Titanium bikes are viewed with scepticism by many cyclists and triathletes. Can this one prove the doubters wrong…
With 10 years of experience crafting bikes and building exclusively in titanium, Dutch company Van Nicholas are among the undisputed masters of the material. Every bike ordered is hand built in their factory in the Netherlands to your custom specifications and, if you want the ultimate bespoke bike, they’ll even custom-build the frame.
With minimal decals and a bare brushed titanium finish, there’sa simple elegance to the Van Nicholas. Where it counts – on the downtube, seat tube and seat stays – there’s subtle aero profiling and the obligatory rear wheel cutaway. The welding is beautiful and, without wanting to come across too geeky, the rear hanger is a pure work of art.
Realising that there’s no point having a great frame without matching wheels, Van Nicholas haven’t pulled any punches and have turned to fellow Dutch manufacturer, Fast Forward. Retailing at £1,300, weighing a svelte 1,350g with 60mm rims and DT Swiss 240 hubs, the Fast Forward F6R carbon tubulars area genuine race-ready wheelset. The Easton EC90 Aero forks finish off the heart of the build.
A full Shimano Ultegra groupset, except the Dura-Ace shifters, is certainly no disappointment and we’d certainly always prefer to see spec drop a level on groupset in return for top-end wheels. The cockpit is a Syntace affair that combines the mean-looking CX carbon base bar with the super-comfortable C3 extensions (which won our aerobars grouptest last issue). Van Nicholas supply their own leather and titanium-railed saddle, seatpost and carbon brake levers that finish off an impressive 7.86kg build.
Right from the first few pedal strokes, there’s no sign of the twitchiness or handling quirks that you sometimes get with tri bikes. The Van Nicholas instantly makes you feel both comfortable and confident. Rolling round the first few bends, the steering is precise and, up on the bullhorns, almost like a road bike.
On the open road and settling down on the aerobars, the position feels fast and, crucially for long-course racing, comfortable and sustainable. This is certainly helped by the Syntace extensions. Following this ride and having won that aerobars grouptest, we’re converted to the Syntace cause.
There’s none of the sloppiness that’s sometimes used as a criticism of titanium bikes and we couldn’t get any noticeable flex out of it. What you do get in abundance is a sense of life from the frame that can only be described as‘zing’. It feels as though it’s working with you to go faster. Whether hammering on the flat, powering over rollers or slogging up a climb, it just keeps on giving. It climbs amazingly well for a triathlon bike and, rather than dreading those inclines, you actually find yourself seeking them out on your training rides just to attack them.
Predictably, the Ultegra groupset delivers crisp shifts and the brakes allow you to appreciate the bike’s fantastic downhill handling while remaining in control. Obviously the quality wheels help the cause, but they’re merely the cherry on the top of an already mighty fine cake.
Contact : www.vannicholas.com