Pinnacle Neon 1 Review
Something of a departure this, but I recently acquired a new bike to commute on in London and thought I’d share my thoughts on it. Actually it was my mate Dave’s idea – he says people often ask him which bike to buy and suggested I blog about my new purchase. Here ya go, Dave.
I had been thinking about changing my ‘London bike’ for some time. I’ve been riding on a single gear in London for 5 years. Sometimes fixed, sometimes freewheel and have enjoyed the relatively trouble free nature of rolling round on one gear. This year, however, I started to think about gears. Mainly because my legs are often in a ‘just trained’ state (i.e. knackered and sore) and the effort to get a bike with only one (relatively high) gear off the line at traffic lights has been getting me down. My bike was a converted Claud Butler road bike, the frame dating back to 1971. It was perfectly fine, but then the rear wheel started to play up. The hub would keep coming loose and I had to either replace the wheel or the whole bike. I decided to do the latter because the old Claud had 27 1/4″ wheels – not so easy to source these days, especially converted to single speed. So a new bike was in the offing. I had a very specific set of requirements, which in no particular order are:
- Cheap, but useable. I wouldn’t spend more than £500 and ideally wanted to spend less. I know some folk might not think £500 and cheap are compatible, but really if you want a bike to use every day and you need to depend on it, a £99 Halfords Apollo really isn’t going to cut the mustard. It will be a false economy.
- Gears, but simple gears. I just need a few ratios so I can cycle uphill at reasonable cadence, pull away sharply from the lights, and have a reasonable top speed. I’d consider hub gears, but they tend to be expensive. Definitely no front derailleur, no need for that complication. The simpler the better.
- Relatively lightweight, but sturdy enough to support my rack and pannier, and handle the rough and tumble of London’s roads.
- Ideally no toe overlap, even with mudguards. If the front wheel is too close to your feet, it can be difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces.
- It must not be at all sexy. My London bike sleeps at Kings Cross station. Kings Cross has become a lot more secure since they put in ticket barriers and CCTV, but still, I don’t want a bike that anyone would really covet. Some quite nice bikes have started being left at Kings Cross in recent months, so I felt a little more confident that something new but dull could blend into the scenery and be left in peace.
- Flat handlebar. I ride drops in Peterborough, but personally prefer a flat bar for London. It makes the bike more accessible, somehow. The difference between functional transport and a serious bicycle; in London I need the former.
So I started looking around during the summer. Sure enough, hub gears were generally out of my price range. I saw quite a nice bike by Charge that I could get for around £500 in a sale, but it didn’t float my boat and looked quite nickable. The best bike I saw was an Orbea Carpe sold by Cylce Surgery. It ticked all the boxes, but it was really quite a sexy bike. It was also £500. Something told me I might soon be parted from that bike if I bought it.
A little time passed with no joy, all the while my rear wheel was getting worse. Then I was looking on Evans’ website and spotted the Pinnacle Neon 1. It was not at all sexy, had a single chainring at the front and 8 gears at the rear. Flat bar, all the necessary mounts. Looks quite good! And it was in the sale for £295! The next morning I had bought one. No test ride, just sat on it, saw it was the right size. No frills, it would do for me. The price sold it. I asked Evans to transfer the rack and mudguards from my old bike and arranged to pick it up later that day.
I’ve had the bike for around a month now. It’s just had its initial (free) service at Evans, so I figured I’ve had it long enough to post an initial review. So what do I think? In a nutshell, it is a brilliant, very usable bike for the money. I cannot believe it only cost £295. It’s without doubt the best value bike I have bought, by a mile.
The frame is good. Seems solid and the bike as a whole is remarkably light for something in this price range. It’s not featherweight, but I think anyone who knows bikes would pick it up and think “that’s actually pretty light”. It’s not flexible though, it handles the bumps no problem. The frame and forks have all the necessary fittings for a commuter bike, and the geometry is such that my feet don’t come anywhere close to fouling the front wheel, even with large mudguards fitted. It’s finished in a smart, dark silver hue, with bright yellow (almost fluoro) graphics. The top tube is quite steeply sloping, which means you can get off and on easily, without having to lift your leg too high. The bike is peppered with reflectors and was supplied with a bell.
The brakes are perfectly adequate Tektro V brakes. There is a bit of play in the lever before they engage, but once clamped on, performance is more than acceptable. The handlebars are too wide for city riding in my opinion, but that is easily sorted.
The wheels are fairly mediocre-spec Alex rims laced to some generic hub (32 spokes). Totally fine so far, completely true. The standard tyres are fairly heavy Kenda wire-bead affairs, 32mm. They seem pretty tough – at least they survived a month’s commuting in Central London. They aren’t made of fromage like a lot of tyres you get on inexpensive bikes.
The gears are 8 speed Shimano Acera. A budget line in Shimano’s range but so far I am very impressed. The range is fine for my needs and the shifting action is positive and immediate. You can also change down upto 3 gears with a single long push of the shifter, too, which is often quite useful. The shifter is a dual-lever affair located at the right hand. Push to change down, pull to change up. Very similar to the mechanism often found on mountain bikes.
All in all, there’s very little to moan about. The only things that I would change are the tyres, for something narrower and faster, and the bars need to be a little narrower for me. It’s a little difficult to confidently pick your way through narrow gaps with wide bars. As I mentioned above, the bike has just been to Evans St. Paul’s for its free initial service. I asked them to lop 40mm or so off each end of the bars, and also to fit some 25mm Continental Gatorskin folding tyres. The result is a pretty quick bike. I am not allowing myself to be left at the lights by anyone, and the machine is really performing. The change to lighter, faster tyres has improved the bike a great deal. Some comfort has been sacrificed, but it’s more than worth it for the increased speed.
A word about Evans Cycles. In the past I have not generally been impressed with the company, but in this case their St. Paul’s branch have provided great service and a superb bike. When I originally bought it, they transferred my rack and mudguards for no charge. And they didn’t charge me a penny for the tyre fitting or the bar-trimming on the service day. They could have, but they didn’t. So my total outlay including new tyres and tubes is £347. I really think you’d struggle to beat that. If you need a reasonably fast hybrid/commuter and don’t want to spend a fortune, this bike is well worth a look.