Ask a bikey person how much you need to spend to get a decent steed and chances are they'll tell you that £300 is the baseline... you can drop that by 40 quid now, because the Vitus Vee-1 easily qualifies. It won't suit everyone but I loved it: it's genuinely capable of urban and off-road duties and it's an absolute hoot to ride.
How to describe the Vee-1? Well, essentially it's a rigid, singlespeed, compact-framed mountain bike with slick tyres. I prefer to think of it as a scaled-up BMX though, since that's what the riding experience reminds me of the most. You get a tidy-but-basic alloy frame mated with a steel fork, heavily spoked 26" wheels, a sturdy singlespeed transmission pushing a 60" gear, some V brakes and a set of massively wide risers. And that's about it, really: nothing extraneous, and every penny of your £259 spent on a worthwhile, decent quality component. Except the penny they spent on the pedals, which are pretty disposable.
Vitus have the Vee-1 in the mountain bike section of their website (it's in the Hybrid and City bit of parent company Chain Reaction's site), and describe it as an 'urban attack bike', which suggests you should be able to throw it round town and hit the trails on it too. So I tried both, starting with city riding.
First things first: Vitus make the Vee-1 in two sizes, 16" and 19". I had the large but even then had to swap out the seatpost for a 450mm one to get the saddle height I needed. I'm fairly tall at 1.90m and long in the leg too, but with a 'post swap the bike fitted me fine. The effective top tube of 565mm felt about right, but if you're a real giant you might find it a bit small. The smaller 16" bike is a lot smaller (519mm effective top tube) so there'll be a few people who might find themselves too stretched on the big one and too cramped on the small.
Hopping on for a first ride the thing you immediately notice is how wide the bars are. They're enormous, which rules out some of the narrower lines through the traffic. It's not a major problem, and if it does bug you a narrower set of 'bars won't break the bank. You could just saw a bit off each end. The second thing that's evident is that the 60" gear is great for stomping away from the traffic and hoiking yourself up hills (the wide bars help there too) but limits top speed. I never found that an issue; this isn't the kind of bike that you set personal bests on, and again it's easy to swap out the freewheel if you want something longer.
With the tyres pumped up nice and firm it'll roll along at a decent lick though, and the big air chambers and wide bars make it a pretty comfy ride. The grips and saddle would be obvious first upgrades. The saddle is fine but it didn't suit my behind; the grips are a bit thin. Those minor gripes aside, it's well set up for the streets, with a position that's neither stretched nor sit-up-and-beg.
And what do you do once you're on board in the city? You behave like a kid, basically, stomping away from the lights, dodging traffic and hopping kerbs with abandon. It's a fun bike to be on in an urban environment. The relaxed steering and wide bars aren't quite as quick as you'd like at times, but the ride is really planted and you always feel in control. You're always looking at options that wouldn't present themselves on a road bike. As an example, there's a big roundabout just near the office with an angled wall by the edge of the road that's basically just a big berm. It turns out it's a lot of fun to ride. I'd not attempt it on my normal commuting iron, but the Vee-1 eggs you on. It's naughty.
Range-wise it happily ate up my 5-mile commute; go much longer and you'll probably want to stick a bigger gear on and maybe swap the treads out for something a bit lighter. Maybe fit a narrower bar too. There's no reason why you couldn't do a long ride on the Vee-1, it's not really designed for big miles though.
And off-road? Well the only thing you really need to do to make the Vee-1 off-road ready is let a bit of air out of the tyres, or swap them for something more knobbly if you're heading somewhere slippery. The Vitus is as good an off-road tool as you can buy for the money: perfectly balanced, direct and fun. The V brakes don't want for stopping power and the lack of suspension means there's less margin for error, which keeps you on your toes. It's the kind of bike you could happily train on through the winter, there's not much to go wrong and come the spring you'd be a much fitter and more skilful rider. Gearing is too steep for proper offroading, but a swap to a 21T freewheel would give you a 2:1 ratio which would get you round most trails.
What else can you do with the Vee-1? Well, you could stick a rack and mudguards on it and use it as a bombproof all-weather commuter; you could even stick some drops on it if you wanted. It'd probably make a half-decent jump bike too, certainly it's happy enough ranting round my local BMX track with me as its inexperienced and air-shy pilot. With a better rider on board I'm sure it'd fly. You wouldn't want to time trial on it or do a downhill race, but you're getting a very versatile bike for your £259, and one that'll last. The most important thing, though, is that it makes riding fun, and that's reason enough to have one in your stable as far as I'm concerned.
Great value, great ride, great fun.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Vitus Vee-1
Size tested: 19
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
City Tyres - 26 x 1.95
2-Piece Cranks - 175mm
Alloy Stem - 75mm
Single Speed Cassette
Shifters: SRAM X.7 10 Speed
Brakes: Avid Elixir 5
Saddle: WTB Pure V Sport
Seatpost: Truvativ STYLO Race
Tyres: WTB Prowler MX 2.1
Wheels: WTB Speed Disc cross country rims with WTB Hubs
Weight: 26lb 2oz
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?
The VEE-1 is our urban attack machine. Tough, versatile and built with simplicity in mind, it's the weapon of choice for street warriors whose daily mission is to tackle whatever the city can throw at them.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
For the money, no complaints at all
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
7005 alloy frame, steel fork
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Compact MTB geometry with a slackish (for the road) 71 degree head tube.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Fine, though I needed a long seatpost
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfy on tarmac, not bad off road either considering it's fully rigid
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Singlespeeds usually feel very direct and this one is no different
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Good balance between road and off-road ability
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's very well balanced and easy to throw about
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Grips and saddle would be the first upgrades
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Super-wide bars allow a bit of flex but basically everything's fine
So long as you don't want to accelerate to a high speed
Not really a strong point
Great position and slackish head tube make it a hoot at speed
Also excellent at cruising speed
Sometimes a touch slow but otherwise fine
Goes where it's put
Very well behaved
Not too heavy and the gear's pretty easy to push
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Very much
Would you consider buying the bike? Definitely
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Definitely
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track