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Oxford Bike Works Model 1E

8
£1,299.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Classy handmade steel frameset in a simple 1x setup makes for a quality commuter or lightweight tourer
Quality steel frameset handmade in Coventry
Simple high-quality drivetrain
Surprisingly good V-brakes
Slightly limited gear range
Not that light
Budget logo stickers
Weight: 
13,280g

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Oxford Bike Works' Model 1E is one of the least expensive steel bikes you can buy, though its smooth, composed ride is anything but budget. With a handmade steel frame and laid-back geometry it's comfortable for light touring and commuting, and while its V-brakes may look distinctly old school in the era of disc brakes, they're surprisingly effective, and it does have a modern 1x chainset.

I've used the cliché 'Keep it simple, stupid' in reviews before, and probably will again, for there's a lot to be said about keeping things as straightforward as possible, and Oxford has done that with this Model 1E, which it reckons is 'the cheapest British-built bike with a British frame available' – though Pashley might think otherwise.

I reckon it's the least expensive handbuilt steel bike of its type, so we'll let Oxford off.

> Buy this online here

While some degree of kit customisation is possible – and it's also available with a dropped handlebar – the Model 1E doesn't have the full custom kit options of some of Oxford's other, more expensive bikes.

You do have a choice of four different chainrings – 34, 36, 38 or 40-tooth – and if you feel that 1x isn't for you, Oxford also offers a 10-speed triple chainset at extra cost.

In spite of the reasonably modest price of the 1E, Oxford Bike Works still offers a full personalised fitting service at its headquarters, and in addition to this it also offers a year-long comfort guarantee. If the saddle, bar width or height, or stem length or angle don't work for you, Oxford will change these without any extra cost.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - stem.jpg

This isn't the only unusual but welcome service that the company offers. As a company with just '1.5 staff', Oxford doesn't feel able to offer its bikes through the Cycle to Work scheme, but it does offer something it believes is unique, and I've yet to see this service offered elsewhere: a savings plan that offers five per cent interest. As Oxford says, 'It's far better than you'd get in a bank'.

The ride

Double-butted chromoly steel frame, 32mm tyres, what's not to like? The most obvious quality of Oxford's 1E is that it's comfortable. It has a smooth and forgiving ride that was consistently confident over whatever surface I took it. Whether on pristine tarmac (if you're lucky enough to find any), rough (and I mean rough) country roads or canal towpaths, there was never a hint of discomfort.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - riding 2.jpg

The geometry leans towards the leisurely, with a stretched-out 1,070mm wheelbase. You're not likely to have the same number of spacers as I had on our test bike – if you buy an Oxford bike you will get a bike-fitting session and the steerer will be cut accordingly – but you're still likely to get a pretty upright riding position that puts no pressure on your back and stays comfortable all day. It's good for touring, giving you both good visibility and allowing you to be seen by other road users. And the same qualities also come into their own during urban riding.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - riding 4.jpg

A shallow 71-degree head angle makes the handling stable rather than twitchy and aggressive, which is in keeping with the Oxford's touring and commuting ambitions.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - front.jpg

Weighing more than 13kg, the Model 1E is not a light bike, but that's rarely an issue for me, and when you're touring, a kilo here or there isn't an issue. And when you're riding the Oxford unladen, or lightly laden, once you've moved up the gears and hit your cruising speed you don't notice the weight.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - riding 3.jpg

You will feel its mass on steep climbs, but then the low 36x42 bottom gear and wide bar come to your aid. And on the other side, while the Model 1E isn't a bomb-down-an-alpine-col bike by any stretch of the imagination, it's a safe and confident descender, with good grip from the tyres and very good braking.

The frame

The heart of the bike is a very neatly made chromoly steel frame. Oxford used to have its bikes Tig-welded but has moved to fillet brazing them in the UK, and the resulting frameset is very handsome, with super-smooth brazing.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - seat tube junction.jpg

The frames are protected externally by a powder-coated paint finish and internally by a layer of Dinitrol, a rust-proofing treatment. They come with a 10-year guarantee but, if looked after, a steel frame could outlast you and me.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - head tube badge.jpg

As this is a 'budget' model, there may be limits to the colour schemes available. Also, while it's good to see a chunky metal Oxford Bike Works headbadge, the logo on the down tube is just a clear plastic sticker with the name on it, though Oxford is happy to replace these. I'd prefer a 'proper' painted logo but it's not a game-changer for me.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - down tube.jpg

The frame does come with a good range of fittings. In addition to the usual down tube and seat tube bottle bosses, there's a third set under the down tube, along with front and rear mudguard and rack fittings. Sorted. Oxford also offers a range of racks and panniers that you can order with the bike. Sorted again.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - rear dropout.jpg

The Model 1E is available in three frame sizes for 700C wheels and four sizes for 650B wheels, so you should be able to find one to suit you.

Groupset

Oxford has gone down the 1x route on the 1E, keeping things as simple as possible. The rear derailleur and trigger shifter are both Shimano Deore, with braking courtesy of Shimano's budget Alivio groupset.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - rear mech.jpg

There is always going to be a compromise somewhere, but with a wide-ranging 11-42T cassette and a choice of 34, 36, 38 and 40T chainrings, you should be able to find a range to suit your cycling. I went for a 36T ring, which provides a 23-88in gear range – a top gear similar to a 50x15 and a bottom gear much lower than a 34x34 you'd find on a non-racy compact.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - crank.jpg

Okay, this means there are times you'll spin out – at a cadence of 100rpm in the top gear you'll be doing over 26mph, and at 120rpm you'll hit 31mph – but with its straight bar, this isn't designed to be a high-speed machine. A lower bottom gear is always more welcome for me, and this helped me spin comfortably up my local climbs with a couple of loaded panniers – even my former two-mile commute has a short 11 per cent section.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - drivetrain.jpg

As I said earlier, if you do decide that a 1x setup isn't for you, an upgrade to a 10-speed Shimano triple chainset is available for a 'small upgrade fee'.

The shifting is accurate and I found the gear range sufficient for day-to-day riding and longer days out. But as I've said, the choice of chainring size – or whether to go triple – is down to you. For extended touring I'd probably plump for the triple; otherwise, choose the single chainring depending on your local topography and pedalling technique.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - brak elever and shifter.jpg

One of the Oxford's features is so rare these days that road.cc's photographer Oli did a double-take when he went to photograph the disc brakes. For discs... there are none! Yep, this bike has brakes that stop by rubber blocks pressing against the rim when you pull on the lever. A radical idea, and one sure never to catch on.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - rear brake.jpg

Okay, I'm being flippant here. They're V-brakes, and I'd forgotten just how good they can be. Though they're budget Shimano V-brakes, with non-cartridge brake blocks, they offer very good braking. Power and control were consistently very good and it was like meeting an old friend for the first time in years and realising how well you got on.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - front brake.jpg

If you don't want V-brakes then the 1E is available with discs for an extra £200.

Wheels and tyres

Our bike came with slightly different front and rear rims thanks to supply issues, but they were both very well built. Their 36-spoke construction gives them a solidity and, I expect, good durability.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - fork.jpg

The Oxford 1E usually comes with Schwalbe Land Cruiser tyres, with our test bike's Panaracer Paselas an upgrade. It's an upgrade I'd certainly consider, as the 32mm Panaracers offer a good balance of comfort and grip over a variety of surfaces.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - tyre.jpg

Finishing kit

The rest of the kit includes a 61cm bar with comfortable Ergon GP10 grips, though I'd always consider Ergon GP3 or GP4 grips for the extra handhold offered by the extensions.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - bars 2.jpg

The saddle, like the V-brakes, was a surprise. I went for the standard Terry Fisio Gel saddle, which has deeper padding than I'd usually choose, but I got on with it very well.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - saddle 2.jpg

I found the Pletscher kickstand an invaluable addition to a flat-bar touring bike; no more leaning it against a wall, watching it lose balance and slide down...

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - kickstand.jpg

Wide Flinger polycarbonate mudguards and a nice brass bell round out the package.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - rear mudguard 2.jpg
2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - steerer and stem.jpg

Value

The Oxford 1E is the same price as Giant's flat-bar Toughroad SLR1 that impressed me when I tested it. They are very different beasts, though, and the aluminium Giant shades it on value, as the price includes racks and hydraulic brakes. But Giant won't be able to match the likes of Oxford for the personal service when buying the bike.

> Steel appeal: find out why bike makers and riders still love steel bikes

Spa's Wayfarer is a steel-frame tourer that starts at £1,250 and (after he changed the tyres) Neil Gander was impressed when he tested one for us last year. The Wayfarer has a Reynolds 725 steel frame and comes with Tektro's cable-actuated Spyre disc brakes.

Conclusion

Oxford Bike Works hits the spot with its nicely understated Model 1E, and I can understand why the company says it's popular with commuters who want a reliable year-round workhorse. With its comfortable steel frame, 'light' touring capabilities and comfort – and the personal service that only a small company can offer – this is a bike well worth considering.

> 15 of the best hybrid bikes – get to work cheaply & explore the countryside

It's comfortable and practical, with 'sensible' kit, proper mudguards for year-round riding, whether shopping, commuting, training or loading it up for slightly more adventurous duties.

2021 Oxford Bike Works Model 1E - riding 5.jpg

You can also spec it with a drop bar and disc brakes, if a flat bar and V-brakes don't do it for you.

Overall, it's a lovely, comfortable steel frame that's made in Coventry. Good gears, brakes and its load-carrying ability make it a very capable all-rounder.

Verdict

Classy handmade steel frameset in a simple 1x setup makes for a quality commuter or lightweight tourer

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Oxford Bike Works Model 1E

Size tested: 56cm

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

Wheels 36h Zac 2000 front rim, Exal LX17 rear rim, 36x2mm pg spokes, Shimano RS-300 front hub, Shimano Deore LX FH-670 rear hub

Tyres 32-622 Panaracer Pasela ProTite

Chainring 175mm Shimano FC-T3010 chainset, 36t

Bottom bracket Neco cartridge

Chain SRAM PC1031 10-speed

Cassette Shimano 10-speed 11-42

Shifter Shimano SL-T6000 trigger shifter

Rear derailleur Shimano Deore RD-M4120 SGS

Brakes Shimano BR-T4000 V-brakes with BL-T4000 levers

Grips Ergon GP1

Handlebar Zoom 610x25.4mm

Stem 100mm Zoom

Headset Ergotec threadless

Seatpost 27.2mm Ergotec

Saddle Men's Terry Fisio Gel

Mudguards Flinger F42 Deluxe polycarbonate

Kickstand ESGE Pletscher

Bell Brass

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?

Oxford says its Model 1E is "designed especially for people new to cycle touring, who are perhaps unwilling to commit what is a large amount of money before they know they're going to enjoy their hobby. This bike is also popular with commuters who want a reliable year-round workhorse.'

For 2021 Oxford has 'decided to up-spec the transmission and go for a single chainring with wide range 11-42 cassette. This makes it a decent commuter/junior touring bike'.

I feel Oxford is pretty accurate with its description of the 1E. While some might see £1,299 as quite a large amount of money, you're getting a British-made, handbuilt steel frame and a personal one-to-one fitting service, which is worth factoring into the cost.

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

The IE is the least expensive model in the Oxford Bikes range. It's the budget version of the Model 1, which also comes with V-brakes. In its standard build it has a touring-friendly triple chainset with a 22x34 bottom gear, a Shimano Deore groupset and a rear rack. It costs from £1,589. The £1,889 Model 2 is another flat-barred tourer and is available in several builds, including Shimano XT, and there's also the option of rarely seen hydraulic V-brakes from Magura. Its top-end bike is the Expedition, which is available from £2,359 with V-brakes and £2,899 with TRP Spyre disc brakes.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

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

The finish might be understated in the extreme – even I would probably like a little more colour but that would up the cost. But the fillet brazing by Coventry's Lee Cooper is so very, very neat and this is accompanied by a rust-proofing layer on the inside.

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

Double-butted chromoly steel was the go-to material for bikes for decades and, if looked after, a steel frame and fork should – barring crash damage and the like – outlast you and me.

Oxford lists them as:

Frame Double-butted steel frame handbuilt by Lee Cooper, powder coated and protected with Dinitrol rustproofing spray

Fork Steel with quick-release dropouts

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

The geometry is casual rather than aggressive, with a 71-degree head angle and 72-degree seat angle. 'Classic race' bike angles are parallel 73 degrees. This delivers leisurely rather than aggressive handling. The wheelbase is stretched out too, measuring 1,070mm on our medium test bike; a race bike of similar size would be closer to a metre.

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

I tested the medium size Model 1E, one of three sizes for 700C wheels, and this is similar to the large Genesis Croix de Fer Flat Bar. The Oxford even has a slightly longer wheelbase though the head tube is slightly taller – though the Oxford's long steerer provides extra height. Frame angles are pretty similar. Its geometry is more similar to that of Ribble's Hybrid Al, both medium-size bikes sharing similar head and seat tube angles, and top tubes and wheelbases within a few millimetres of each other.

Riding the bike

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

Good contact points, including a saddle that I felt might be too soft and overly padded for me, contribute to a very comfortable ride. The 32mm Panaracer tyres and a forgiving steel frameset further emphasise comfort over performance.

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

Yes. In spite of the 1E's comfort I never felt that the steel was too flexible.

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

Power transfer was fine. There was never any great impression of your effort being wasted, but this is a cruiser-cum-tourer not a bike where power transfer is the be all and end all.

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

No overlap, and given the 1,070mm wheelbase I'd expect the chances of toe overlap to be pretty unlikely.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Pleasingly neutral, favouring stability over snappy road bike-like handling.

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

The 1E is a model for spinning and cruising on, not sprinting or taking down alpine descents at speed. Get up to a 12-15mph cruising speed and it feels great. The upright riding position (more exaggerated on our test model with its uncut steerer) puts no pressure on your lower back, the lowish bottom gear makes it a decent if sedate climber, and good tyres and decent braking make it safe on descents. Shooting through rapid hairpins? Not for this one, where stability and steadiness are more to the fore than speed and liveliness.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

I was surprised how well on I got on with the Terry saddle. The shape and cutaway are good but it felt overly soft to the touch; in practice it proved very comfortable. Ergon's grips are good, too, though I'd probably go for an Ergon GP3s for the extra handhold if I was using this for regular long-distance riding.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
6/10

It felt absolutely fine.

Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
6/10

There's enough stiffness from the frame but the riding position on the drop bar isn't exactly conducive to super-snappy acceleration.

Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
6/10

This really isn't a sprinter's bike! If you're a wannabe Mark Cavendish, spend your pennies elsewhere...

Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
6/10

It's stable enough and is fine on descents but this isn't built as a high-speed machine.

Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10

Ah, now this is where the Oxford 1E is really at home. Get it into cruising mode and it's a doddle to keep it spinning.

Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
7/10

Once again it's absolutely fine here, but you're unlikely to be haring into corners on this.

Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
6/10

I didn't take this anywhere too challenging but it proved more than confident enough for 30mph descents on sweeping roads.

Rate the bike for climbing:
 
6/10

Stable and steady. In this setup the 23in bottom gear is much lower than the 27in offered by a typical 34x34 bottom gear on a compact drivetrain.

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
8/10

Simple-as 1x chainset with good shifting from the Deore rear mech.

Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10

What's not to love about a Shimano chainset, derailleur and cassette? In my experience they'll last for years, and I got nearly a decade out of my last SRAM 10-speed chain.

Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
7/10

Shimano Deore is decent value on a bike at this price.

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

The drivetrain worked without issue. Good components, well set up and suitable for the task.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
8/10

I was really impressed with the wheelset. The different front and rear rims were the result of supply issues, but both performed well and the build quality was excellent.

Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10

I'd have high expectations of getting many thousands of miles out of these wheels, though having rim brakes means they will eventually wear out.

Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
8/10

It's hard to separate out the wheels from the tyres and frame when it came to the Oxford's comfort, but overall comfort was very good.

Rate the wheels for value:
 
8/10

It's good to see handbuilt wheels on a bike at this price. The wheels may vary depending on the availability of components, and the 1E usually comes with machine-built wheels that are then finished by hand.

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?

The wheels worked well over tarmac, poor country roads and even canal towpaths.

Rate the tyres for performance:
 
9/10

I liked the tyres a lot. They offer a good balance of grip and comfort and for me would be a worthwhile upgrade over the Schwalbe Land Cruisers that are normally fitted.

Rate the tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
8/10

They felt very good – though you'd expect 32mm tyres on a steel bike to feel comfortable.

Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?

I was impressed with the tyres. I feel that 32mm is the ideal width for everyday riding if your cycling takes in poor road surfaces, canal towpaths and light gravel tracks. They give comfort and good grip.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
7/10

The brake levers have a slightly budget feel to them but that's about the only criticism.

Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10

It's Shimano – my guess is that the components will last for years.

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

Pretty much standard controls. There was a tiny bit of play in the brake levers but not so much to affect braking, and gear changes were as accurate as you'd hope for from Shimano.

Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)

The V-brakes are obviously the most unusual components; it's the first time I'd used them for years – and I'd forgotten just how good they are. They offer very good power and control and are up there with the best cable-actuated disc brakes, but with no need for a stiffer, more uncomfortable fork.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

The Oxford 1E is the same price as Giant's flat-bar Toughroad SLR1 that impressed me when I tested it, but they are very different beasts. The aluminium Giant shades it on value, as the price includes racks and hydraulic brakes, but Giant won't be able to match the likes of Oxford for the personal service when buying the bike.

Spa's Wayfarer is a steel-frame tourer that starts at £1,250 and (after he changed the tyres) Neil Gander was impressed when he tested one for us last year. The Wayfarer has a Reynolds 725 steel frame and comes with Tektro's cable-actuated Spyre disc brakes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
6/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

While £1,299 isn't what you'd call 'cheap', it is still a good price for a bike with a handmade-in-the-UK steel frame built into a bike by a company that offers such a personal fitting service and a comfort guarantee. The 1E is comfortable, practical and a joy to ride. It tackles poor road surfaces and unsurfaced towpaths with aplomb, would make a great commuter bike and its load-carrying abilities mean you can use it for light touring too.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 57  Height:   Weight:

I usually ride: 2018 Giant TCR Advanced 2 with Halo Carbaura disc wheels  My best bike is:

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

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding,

Simon has been riding since he was a nipper and more seriously since his university days way back when. He has been a cycling journalist for more than two decades and reckons he has upwards of 200,000 miles in his legs. In his time he has competed (in the loosest sense of the word) in time trials, triathlons, duathlons and a lone cyclo-cross; he has been a long-distance commuter for decades – on road and canal towpath. He has also toured extensively in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and has ridden 4,000km from Cairns to Melbourne in Australia, and the 700km from Picton to Dunedin in New Zealand. If his legs carry on working, he'd like to ride from Perth to Sydney...

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