Review of Hewitt Cheviot Frame and Forks

Hewitt Cheviot with improvised front rack
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Hewitt Cheviot with improvised front rack

SUMMARY:

A solid traditional touring frame for 700c wheels but a bit expensive for a mass-produced frame with limited size options.

N.B. This review is for the frame and forks only, not the full bike.

GOOD:

  • 100% Reynolds steel.
  • Good choice of colours.
  • Good service.
  • Stainless-steel drop-outs are nice touch.
  • Takes fairly wide tyres.

BAD:

  • Expensive for off-shelf frame.
  • Small size-range/fit.
  • No formal guarantee beyond statutory.
  • No kickstand mount.
  • Positioning of screw points is questionable.

The Hewitt Cheviot frame and forks are a traditional British touring type, built for 700c wheels, rim brakes and drop bars, though you could probably use different type bars if you wished. It’s built from Reynolds 725 steel with Reynolds 531 forks. It should be noted that the whole frame is Reynolds 725. Many frames claim to be Reynolds so and so when the stays and forks are basic cro-mo. The Hewitt frame is manufactured in Asia but painted in the UK and you get a good choice of standard colours. What’s more you can choose your own colour for a bit extra. Bear in mind that the cost is for frame and forks only. You don’t get a headset or seat post included in the price as with Thorn frames, and the seat post bolt isn’t up to much – it went rusty after a few months.

A stainless-steel seat post bolt would have been nice

The seatpost bolt went rusty pretty quickly

I chose the metallic black version as I thought this would be an easy colour to find matching paint for, which would also do for my racks. However, the metallic black is more of a very dark grey and not easy to match. It looks ok from a distance but up close the sparkly effect is a bit ugly. I’ve heard of a few people having problems with the paint chipping easily on Hewitt bikes but it seems to be reasonably well finished on mine. The frame and forks themselves were heavier than expected, though I do have the large size. This isn’t a bad thing as it means they are built for strength rather than light weight but I did expect them to be lighter. Unfortunately I didn’t think to weigh them. Frame manufacturers should really be providing this info but most don’t.

I must confess that the main reason for purchasing the Hewitt was that the Thorn Club Tour was out of stock in my size. The bikes are very similar in specs but the Thorn is considerably cheaper and has a better range of sizes (but not colours). It also comes with a lifetime guarantee. I asked Hewitt about the guarantee on the Cheviot and he said there was no formal guarantee as so few bikes have problems, and that if a problem should arise I should send the bike back: a gentleman’s agreement so to speak. I do wonder though, if the bikes are so reliable why not give them a lifetime guarantee? In response to a question of the advantages of the Cheviot over the Club Tour Hewitt’s response was that Thorn bikes are ugly. The Cheviot isn’t a beauty either mind you and in my opinion the aesthetics of Thorn bikes are more suited to what they do and the logo is better. The Cheviot seems unsure whether it’s a land-rover or a sports car. However, you do get a much better choice of colours with the Cheviot.

Hewitt offers a personalised bike fitting service. I wasn’t able to visit in person so sent off various awkward measurements by email. I’m not sure how useful this was since the frame and forks only come in four sizes and the measurements I took were highly inaccurate. I then received a diagram showing a possible bike with various angles and lengths specified, most of which didn’t mean all that much to me. However, the top tube and inside leg length seemed ok so I figured I’d be able to try different stems and cut the steerer to fit.

Using a 90mm stem with a 7% rise and compact bars I need to have the stem at the absolute highest point of the steerer, with a huge stack of spacers, to get the bars roughly level with my seat, which is the most common (and for me most comfortable) touring position. Even at that the bars feel a little stretched and I need to have my saddle slightly forward to what is ideal. A shorter and higher stem would solve this but only at the expense of steering power. If you like a relaxed, upright cycling position the Cheviot will probably not be for you.

spacers on Hewitt Cheviot

The customary massive stack of spacers

The positioning of some of the fittings on the Cheviot are questionable. For instance, the front rack fittings are placed on the rear of the forks, so fork flex could make them prone to cracking. Whether this is a problem in reality is hard to say and there may be a good reason for this placement but to me it seems more sensible to put rack mounts on the front where the forks are in tension and hence less likely to crack.

The bike has a fitting for a bottle dynamo, which is nice, but it needs an adaptor for most dynamos, and this isn’t easy to come by (try SJS cycles). I’ve never actually seen a dynamo which attaches with two bolts.

There are little guides to put the brake cables through, to stop them rubbing on the tubes. This is a nice touch but they can rattle a little and put stress on the cables.

The bottle cage mounts are a bit close together. You can actually see this in photos of the Cheviot. You may find that some bottle cages and bottles, even standard sized ones don’t fit. Certainly if you want to use oversized bottle cages they probably won’t fit. I really don’t see why the mounts couldn’t have been moved to accommodate larger bottles, certainly the one on the down tube (the seat tube mount might interfere with the front dérailleur). I ended up having to use cheap plastic bottle cages to carry larger bottles as purpose-designed cages wouldn’t fit. Having multiple mounts for carrying a lot of water is one of the main strengths of a dedicated touring frame so the Cheviot is disappointing in this area.

The rear rack fittings are solid and the chainstays are fairly long. Even using very large panniers I haven’t had problems with heel clearance. The lower rear rack screw fitting is built into the rear drop-out. This no doubt makes it very strong but could be a problem if the threads get accidentally stripped. A braze-on mount can at least be replaced. It’s possible that the drop-outs on the Cheviot can also be replaced but they would need to be supplied by Hewitt.

Having very large feet I was a little concerned about toe clearance with the Cheviot. However, I’ve used 38mm tyres with mudguards and while there was a small amount of toe overlap it hasn’t been a problem in practice.

As for the ride quality the Cheviot performs well. It feels very stable and solid and is comfortable over long distances. The forks could do with a little more tapering I feel. They don’t have as much as Thorn forks and are not notably more comfortable than rigid mountain bike forks. The bike is fine to cycle with unloaded but definitely handles better with panniers. I didn’t notice any flex on long descents, even carrying 20-30 kg. However, front panniers are definitely needed for this sort of weight.

I’ve heard of a few people having problems with paint chipping off the Cheviot however, the paint job on mine seemed ok. A few tours on though and it’s already quite well scratched and chipped so I’m not awfully impressed by it. I’ve certainly seen much worse but for an expensive touring frame I expected better. A touring frame at this price should really have a very tough paint-job, not one that is merely decent. It would also be good if Hewitt supplied a small amount of touch-up paint, which I believe Thorn do. The drop-outs on the Cheviot are stainless-steel though which is a nice touch but make sure you take the plastic coating off. I never even noticed it was there and it becomes quite hard to remove.

The Cheviot frame scratches quite easily

The Cheviot frame isn’t very scratch-resistant

I have to say though that having toured a few times on the Cheviot I find myself going back to my old rigid mountain-bike tourer, which makes me wonder what advantages a dedicated touring bike actually brings. When fitted with similar strength wheels and tyres and a solid lock the Cheviot is so heavy the advantages of 700c wheels are lost and the gains in stability offset by lack of responsiveness. The Cheviot is somewhere between a bombproof heavy-duty and a fast audax touring bike but definitely closer to the former. I imagine most people will be using it for medium-weight UK and European touring: Lands-End-to-John-O-Groats and that type of thing. I can’t help thinking it’s a little overbuilt and expensive for this type of touring. There are cheaper alternatives which will do the job just as well. Also, for much of this bike’s target audience I think a European style tourer, with e.g. 26″ wheels, riser bars, disk brakes, kickstand would be more suitable. Even though I much prefer 700c wheels, rim brakes and drop bars I think on the whole a European style tourer would have been a better choice.

The Hewitt Cheviot is a solid traditional touring frame with a good choice of colours and plenty of fittings, though the positioning of some of the latter is questionable. You also get a personalised service from Paul Hewitt. At the end of the day though this is a mass-produced frame (though hand painted) with limited size options that may not suit some riders, especially those who like a relaxed, upright riding position. It would be nice to see this come down in price a little and a formal guarantee, of at least five years, given.


7/10 (This score ignores price. Learn more about these reviews.)

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