There’s no denying the Van Nicholas Ti is a stem of beauty and the obvious choice for a money’s-no-object fantasy Audax or crosser build. However, super stiff CNC machined alloy or even Cro-moly steel might represent better value-especially for powerfully built racers needing super stiff cockpits.
Designed in the Netherlands, fabricated in the Far East from 3AL/2.5 grade titanium, our 90mm test model tipped the scales at a very modest 80g with alloy fasteners. The raw finish with whispers of TIG welding gives a seamless space age industrial beauty (although ours had traces of blast media inside).
Sensibly a 31.8-oversized clamp ensures the pick of topflight bars-Van Nicholas offer a corresponding titanium option but I spurned these in favour of my cross bikes super stiff alloy drops. Whichever route you take, remember to apply a thin coating of Ti Prep so as to prevent the dreaded creak.
My alloy crosser was the obvious guinea pig- even with carbon fork blades, fatigue sets in around the shoulders after several hours’ continuous riding. From the outset, the Van Nicholas provided a luxurious passage over rougher asphalt, absorbing the harsher hits without turning the front end to blamancge. It’s a curious, unique sensation extending full-pelt green-lane playtimes by a good hour and a half.
Given it can be flipped for a more aggressive stance, the 8.5degree rise is fine for most road based duties. One bedded in, the four-bolt face clamp grips the bars like the proverbial dog on a postman’s leg. Death grip descending and honking with all my weight atop the bars couldn’t budge them, giving the ideal balance between rigidity and compliance.
Bottom line: £135 is a lot of money for a stem. Oversized, CNC machined alloy units might better serve big, powerful riders. However, the wonder metal is splendidly long-lived and could well be the ultimate choice for those weighing 85kilos or less.
Expensive but undeniably beautiful stem for treasured steeds and riders of moderate weight
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Make and model: Van Nicholas Ti Stem
Size tested: 110mm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Van Nicholas is a Ti stem for road bikes-the most obvious audience being Audax and other riders with ti framesets. Equally it will interest crossers and those with a titanium fetish.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Made from 3AL/2.5 grade titanium 8.5 degree rise, 31.8 clamp diameter 80g (90mm)
Takes the sting from rougher surfaces without compromising handling.
Should last a lifetime.
£135 is a lot of money for a stem but on the right machine could prove very cost effective-especially given the material's longevity.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Faultlessly, a great combination of low weight, supple ride over rough surfaces and just the right degree of rise. Might not be ideal for big, powerful riders-not that it will break anytime soon.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Finish/raw beauty, low weight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing,although disappointed to find blast media still inside our test model.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? In the right context
Age: 35 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)