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Modern road bikes are evolving rapidly, but the Van Nicholas Chinook, with its external headset, bottom bracket and cable routing combined with race bike geometry, provides a classic appearance that will appeal to many cyclists turned off by the latest modern road bikes. If the looks don't win you over, the sublimely smooth and ride ride experience sure will. The Chinook is a real delight.
There's something pleasingly traditional about the appearance of the Chinook. It's not only the appearance, but the geometry that shuns trends. It's a case of a classic long top tube and short head tube here, which puts you in the aggressive position that's best to extract the most out of the Chinook.
Despite its skinny tubes, the Chinook doesn't exhibit any undesirable flex when you really push it close to its limits. Granted it's no masterclass in stiffness, but you'd need thighs the size of Andre Greipel to really find the limits of the Chinook. I don't and didn't.
What the Chinook does exhibit though is a very lively characteristic. Sure it doesn't have the razor sharp precision of a top-end carbon race bike, but critically it doesn't feel soft or vague if you like to attack yourself over crests and rises, or keep up with friends on carbon race bikes.
It doesn't take long to get tuned in to the way the Chinook rides. It you want a bike with almost telepathic responses, well the Chinook probably isn't for you. It's a bit more measured in the way it responds to inputs, whether through the handlebars or pedals. It likely won't be the fastest bike between A and B, but it'll likely provide the most smiles between those two points, even if you don't arrive first.
Where I really found the Chinook to excel most is just the way it handles corners. The combination of the geometry, the frame stiffness (or lack of) and the carbon fibre fork ensures the Chinook glides through corners in a way that puts a smile on your face every time. I love corners, and they're a good place to really test bike handling. The Chinook excelled on every variety of corner, bend and turn I tested it through. It's a very accomplished descender.
The Chinook manages to provide a nice blend of comfort without ever resorting to feeling like a soggy sponge. Don't expect it to smooth out every ripple and crack though, the Chinook still ensures you feel connected to the detail of the road surface, it isn't the damped, sometimes isolated, ride you get from some carbon fibre bikes. The 25mm tyres certainly help, but don't expect to be able to fit any wider tyres, that's the widest the bike will accept.
At 7.8kg with the SRAM Force groupset and Mavic wheels, the Chinook has a fighting weight. The compact chainset provides a good platform for tackling undulating terrain and plenty of hills. I'd have liked a more generous cassette than the 11-25 fitted, but that can be changed through the company's custom bike builder. Every part of the bike can be tailored to your precise requirements.
The Chinook is constructed from 3.5 Al/2.5V seamless Optiformed tubes with a slightly oversized down tube (42mm diameter) and matching diameter top tube and seat tubes (32mm), with a 27.2mm seatpost. Because of the minimally sloped top tube there's not a lot of exposed seatpost compared to some compact frames, but this didn't appear to dent ride comfort that a longer exposed seatpost typically provides.
A pair of slender seatstays are mated to chunky chainstays by way of CNC machined dropouts that look really smart, and serve to boost rear-end stiffness with a 7mm thick plate at the dropout. The head tube carries a non-tapered carbon fibre fork but the outside of the head tube has been CNC machined, with excess material removed. It's finished with an engraved head badge, a nice touch.
The bike tested is a 56cm with a 56cm top tube and 15cm head tube. The other numbers are classic race bike stuff, with a short 990mm wheelbase and 405mm chainstays and a steep 74 degree head tube angle, paired with a 73 degree seat tube. The Chinook is available in seven sizes, or you can go down the custom frame path if you need or want.
You can buy the Chinook as a frameset, or build a complete bike, using the company's online bike builder to customise the specification. The test bike came in at £2,458 with a SRAM Force 22 groupset, Mavic Aksium One wheels and 25mm Vredestein Fortezza Senso All Weather tyres.
The components all worked well. SRAM's Force 22 group is easy to use and provides quick gear shifts, and the brakes are responsive. The tyres are good in a range of conditions and roll well. The saddle is the only component I'd change, as I didn't get on with the flat shape of the own-brand part.
A Chris King headset and Van Nicholas carbon fork and aluminium finishing kit completed the build, providing a complete bike weight of 7.8.kg (17.2lb). Frame weight is a claimed 1.59kg (3.19lb).
The Chinook is a bike that revels in a wide range of riding situations. It's happy being ridden fast and hard and would make a fine race bike, where the geometry comes into its own, and it lives up the company's intention of building a race bike. But it's more than a finely honed race bikes, it's right at home on the long ride, where the lively ride and comfort ensures it puts a smile on your face.
Fast and sprightly ride, great in the corners, with a classic appearance
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Make and model: Van Nicholas Chinook
Size tested: 56
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The Chinook is a high-spec road frame built on classic lines, intended for riders seeking the optimum performance solution for fast-paced racing. Ideal if you're looking to be competitive in criterium-style events, it delivers plenty of acceleration and stunning value.
The Chinook's geometry has been designed to deliver sprint performance and precision handling with the magical ride and look of titanium.
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?
3D Sculpted Dropouts
Crash Replacement Warranty
Engraved Head Tube Logo
Hand Brushed Finish
Lifetime Frame Warranty
Van Nicholas Seamless Optiformed Ti Tubing
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Van Nicholas only does titanium and it does it very well.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The Chinook is made from 3Al/2.5V Seamless Optiformed titanium tubes, with an oversized down tube and curved seatstays.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Classic race bike stuff here, long top tube and short head tube promotes an aggressive position. Will suit some but not everyone.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Really good fit, once I changed the stem.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfortable, yes, with the 25mm tyres helping out with the smoothness.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It's not a masterclass in stiffness but neither is there any unwanted flex.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Good power transfer when sprinting and climbing.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? On the slow side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very racy position promotes a racy ride, but it's relaxed on longer rides, making it ideal for sportives.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I'd change the saddle for personal reasons, but all the stock kit was good. The bike can be custom built so any component can be changed easily.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
It was all good.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The handlebar was a nice shape but the saddle wasn't, not for me anyway.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Nice to see a Chris King headset on a bike these days.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? If I the space of money, probably.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Use this box to explain your score
The Chinook is a bike that revels in a wide range of riding situations. It's happy being ridden fast and hard and would make a fine race bike, where the geometry comes into its own, and it lives up the company's intention of it being a race bike. But it's more than a finely honed race bikes, it's right at home on the long ride, where the lively ride and comfort ensures it puts a smile on your face.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.