First Look: Verenti Substance CX1.1

VERENTI Substance CX1.1

To those unfamiliar with the name, Verenti is the in-house bike brand of online retail giant Wiggle. It's best known for its well specced road and sportive models, but recently the Substance has been added as the entry-level model in the line-up, though it's fair to say that it probably has the widest appeal of all the Verenti bikes.

It differs from the others as it's the only one made from steel – Reynolds 520 – and is something of an all-rounder – part urban crosser, part robust commuter and part audax/touring/winter mile-muncher. The frame's very nicely finished with tidy welding throughout and comes with bottle-cage bosses and rack mounts to offer as much versatility as possible.

Interestingly, the understated yet classy paintjob and subtle decals drew universal admiration from both male and female members of the team; the steel fork is perfectly colour-matched too. 

For a bike at this price, the overall spec is pretty impressive. You get a full Shimano Sora groupset, though it's 9-speed rather than 10-speed; Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes; compact Sora chainset; and handbuilt wheels comprising sturdy Alex rims, Novatech hubs and 32c Kenda tyres.

As we've found on other bikes in the last year or so, the Sora transmission really does punch above its weight, with a smooth, almost trouble-free performance that's really not far behind it's more expensive stablemates.

The Avid brakes are simple to set up and adjust and offer such a huge leap up in controlled, predictable braking over typical caliper/rim brakes that any choice between the two is a no-brainer. These two are the spec highlights and while the rest, especially the finishing kit, is more than serviceable it doesn't sparkle.

Avid mechanical disc brakes – one of the Substance's spec highlights

We like the cable-routing along the top-tube for times when you might have to carry your bike up stairs or across bogs. And there's plenty of headset spacers to fine-tune your riding position too. 

So far we've only had the the Substance out for a few short-ish rides, albeit in pretty filthy weather, and we've not had any issues.

Not that we'd be expecting any on such a considered build. You do notice some jarring when banging through potholes and road debris, and we've yet to take the bike properly off-road, so we'll update our findings as we go along.

We've ridden a lot of bikes of this ilk – in fact we were the first to refer to them as 'urban crossers' – and, at the moment, we'd say the Substance holds up well against more expensive rivals. 

There's four sizes – S to XL – to choose from. And Verenti's head designer tells us that there's at least two more models coming next year, including a singlespeed, so we'll post details when we know more.

Review: John Kitchiner & Amy Summers