doesn't thread through the frame as with standard frames, access is simple. I have a colleague who has a Specialized Source Eleven with an Alfine 11-speed hub (a 1000€ + bike), and the seat stay is split with a bolt holding it together to allow you to fit & remove the belt, which you obviously can't split like a chain - quite a hassle. So definitely a plus point if ever a future move to belt drive is envisaged.
The bike handles great, and feels very nippy & responsive, which I suppose is not surprising with its short wheelbase (7cm shorter than my 19-year old Decathlon hybrid). I don't really feel the weight at all (one of the grumbles on certain forums), except if I have to carry the bike, and then you definitely feel the difference compared to a 'standard' bike, with a lot more weight in the rear of the bike, the weight distribution is quite different.
All in all a great bike though, and a real steal at the price - if what I hear is correct (one sales guy in a Decathlon shop), they will not be pursuing the line this year, which is a real pity if it's true, and makes me all the more glad that I managed to grab one before they disappear altogether.

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lesoudeur [1 post] 2 years ago
0 likes

Giant seek 0. Normally on discount. Commuter/shopper. Bombproof.

Not made anymore. Shame as they are excellent bikes and I have converted one to an 11 speed hub. If mine were stolen / damaged I would have a hard time looking for a similar replacement. Maybe the Aventi Inc3?