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.
Well-specced city bike that's enjoyable to ride and good value
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road.cc test report
Make and model: BTwin Nework 700
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
Overall rating for frame and fork
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.
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.
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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.
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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
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