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B'Twin Vitamin user review

zn533zn533 Posts: 66
edited March 2011 in Commuting general
Just for fun, I decided to write a review:

After losing my Lemond Reno to thieving scumbags, I picked up the £70 B’Twin Vitamin as a hack.

In bright orange, the bicycle certainly is an eye-catcher. The Easyjet colour scheme certainly suits its no-nonsense approach to travel, and three layers of the lurid paint should ensure it stays that colour for a while. The frame features holes for fitting a rack, but no bosses for a bottle cage. Unbranded black v-brakes and black cranks turning a sturdy-looking brass rear sprocket and plain aluminium wheels complete the utilitarian style.

Being used years of riding a snappy aluminium road bike, this handles like a boat. A long wheelbase and wide, wide handlebars, combined with the 14kg weight makes for slow manoeuvring, mitigated by the acceleration provided by the relatively low single-speed gearing, which can surprise the odd roadie. I spin out frequently on the flat, and descents are strictly freewheel-only affairs unless you can comfortably maintain a spin-cycle cadence. At least small hills are easy to overcome. My regular commute involves going up Peckham Rye, and it’s a rare occasion that I’m overtaken there. High-volume tyres at 60psi and the perceptible spring of steel contribute to a reasonably smooth ride, but not as much as I expected. Brakes are decidedly spongy, but just strong enough not to induce fear.

I am a big believer in the virtues of quality tyres, and unfortunately the boots on the ‘Easybike’ are hopeless. They offer good levels of grip for braking, but are heavy and draggy, and cornering at moderate speeds has them squealing like a hungry piglet. But at £20 a pop for decent slicks, an upgrade hardly seems worth it. Some may say you can’t put a price on safety, and this has often been my tenuous reason for an upgrade, but in this case I’ll just wait for the stock ones to go bald.

So is the bike good value? Emphatically, the answer is yes. Well-chosen, low maintenance components and the warranty (5 years on the frame and 3 for the components) see to that. For short rides the bike is comfortable enough, although note here that I have replaced the squishy stock saddle for the one that came with my Reno. The wheels have remained true despite plenty of punishment from London roads, but I can’t comment on rust, as (thankfully) there has been very little rain this summer. If I have one major gripe, it’s that the saddle angle tilts back over time no matter how much a tighten it. But remember, this is a £70 bike – it isn’t going to be perfect. Also, the handlebar grips are horrid and supplied quick-release front wheel is an easy target for casual thieves and ne’er-do-wells, which I feel is at odds with the bicycle’s intended use.

In conclusion, the Vitamin is a decent bike for the money. If you want bling, speed or more than a modicum of enjoyment in riding, look elsewhere. But if you want to just get from A to B on a bicycle, this thing is perfect.

Posts

  • lardboylardboy Posts: 343
    Thanks for that. I'm thinking about picking one up in a month or so, as a shopping and pub bike. Something I can lock up outside a shop in Brixton and still have when I come back an hour later. Sounds like this is just the job. Might up the gearing a bit. What size are the chainring and rear cog?
    Bike/Train commuter: Brompton S2L - "Machete"
    12mile each way commuter: '11 Boardman CX with guards and rack
    For fun: '11 Wilier La Triestina
    SS: '07 Kona Smoke with yellow bits
  • zn533zn533 Posts: 66
    Hi Lardboy,

    The gearing is 36 x 18. It wasn't easy counting them.

    I would fully recommend this bike for pub and shopping duties!
  • lardboylardboy Posts: 343
    That's low! 51.9 gear inches, assuming 26*2.125 tyres. I can get it up to 55, by bunging on a 17T freewheel, but that's still very spinny. I might finally have a use for the spare crankset I've had lying around for ages.
    Bike/Train commuter: Brompton S2L - "Machete"
    12mile each way commuter: '11 Boardman CX with guards and rack
    For fun: '11 Wilier La Triestina
    SS: '07 Kona Smoke with yellow bits
  • laelae Posts: 555
    Every couple of weeks I search for 'B-Twin Vitamin Review' and yours is the first I've seen!

    I've been thinking about this bike for a while and now I can't think of a reason not to buy one - I've always maintained that it's possible to build a very cheap and good quality bike, just so long as the designers know where to spend the money - rather than going for lots of gears and suspension ala supermarket-bikes, they've stripped the bike right back to its basics which allows for decentish parts, as evidenced by the long warranties.

    The only thing I'd change is either the freewheel or the chainset, whichever I can find cheaper, to get the gearing up a bit. 51" is ridiculous...

    Good to hear it has eyelets too.
  • whyamiherewhyamihere Posts: 7,398
    I've just got one, to save me having to leave either of my nice bikes outside shops etc. It's actually quite a lot of fun. I've spent ages just ragging it around some local roads, the spinny gear meaning I can accelerate as fast as I want. I'm tempted to get a smaller freewheel fitted, but considering that a new freewheel would add on about 10% of the cost again (which still amazes me) I may well just leave it.
  • SimonAHSimonAH Posts: 3,730
    Blimey, that's spinny gearing!
    FCN 5 belt driven fixie for city bits
    CAADX 105 beastie for bumpy bits
    Litespeed L3 for Strava bits

    Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast.
  • richkrichk Posts: 583
    Thanks for that. I've been looking at these as a possible commuter (mines getting tired). Looks like the gearing may be a bit low (though I do have a couple of pimples to get over) and I might take a plunge in the autumn.
    There is no secret ingredient...
  • zn533zn533 Posts: 66
    Hi everybody, thank you for your feedback and I'm delighted at your enthusiasm over this bargain bike.

    I have to admit now that I've already spent a bit on some new tyres - Specialized Fatboys. They have transformed the ride and descending speed, and going round corners is a far less nail-biting experience. I've also trimmed the handlebars down a bit - this was free as I already have a hacksaw - which has made it feel a little more maneuverable. It also looks 'cool'. Almost.

    The final upgrade for the bike will be a better. According to my LBS, the smallest rear cog they can fit is a 16T (for a tenner). The cranks are built as part of the chainring, presumably to make it cheaper to manufacture, so changing that would be a Big Deal. I think the sprocket is somehow part of the freewheel.

    All in all, the result isn't as super cheap, but will make the bike a little faster and a little more enjoyable to use. Considering I'll spend quite a lot of time riding it, I think the upgrades are worth it.

    A little addendum to the review: The Portuguese frame features very neat welding!

    Z
  • KiblamsKiblams Posts: 2,423
    zn533 wrote:
    The final upgrade for the bike will be a better. According to my LBS, the smallest rear cog they can fit is a 16T

    Stuck a 16T freewheel on mine a few days after buying it, made it more manageable on the speed side, though aside from this I have left the bike stock. Fitted my old pannier rack as the bike was bought as an urban commuter, and it has been performing faultlessly for a month now.

    The tyres do get better at cornering once the shiny layer of "not sure what" has been worn off, though I am considering some high volume slicks :D
  • I got overtaken today by something very orange and very very spinny. And when I say very very spinny, I mean my feet are not capable of going round in circles that fast. I'm not even sure that my washing machine can do that.
  • laelae Posts: 555
    zn533 wrote:
    I've also trimmed the handlebars down a bit - this was free as I already have a hacksaw - which has made it feel a little more maneuverable. It also looks 'cool'. Almost.
    Yep I think I'll be doing this too.
    zn533 wrote:
    The final upgrade for the bike will be a better. According to my LBS, the smallest rear cog they can fit is a 16T (for a tenner). The cranks are built as part of the chainring, presumably to make it cheaper to manufacture, so changing that would be a Big Deal. I think the sprocket is somehow part of the freewheel.

    Nah it's not a big deal to change the cranks, although they would be more expensive than a freewheel. I've got the tools myself so I'll go with whatever is cheaper on ebay/in the bike recycling place - and having large sprockets/chainrings is preferable to small ones in terms of smoothness, wear and chain tension so I'll likely change the cranks, which'll probably save some weight too if I can find cheap alloy ones.

    There are smaller sprockets available than 16t - you can get 13t freewheels although probably only BMX specialist shops will stock them, but they're likely to wear pretty quickly. Also it's preferable to have even-numbered sprockets/cogs on a singlespeed system because you can match the wear of the inner/outer chain plates to the wear of the sprockets - so that a considerably worn chain still works without slipping.

    The rear sprocket is indeed part of the freewheeling/ratcheting mechanism - the freewheel screws onto a threaded part of the one-piece hub. It's how all bikes were until Shimano released the freehub (i.e. the sprockets slide onto the ratcheting hub). Well actually it was invented in the 30s but not developed until later...
  • fastbatardfastbatard Posts: 137
    Good to see someone else enjoying the Vitamin too. I've had one for a couple of months now. Got it mainly to tow my daughter in her trailer around the local country park and for nipping to shops etc. but have also used it for my hilly Sheffield commute when my road bike was out of action.
    I've found it great fun and love the simplicity of it. For £70 you really can't go wrong.
    By the way check the paintwork carefully before you buy as mine had a couple of imperfections which exposed the steel so I wanted to touch this up to prevent rust. The Ford Focus ST orange is a perfect match!
  • Hi guys,

    would you happen to know what the bike's BCD is? I want to change my chainring to a 48 teeth one (so i can get 70 gear inches) - but not sure which one I need to buy.

    Thanks a lot!
  • nicklousenicklouse Posts: 81,520 Lives Here
    i have a feeling that it does not have removable rings.
    "Do not follow where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no path, and Leave a Trail."
    Parktools :?:SheldonBrown
  • whyamiherewhyamihere Posts: 7,398
    Correct, the chainring isn't removable. To change it, you'd need to fit a new set of cranks, which probably isn't worth the hassle and expense.
  • Oh, I see. The thing is that I'm stuck with this bike - and really want to improve the gearing. How much do you think it would cost to upgrade the whole crankset? What would I need to buy (ie part names)? Maybe i'll find something used on ebay.

    Also - want to upgrade the tires. Do you know if I can install 26x1.25 on this rim?

    Thanks again
  • bails87bails87 Posts: 13,317
    Depends on the BB, but you can get square taper chainsets for £20 or so from CRC/Wiggle/the other usual suspects.
    MTB/CX

    "As I said last time, it won't happen again."
  • I just got a vitamin and love it to bits. I had my bike nicked about 10 months ago and I recently moved out to Romania so wanted something that will just last as long as I'm here.

    Now that I've spent some time on it and put some egg beaters on it its really starting to shine. Got some new wheels on order too that will spruce it up even more.

    The next thing I'm going to want to upgrade is the forks to something made of carbon fibre and a bit more springy than steel.

    Anyone know what fork might fit? Or what size I need to be looking at?
    Proper Planning & Preparation Prevents Properly Poor Performance
  • EKE_38BPMEKE_38BPM Posts: 5,980
    I rode a Vitamin through the snow and found it a brilliant bike for the money, but would never even think about spending extra money on it!

    You do realise that it weighs about 18kg right. 18kg is bloody heavy.

    Carbon forks, egg beaters and a new wheelset on a £70 bike?! Have you doubled or tripled the value of the bike yet?
    Save your money and buy a better (and lighter) bike.
    FCN 3: Raleigh Record Ace fixie-to be resurrected sometime in the future
    FCN 4: Planet X Schmaffenschmack 2- workhorse
    FCN 9: B Twin Vitamin - winter commuter/loan bike for trainees

    I'm hungry. I'm always hungry!
  • The plan is that when I get back to England to transfer all the shiny parts onto a Genesis iO or On One frame.
    Proper Planning & Preparation Prevents Properly Poor Performance
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