The Velobello Chelsea is an affordable runabout of a bike, well suited to town use, the school run or occasional commuting. It does what it sets out to do reasonably well, with a stylish steel frame that has a vintage air. However, it is more expensive than its direct competitors and has limitations in its gearing that will affect anyone who has to climb anything more than a small hill.

People buying Dutch-style sit-up-and-beg bikes are not doing so for the speed, but for the practicality and aesthetic. The Velobello founders are a pair of erstwhile interior designers who started the company during lockdown, and their design credentials are clear, though I’m less convinced about their bike knowledge. 

> Buy now: Velobello Chelsea for £395 from Velobello

It’s a pretty looking bike, though the cream model tested is probably the least zingy of the colours available, the others being a bright pillar box red, a pistachio reminiscent of the Pendleton Somerby mint colour, and a smart navy.


The shiny chrome handlebar and colour-matched rack and chainguard make for a tidy overall image, as do the tyres, saddle and handlebar grips all being the same colour, whichever frame shade you choose; this makes for a more pulled-together aesthetic than some mass-production near rivals.

Size and geometry

The Chelsea is only available in one size, and comfortably suits a rider height of 160cm-185cm (5ft 3in-6ft 2in). I’m 5ft 6in and it fitted me well, and the reach is appropriate for a Dutch-style bike enabling a very upright riding position.

Velobello has given the Chelsea a quill stem, which means that although the height of the stem is adjustable, the reach isn’t. However, this isn’t as much of an issue on a bike intended for an upright riding style as it would be on a road bike.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - stem.jpg

The curve of the handlebar is appropriate for the expected riding position, and the step-through frame means the bike is suitable for those with reduced mobility.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - riding 04.JPG

On the road

We reviewed the Chelsea’s sibling, the single-speed Soho, on road.cc recently, and Matt concluded that it fell a little into ‘style over substance’. I’m afraid to say this is also the case for the Chelsea.

Although it’s practical, it’s not hugely fun to ride. The lack of quality components and the bike’s weight mean that the ride is pedestrian rather than nippy, and hills are a chore.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - riding 03.JPG

It sports Shimano’s most basic gearset; it will get you up a hill if you don’t mind the work, but you’d not be wanting to ride this bike daily on a hilly commute as it is a weighty 16kg, a whole kilo over the published weight.

Velobello’s marketing describes it as having selected this gearset “because London is fairly flat… the 6-speed Shimano set up is perfect for the Capital’s streets”. In reality, London is a flood plain with hills rising up from that, and the choice of Shimano’s entry-level gearset limits the upgrade potential if you live near, say, Primrose Hill, or (god forbid!) outside of London.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - rear mech.jpg

The cheaper Pendleton and Decathlon bikes mentioned in my price comparison below both come with 7-speed cassettes which, although offering the same range as the Velobello, allow for an easy upgrade by fitting a Shimano or SunRace freewheel with a 34-tooth sprocket; that would get you a significantly lower bottom gear to help with hills. Six-speed freewheels with such low gears do exist but are much harder to find.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - cassette.jpg

Changing gear isn’t particularly smooth either, as the twist grip is clunky. In fact I wasn’t keen on the choice of the shifter because of the curvature of the plastic, which distorts the numbers, making it very difficult to tell what gear you’re in at a glance. While experienced cyclists might rely purely on feel to tell what gear they’re in, the rider the Velobello is aimed at is unlikely to fall into this category, so clearer numbering should, in my opinion, be more of a priority.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - gear shifter.jpg

The Chelsea is made in Europe and the v-brakes are set to work opposite to UK norms, which could be confusing – although if you were to brake hard, the weight of the bike means that coming a cropper over the front wheel is unlikely. The company claims to have created and designed the bike for use in London, so it seems odd not to have specified the bike entirely for the UK market. 


2022 Velobello Chelsea - front brake.jpg

As the bikes are aimed at inexperienced riders and are shipped partially assembled, they come with a recommendation to have them completed by a bike mechanic, so you could ask them to swap the brakes over.

Finishing kit

The first thing I would upgrade if I owned this bike would be the saddle. Once I’d swapped out the very cheap Ddk Comfort model for one of my own, I found the bike reasonably comfortable to ride. Saddle preference is very personal, though, and it’s easy to change.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - saddle.jpg

I’d like to see a quick-release seat clamp, too, to allow for easy adjustment of saddle height, which is useful when swapping between users, although if it’s just you riding it then the fixed clamp is a good deterrent to saddle thieves.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - seat postbolt.jpg

The bell would also need swapping out as it smacks of having been chosen as the cheapest offering available and doesn’t even ‘ting’ as there is no recoil space between the hammer and the bell.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - bell.jpg

The wide-set handlebar might take a little getting used to if you are more familiar with other styles of bike, but as I said earlier, the curve suits the riding position here.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - bars.jpg

The tyres are economy quality but do have reflective sidewalls, which is a nice safety touch and a good choice for round-town cycling.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - tyre and rim.jpg

The Chelsea also comes with ‘get me home’-standard front and rear lights, full mudguards including rear wheel skirt guard, a chainguard, rear rack and kickstand, meaning it’s ready for the road without any additional expense. That is a positive, as the Chelsea is at the upper end of the price range for an entry-level Dutch-style bike.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - rear light.jpg

2022 Velobello Chelsea - front light.jpg

It’s more expensive than similar offerings from the large chains, such as the £249.99 Classic stepthrough and £299.99 Elops from Decathlon, or the £320 Pendleton Somerby.

> Buyer’s Guide: 8 of the best urban commuter bikes

It is cheaper than the classic £745 Pashley Poppy and £549 Bobbin Brownie, though with these more expensive models the quality of the components steps up several notches. The Pashley, for example, sports a Brooks saddle, Sturmey Archer brakes and Schwalbe tyres, and the Bobbin has a much lighter aluminium frame.

Conclusion

The Chelsea doesn’t set out to be a high-end bicycle, but is focused more on aesthetics, so it’s a reasonable buy if you love the look and aren’t living on a hill. That said, while it looks pretty it doesn’t have anything in terms of the specification to recommend it above the very similar offerings from Decathlon or Halfords mentioned above, which come with both a reliable manufacturer history behind them and a lower price.


2022 Velobello Chelsea - riding 02.JPG

With bikes designed for entry-level users who won’t know what is important in a bicycle, a pedigree of bike knowledge helps to ward off expensive mistakes, and I’m not convinced the interior designers-cum-bike manufacturers behind Velobello have gained enough of that in the year they’ve been selling bikes for me to recommend the Chelsea over more established rivals.

Verdict

Pretty and practical about town bike – not the most fun ride, but what it lacks in spec it makes up for in style

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Make and model: Velobello Chelsea

Size tested: One size – suits a rider height 160cm-185cm (5’3″-6’2″)

List the components used to build up the bike.

Frame: Steel

Fork: Rigid steel fork

Crankset: Krypton x steel single

Circuit: Shimano tourney

Gear shifter: Shimano rs35

Speed: 6

Chain: Kmc z-33

Breaks: Promax v brake

Lights: Battery operated front and rear

Rims: Krypton x 28’x19mm

Wheel dimension: 28″

Tyres: Mitas hook Reflective

Saddle: Ddk comfort

Pedals: Pp body

Weight kg: 15 kg approx

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?

The manufacturer says: “This is an Elegant and Stylish step-through design ladies’ bicycle, Easy to navigate and oozes with confidence, happiness and vitality.”

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

This is Velobello’s only step-through bike; its single-speed bikes are available for £380 and £395 depending on model.

Overall rating for frame and fork

6/10

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

Velobello says it uses “pure steel which is lighter and stronger. No impurities”.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Typical Dutch-style geometry.

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

The reach isn’t adjustable, but it suits an upright riding position.

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

The comfort level provided by the steel frame and fork was fine.

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

No.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Typical for this kind of bike.

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

The Chelsea has quite a wide-set handlebar which may take a little getting used to if you are more familiar with other styles of bike.

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

I would change the saddle, and opt for a smoother changing twister for the gears.

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

The tyres were economy grade and didn’t add to the efficiency.

Rate the bike for acceleration:

5/10

Slow, with limited gearing.

Rate the bike for sprinting:

5/10

Rate the bike for high speed stability:

5/10

Not built for high speeds.

Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:

7/10

Rate the bike for low speed stability:

7/10

Stable, though heavy, at low speeds.

Rate the bike for flat cornering:

6/10

This is not a bike built for taking corners at great speed.

Rate the bike for cornering on descents:

6/10

Take it slow, because of the type of bike this is.

Rate the bike for climbing:

4/10

To be avoided due to poor access to low gearing and bike weight.

Rate the drivetrain for performance:

5/10

Works well enough but the gear range limits performance and upgradability.

Rate the drivetrain for durability:

7/10

Shimano economy drivetrain so likely to be durable.

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

The viewing panel for the gear numbering did not work with the riding position and made the numbers unreadable.

Rate the wheels for performance:

5/10

Rate the wheels for durability:

6/10

Rate the wheels for weight:

5/10

Heavy, which matches the bike as a whole.

Rate the wheels for comfort:

7/10

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?

They’re economy wheels, appropriate for a bike on sale at under £400; you’d not be going fast enough on this bike to need particularly superior wheels.

Rate the tyres for performance:

7/10

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?

The bike as a whole isn’t built for going at speed in the rain, so the tyres are acceptable for their intended use, though they might be worth upgrading if your route is one prone to causing punctures. The reflective sidewalls are good to see for urban use.

Rate the controls for performance:

6/10

Vintage look rather than high performance.

Rate the controls for durability:

7/10

Rate the controls for comfort:

7/10

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

The Shimano RS35 gearshifter was incredibly difficult to read while riding, with unclear numbering that was hindered by the curvature of the plastic cover. As this is a bike designed for newer or less experienced riders, who might be more reliant on seeing the gear number to ensure that they are riding in an appropriate gear for the conditions than a more experienced rider would be, this could be a particular issue.

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

Basic v-brakes are fine for everyday use but I’d not want to chance an emergency stop on a fully laden bike. The saddle wasn’t comfortable for me but might suit you fine, and if it doesn’t it’s an easy one to solve.

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Reasonably

Would you consider buying the bike? No

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? No

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

It’s more expensive than similar offerings from the large chains, such as the £249.99 Classic stepthrough and £299.99 Elops from Decathlon, or the £320 Pendleton Somerby.

It is cheaper than the classic £745 Pashley Poppy and £549 Bobbin Brownie, though with these more expensive models the quality of the components steps up several notches. The Pashley, for example, sports a Brooks saddle, Sturmey Archer brakes and Schwalbe tyres, and the Bobbin has a much lighter aluminium frame.

Rate the bike overall for performance:

6/10

Rate the bike overall for value:

4/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

The Chelsea is a pretty and practical bike that will meet the needs of an occasional or short-distance cyclist. The specifications aren’t particularly high, nor the price particularly low within its sector, so it evens out as an average score overall. Other manufacturers are offering a similar ride and specification for a lower cost.

Age: 44  Height: 5’7  Weight: size 168

I usually ride: Trek 7.5 WSD  My best bike is: Turquoise Cruiser

I’ve been riding for: Under 5 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Novice

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, Leisure