External ceramic bearings and space age materials translate into almost the ideal bottom bracket for high-end bikes in demanding applications and the VNT from Van Nicholas is without doubt the smoothest I’ve come across in a very, very long time.
Our 122mm test model weighed a remarkable 100g and contrary to my initial feeling there’s been no power robbing flex when climbing out of the saddle or dancing on the pedals and almost no discernable resistance when turning the cranks by hand. However, remember to give the bottom bracket shell and threaded sections a liberal swathe of Ti prep to prevent infuriating creaks. Skimping on this saw our maiden voyage rudely interrupted five miles and two climbs later- I managed to cheat in the short-term by pouring some molten Waxoyl down the seat-tube but such laziness isn’t recommended on cross, audax or mountain bikes spending a lot of time exposed to the elements-sure the ceramic bearings will laugh as will the titanium but you wouldn’t want it reacting, seizing permanently in the shell.
Fitted to my crosser and consciously abused for a fortnight hasn’t revealed any obvious weaknesses, river riding making no impression upon the bearings and while I don’t wholly subscribe to claims they can forgo lubrication completely, there’ll be huge mileages between services.
Reassuringly refined and undeniably well made, for sub £1200 builds one of the less exotic aftermarket external models with ceramic bearings might come with a slight weight penalty but will deliver similar levels of performance for a lot less dough.
Superbly made, super smooth bottom bracket well suited to high end cross and Audax bikes.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Van Nicholas VNT ceramic BB
Size tested: n/a
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?
It's a TI external bottom bracket. The most obvious market is high end (read titanium)Road, Audax and cross mounts. However,it would suit anyone with a high end, money's-no-object build regardless of frame material.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Ceramic bearings claimed not to demand lubrication, resistant to chemical and other corrosion. 100g is very impressive for a 122mm unit.
The most refined bottom bracket I have used to date.
Undeniably superb but pricey.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Incredibly smooth, highly impervious to water and other contamination. My choice for an ultra modern top flight build but not totally fit and forget-remember to liberally regrease the frame threads annually
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Super smooth bearings, weather sealing and low weight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? In certain contexts-would depend on the application.
About the tester
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)