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review

Van Nicholas Boreas

8
£2,989.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Classic looks and a stunning frameset to ride, though it deserves better finishing kit than fitted here
A beautiful ride quality
High-quality frame finish
Lifetime frame warranty
Entry level wheels and tyres subdue overall performance
Weight: 
8,910g
road.cc Recommends

This product has been selected to feature in road.cc recommends. That means it's not just scored well, but we think it stands out as special. Go to road.cc recommends

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Van Nicholas Boreas blends classic aesthetics with a stiff performance orientated ride, with that recognisable titanium plushness thrown in for good measure. Basically, it's a beauty to look at, and the same to ride, plus in a cycling world full of gadgets and complexity it brings a feeling of simplicity, which is backed up by the now rarely seen rim brakes.

Our best road bikes buyer's guide rounds up our top picks from just £300 to north of £13,000.

> Buy now: Van Nicholas Boreas for £2,989 from Van Nicholas

Ride

Okay, so that final sentence of the opening paragraph makes it sound as though there is something old-school about the Boreas, but there really isn't. This is a modern frame and fork, with the latest components and a ride that matches.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - fork shoulder.jpg

Van Nicholas describes the Boreas as a 'smooth sprinter' and I reckon that pretty much sums this bike up. It feels stiff throughout, with a press-fit bottom bracket shell that could take as much power as I was able to push through the pedals and a front end that feels very tight when braking hard or hammering the bike through a twisty section of road.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - bottom bracket.jpg

It's definitely a bike that likes to be ridden hard, and it's rewarding in a lot of respects.

Underneath all that stiffness, though, is a smoothness that's unique to high-quality titanium and steel frames. A feeling of smoothness that seems to do away with any high-frequency vibration or harshness.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - head tube.jpg

This means the Boreas is a capable all-round road bike, not just limited to the business end of a ride or race. It's comfortable, ideal for long rides, sportives or whatever endurance event you have in mind.

It really doesn't beat you up at all, even when you find yourself rolling along in the back lanes with their less-than-perfect surface.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - seat tube junction.jpg

As a climber the stiffness is obviously a bonus, and while in this build the entry-level Aksium wheels and Schwalbe Lugano tyres hamper performance a little by adding weight, it's still a very capable ascender. Swapping a pair of lightweight carbon wheels over from my own road bike highlighted just how responsive the Boreas can, even by shedding just half a kilo or so.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - seat tube detail 2.jpg

From a geometry point of view, the front end isn't as aggressive as you'll find on some race bikes, but the head angle isn't as steep as one that you would find on an endurance machine.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - head tube badge.jpg

This brings a front end that is direct, capable of tackling high-speed technical descents without any drama but without making the steering feeling twitchy at slower speeds. It's a flattering bike to ride, and you don't need to have miles of road bike experience to get the best out of it.

Frame & Fork

The most common grade of titanium alloy used for bike frames is 3Al/2.5V, which is a blend of titanium with 3% aluminium and 2.5% vanadium, and that is exactly what Van Nicholas has used here.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - down tube.jpg

On a titanium frame without paint there is nowhere to hide, so the quality of the welding has to be on point – and that is exactly what we have here. It's not quite as exquisite as that found on small batch, very high-end frames, but it's definitely above what you'd expect at this price point.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - downtube bosses.jpg

Detailing around the bottle cage bosses and other bits is neat and tidy, and things like the engraved head tube and rear brake bridge bring a little touch of class.

The 3D-cast rear dropouts include the rear mech hanger on the drive side.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - rear QR.jpg

It would be nice to see a replaceable hanger, if I'm honest, in case the bike is dropped or crashed, but titanium is a pretty robust material and the Boreas is backed up by a lifetime warranty.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - rear drop out.jpg

All the cabling is run externally through guides are mounted on the head tube.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - cable route.jpg

While the look isn't as clean as on a frame with internal cable routing, rim brakes are less cluttered than disc callipers and rotors, so the resulting look is tidy and more minimalist. And while this frame is limited to mechanical groupsets, the Boreas is also available in a Di2-ready version.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - rear stay detail.jpg

Tyre clearance is limited to 28mm on the frame and fork, but that's the limit of the dual pivot callipers anyway so it's no point Van Nicholas making it any larger. And in my opinion, 28mm is plenty on a bike of this ilk anyway.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - seat stays and rear brake.jpg

The full-carbon fibre fork has the stiffness and compliance to match that of the frame.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - fork detail.jpg

The Boreas is available in five sizes from S to XXL, with my Large test bike having a 563mm effective top tube length.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - top tube.jpg

The seat tube is 550mm (CTT), with a 170mm head tube and a wheelbase of 997mm.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - seat tube.jpg

The head angle is 72.5° and the seat tube 73° for the seat tube.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - rear.jpg

The claimed frame weight is 1.79kg with a further 344g for the carbon fork.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - front.jpg

Finishing Kit & Cost

You can customise the build of your Boreas on Van Nicholas' website, which shows all the various build options. And if you do use the website, make sure you select the UK option so the price is shown in pounds. We have the base model that came in at £2,989.

It's fitted with a Shimano 105 R7000 11-speed mechanical groupset.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - lever.jpg
2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - crank.jpg

Even though this is getting a bit long in the tooth now and 12-speed 105 is on its way, it still performs excellently with great shifting across the cassette and chainrings.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - front mech.jpg

What with virtually every road bike at this price point coming with hydraulic disc brakes these days Shimano still offer excellent rim brakes, with these callipers offering performance and value, just like the rest of the 105 groupset.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - front brake.jpg

The standard pads don't offer the best bite on the market, but they do last well and once bedded in the stopping performance is very good, in the dry at least.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - rear brake.jpg

Among other offerings Van Nicholas also has its own VNT range, which has a mix of aluminium and titanium components.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - bars 3.jpg

To keep the cost down this model is specced with the aluminium kit.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - bars 2.jpg

It's decent stuff and the logo does give it a look that is a bit more upmarket than it is. The handlebar has a shallow drop like most do these days, so the drops are available for those of us who aren't that flexible and both the bar and stem offer plenty of stiffness.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - drop bar.jpg

The 27.2mm seatpost comes with a small amount of setback, and perched above it you'll find a VNT saddle.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - saddle and post.jpg

I wouldn't say the flat profile saddle is my favourite seat and I'd probably change it for something with a bit more shape.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - saddle.jpg

Mavic's Aksiums have been around for many years, and I've ridden more sets than I care to remember. I've always found them to be reliable, though, and they're easily stiff enough for general riding and training.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - rim.jpg

But at around 1,900g they aren't exactly light, so if you want to use the Boreas for something competitive or you like climbing, then you'll be on the lookout for something lighter.

It's the same thing with the Schwalbe Lugano tyres. They provide a reasonable combination of speed, grip and durability without really excelling anywhere.

2023 Van Nicholas Boreas - tyre.jpg

They are good, cheap all-rounders and decent performers for the money, but as with the wheels, if you want to exploit the performance of the Boreas these would be worth upgrading.

The Competition

Apart from the entry-level offering in a lot of bike brands' ranges, bikes with rim brakes are becoming something of a rarity, so finding a titanium bike in a similar build is a challenge.

Reilly still offers the T325 nearly a decade after its launch. Reilly classes the T325 as a road race/sportive favourite and with a Shimano 105 mechanical groupset and alloy wheels it comes in at £3,699. Dave certainly liked it when he reviewed it back in 2014, when he saw it as a worthy alternative to a carbon fibre race bike.

The J.Laverack R J.ACK I is also a similar kind of bike aimed at the racer who wants classic looks. It too has a mechanical 105 groupset and alloy finishing kit though it's a little dearer than the Reilly at £3,845, but you do get the choice of either classic or race geometry. Dave was also impressed with the rim-braked R J.ACK III when he tested it, which has the same titanium frame but a higher-spec build.

You can still get a carbon road bike with rim brakes – for the moment anyway. I liked the Decathlon B'Twin Ultra 900 CF 105 back in 2020. This is no longer available but Decathlon still does the higher-spec Van Rysel EDR CF Ultegra for £2799.99, which looks like a genuine performance machine.

Conclusion

Overall, the Boreas fits the bill if you aren't interested in running disc brakes or an electronic groupset and want a road bike that you can ride far and fast. With a decent set of wheels and tyres it'll make a competitive racer too.

I love its classical looks, and it's well priced compared to the competition.

Verdict

Classic looks and a stunning frameset to ride, though it deserves better finishing kit than fitted here

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Van Nicholas Boreas

Size tested: Medium, 543mm

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

Groupset: Shimano 105 R7000

Wheelset: Mavic Aksium

Tyres: Schwalbe Lugano II 28mm

Headset: Tange Technoglide IS22

Spacers: VNT Alloy

Stem: VNT Alloy 7050

Handlebar: VNT Alloy 6066 WingShape

Bar Tape: Van Nicholas Natural Cork

Seatpost: VNT Alloy

Seat Clamp: VNT Alloy 6066

Saddle: VNT Leather

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?

Van Nicholas says: "Comfort, speed and a custom-made fork combine to deliver a lightning-quick racer that irons out rough roads to keep you fresher, and faster, for longer."

It is a comfortable bike, with the stiffness to offer plenty of performance too."

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

The Boreas is available in a range of customisable builds, with this one being the entry level.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
8/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Neat welding throughout and touches like the engraved head tube give a classy look.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

The frame is created from 3Al/2.5V tubing, while the fork is full carbon fibre.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

The geometry is designed for performance with quite a stretched out top tube and relatively short head tube. The angles aren't quite as aggressive as I'd expect though.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

The stack and reach figures are 554mm and 378mm respectively which is fairly typical for this kind of bike.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

It's a stiff bike, but the natural plushness of the titanium means that the comfort is such that it is enjoyable to ride over long distances.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Stiffness around the bottom bracket area, and the front end is ideal for hard cornering and getting the power from the pedals to the road.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

The weight of the wheels and tyres impacted efficiency in this build a bit, but overall it is still a quick and responsive bike.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?

No

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Neutral

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Although the Boreas isn't as aggressive as some race bikes, the handling is still quick and direct, though without being twitchy.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

I prefer a saddle with a more shapely profile, so I'd swap the VTN model for something else.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

The 105 crankset does its usual job of resisting any form of flex, and while heavy the Aksium wheels don't feel as though they flex either unless you are really going for it.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

The wheels and tyres take the edge of the performance and efficiency, you can spec better options though.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The frame is capable of a higher score, but the wheels and tyre weight take a mark off.

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

Excellent shifitng performance and the dual pivot calipers provide plenty of stopping power.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?

Reliable and stiff wheels that are a bit on the weighty side.

Rate the tyres for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?

Good all-rounders ideal for training and general riding but the frameset deserves something lighter and grippier.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

Decent quality stuff and the shape of the handlebar will suit most. I personally didn't get on with the saddle, but saddle choice is highly subjective.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

The Boreas is very well priced compared to similar offerings from Reilly and J.Laverack, coming in over £500 cheaper than either.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
6/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

Lighter wheels and tyres would improve the bike's overall performance, as the frameset is easily capable of justifying higher-spec kit. As is often the case with Van Nicholas it is very well priced against the competition, which boosts the overall score.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 44  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!

Add new comment

6 comments

Avatar
cyclisto | 729 posts | 1 month ago
0 likes

Not following the latest trends, but the frame looks very beautiful.

Very happy to see uncut steerer tube, not a space rocket technology but can be a lifesaver for lazy people like me.

Avatar
Jules59 | 38 posts | 1 month ago
2 likes

You could have mentioned the Dolan ADX - very competitive on looks, quality, performance.

Avatar
DonnyJohnny replied to Jules59 | 14 posts | 1 month ago
1 like

You could have mentioned that the Dolan ADX is available for £1799.99, add Mavis Cosmic Carbon Wheels and Continental GP5000 tyres for a grand total of £2679.95 still saving over £300.

Dolan always seem to be overlooked in reviews yet are exactly type of manufacturer that can respond to customer requests in regards to up upgrades.

(Hands up, ADX owner but not connected to Dolan)

Avatar
DonnyJohnny replied to DonnyJohnny | 14 posts | 1 month ago
1 like

* Mavic not Mavis

Avatar
joules1975 replied to DonnyJohnny | 693 posts | 1 month ago
0 likes

And why are Dolan and others overlooked?

1. They don't advertise much/at al?

2. They don't supply bikes to be reviewed? (the likely more significant reason).

When mentioning other bikes, you have probably noticed that most online reviews do so with links to their other own reviews (for SEO reasons), so if the bike hasn't been reviewed by the site in question, it's less likely that it will be called out as an alternative.

And all that leads to people commenting about bikes that haven't been mentioned, which isn't exactly harmful for SEO either.

Avatar
IanEdward | 686 posts | 1 month ago
2 likes

Lovely, I'm glad there are still manufacturers out there brave enough to produce bikes like this.

Having said that, a Basso Venta in rim brake configuration is a carbon equivalent with space for 28mm tyres, if you can persuade the British distributor to bring one into the country for you 🙄 At least 500g lighter frame + fork for a similar price.

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