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Just in: Van Nicholas Chinook

Looking for an alternative to carbon fibre? Look no further

Do one thing and do it well must have been Van Nicholas’s founding motto, because the Dutch company only produces titanium bicycles - there’s no carbon fibre, aluminium or steel - and it been turning out some very fine bikes over the years. The Chinook, one of the company’s racier models, has just arrived in the road.cc office for testing, here’s a quick rundown of its main selling points before it hits the road.

Titanium, first discovered in Cornwall in 1791 and originally the preserve of Russian submarines, started to appear in the cycle world during the 1990s, when it commanded extremely high prices but set in stone the aura that surrounds the material and still makes many cyclists go a bit weak at the knees. These days though there is a lot more choice and, while not as affordable as other frame materials, is a lot less expensive than it used to be.

 

The Chinook is made from 3AL/2.5V Seamless Optiformed titanium tubes, with an oversized down tube and curved seatstays. With its combination of skinny tubes, clamp-on front mech, chain hook, external cable routing, external bottom bracket and headset, it has a rather traditional appearance (no bad thing) that is a bit of a throwback to a previous era of bicycle design. In an age of oversize everything and press-fit bearings, it’s rather refreshing to see. The biggest concession to modernity is the carbon fibre SLR fork.

It’s not just the details that are traditional. The geometry - this bike is pitched as a sporty frame - bucks the modern trend for tall head tubes, short top tubes and long wheelbases. The Chinook is long in the top tube and low at the front, with a short head tube providing a position that will suit speed merchants and a similarly short wheelbase that should provide the sort of snappy handling you want in a race bike.

The bike here is a 56cm, one of seven available sizes (50 to 62cm) and if none of those sizes work for you, Van Nicholas can also provide a fully custom frame designed to your exact specifications. The geometry numbers for the 56cm include a 56cm top tube, 15cm head tube, 405mm chainstays, 990mm wheelbase, 73 degree head angle and 74 degree seat angle.

There are some very neat details. The eye-catching dropouts, with a 7mm thick plate, have a pair of short tubes that allow Van Nicholas to oversize the rear stays, providing the necessary larger weld area. That should contribute to the stiffness this frame needs to provide if it’s to live up to its sporting credentials. The chainstays bridge and cable stops are all CNC-machined.

 

A classic non-tapered head tube, fitted with an external headset, has a lovely engraved Van Nicholas logo. The frame has a hand brushed finish. One of the appeals of titanium is its famed durability. That extends to the finish - it’s resistant to corrosion and scratches. Details you can see but which matter greatly includes the lifetime warranty and crash replacement policy.

Van Nicholas offers a choice of groupsets depending on your budget, and each bike is built to order in Holland. The test bike is equipped with a SRAM Force 22 drivetrain based on a compact 50/34t chainset with an 11-25t cassette. Slotting into the dropouts are Mavic Aksium One wheels with Vredestein Fortezza Senso All Weather tyres in a 25mm width.

The notable upgrade on this bike is the Chris King NoThreadset external headset which is something you rarely see on off-the-shelf bikes, especially with modern frames that mostly have integrated headsets (the bearings press directly into the head tube).

The finishing equipment can be tailored to preference or price as well, the bike coming fitted with the company’s own VNT parts. That includes a 6061 aluminium handlebar (44cm wide) with a matching stem, seatpost and saddle. The carbon fibre SLR fork is the company's own.

Claimed frame weight is 1.59kg (3.19lb), while the complete bike weight is 7.8kg (17.2lb). The Chinook frame costs €1,399 and complete bikes start from €2,711, with the pictured bike costing €3,416, - that works out as £2,458. There are a number of UK dealers you can go through, or you can buy direct through the company’s website.

www.vannicholas.com/

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

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