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Although the Van Nicholas Ventus is classed as the company's entry-level option, the way it performs is anything but. This bike is simply great fun to ride. There is a surprising amount of stiffness in these slender tubes, though in no way does it lose that lovely springy titanium ride. It's a looker too, and quite the bargain.
For 2021 Van Nicholas has made some tweaks to the Ventus to bring it up to date, for a modern take on the performance road bike. It's swapped out the rim brakes for hydraulic discs (not that I'm saying rim brakes are outdated, I love a bit of dual-pivot calliper action), incorporated 12mm thru-axles, and upped the tyre clearance to 28mm – not huge, but that's plenty of rubber for a race bike, in my opinion.
The Ventus is designed for fast, competitive riding – so a bit of racing, some fast group riding, or just getting out for a blast on your own. What with lockdown and all that, it was the latter that I spent my time doing, but I found it very rewarding.
The Ventus has some quite aggressive geometry compared with many modern bikes; a short head tube in relation to the top tube allows a good aero position thanks to the drop from saddle to bar. This gives a purposeful riding position.
I always felt like I was 'on it' when aboard the Ventus. It's got a zingy sort of character, it wants to be ridden pretty hard, to get a move on, and gives a lot of reward for your input. The more you give, the more you get back.
The Ventus has a stiff frame, and I was quite taken aback by how solid the bottom bracket area is when hitting the base of a climb at speed and then getting out of the saddle to crest the top. It's got a lot to give.
Van Nicholas has just managed to catch that stiffness before it enters the realm of harshness; it's right on the cusp. I've ridden smoother titanium frames, but found the Ventus to have a great balance of road buzz taming while maintaining that feeling of urgency to get a lick on.
This being the entry-level build does mean the test bike is packing a little bit of weight – 9.6kg (21.2lb) to be precise – and that did show under hard acceleration or on those long, winding climbs.
Most of that weight is in the wheels, a set of Shimano WH-RS171 Discs, but Van Nicholas offers the chance to customise your Ventus build before you click 'buy'. If you've got a bit of extra cash that you can lay down on some lighter wheels then do it – the Ventus deserves better.
The reason I know is, this being road.cc, there are a lot of wheels coming through each month and I was lucky enough to be testing the Princeton CarbonWorks Wake 6560 wheelset at the same time as the Ventus.
At around 450g lighter than the standard Shimano wheels and one hell of a lot more aerodynamic, they really exploited the bike's performance and showed just how good this frameset is.
I'm not saying you should lay out over three grand on a wheelset, just get something lighter and, if possible, a bit deeper.
As with the comfort, Van Nicholas has also nailed the geometry. I'll touch on the figures later, but the Ventus is fun to ride, giving a real feeling of tightness in the bends and plenty of agility without crossing over into twitchiness when it comes to the handling.
It's a confidence-inspiring ride that allows you to relax your upper body and maybe just push it that little bit harder in the corners than you would normally feel comfortable doing. If you do get close to its limits, the non-twitchy handling means it'll rein you back in with a gentle nudge rather than a slap, which is reassuring. With a fast-handling race bike it can be easy to overcompensate if you lose front end grip, as it goes almost without warning, but with the more neutral handling of the Ventus it breaks away gently, giving you time to get the front tyre back under control.
I've got a downhill on one of my testing routes which is long and fast, especially as you head towards the bottom. The speed is increasing all the time and unless the wind is being unkind, 50+mph is easily achieved. The bends are flowing, with nothing too technical – nothing that you really need to touch the brakes on – and I loved riding the Ventus down it.
It's so smooth – leaning over from side to side, a little tweak of body weight here and there saw the Van Nicholas just glide through the corners, the stiffness of the frame giving plenty of feedback up through the bar, and the forgiving material making for a planted feel on the tarmac.
Summing it up, the Ventus is just a joy to ride.
As with the majority of titanium frames, the Ventus uses a 3Al/2.5V grade of alloy tubing. That means 3% aluminium, 2.5% vanadium and the rest being titanium.
The welding is neat and tidy; not as smooth and clean as I've seen on some frames, but those are £3k+ just for the frameset, so it's not a fair comparison. I'd certainly have no qualms about showing it off, and it looks good in its brushed finished, especially with neat details like the engraved head tube.
The beauty of a titanium frame is that it won't corrode, and should you scratch it, well, you just need to give it a bit of a polish. Van Nicholas backs this up with a lifetime warranty.
When you look at the frame from the side, the Ventus looks a bit chunkier than most, I think, but not in a bad way.
The front end is all about the tightness. A tapered head tube gives a larger cross-sectional area for the oversize down tube to weld to for increased front-end stiffness. The top tube has a fair old diameter to it as well.
The bottom bracket area, while not as overbuilt as some carbon frames, still has plenty of material there for dealing with the pedalling forces.
The chainstays also aren't as chunky as their carbon equivalents, but the Ventus has maintained a bridge between the two to beef them up a bit.
The chainstays taper down towards the rear wheel where they meet the slender seatstays at the CNC machined dropouts, their slim profile aiding the comfort levels.
When it comes to mounting points, this is a race bike, so you won't find much else other than a couple of places to attach your bottle cages.
The brake calliper fixings are flat mount, as you'd expect, and, as I said earlier, the Ventus uses 12mm thru-axles to help resist the braking forces from having a rotor on just one side of the hub.
Cable routing for the gears remains external while the rear brake hose is diverted through the down tube before exiting at the bottom bracket and running beneath the chainstay. I think it looks very pleasing. While I love the smoothness of fully internal systems on carbon machines, I still think external looks cool on a metal one.
Up front, the brake hose runs internally in the carbon fork for neatness.
There are five sizes available, from XS to XL, and as I said earlier, it's quite aggressive geometry compared with many modern bikes, allowing a good aero position thanks to the saddle-to-bar drop.
To put that into numbers, with this large frame we've got an effective top tube length of 563mm, a 155m head tube and a 540mm seat tube length (CTT). The head angle is 72.5 degrees while the seat angle is 73. The fork rake is 43mm.
Chainstays are 415mm, which gives a wheelbase nicely rounded up to 1,000mm.
All this adds up to a stack figure of 558mm and reach of 392mm.
As I mentioned, you can configure your Ventus however you want, but on the whole this is a pretty decent build for the money. For starters, you are getting a full Shimano 105 groupset with hydraulic brakes, which really cannot be faulted.
Going for 105 gets you a compact 50/34-tooth chainset and a choice of cassettes ranging from 11-28t to 11-34t.
Braking-wise, you get 160mm rotors front and rear.
As for the rest of the kit, it's all Van Nicholas' in-house brand VNT. It's nothing overly flash, with all components being aluminium alloy, but they do the job and I found them absolutely fine to live with. As I said earlier, the Ventus is ripe for upgrades, but this is a really good starter build.
Stem length, handlebar width and seatpost length are all able to be adjusted after you have selected your frame size, as are cassette size and crank length.
The VNT saddle is plush, and we made friends, although I wouldn't say it was my favourite shape. That's easily rectified though.
The Shimano wheels do the job. They are reliable and actually don't feel as though they weigh as much as the scales say, just under 2kg.
I've ridden these wheels on many bikes and for entry-level models they do a decent job. Stiffness is good, and they'll take plenty of abuse.
Our test sample came with Continental's Grand Sport Race tyres. Again, they're decent performers when it comes to reliability, rolling resistance and grip.
The Ventus deserves better, but I wouldn't be in a rush to get out there and change them.
You can select pound sterling as an option on the Van Nicholas website, and it gave an overall price of £2,584. When I placed the bike in the basket, though, and went through to the payment page, it quoted £2,135 with £181 surcharges, giving £2,316. (With a delivery aim of three weeks.)
At that price it's competitive against the likes of Ribble's Endurance Ti Disc, the Sport model coming with a 105 build for £2,299.
The Ribble can take mudguards and has bigger tyre clearance, but its geometry still makes it ride more like a race bike, similar in a way to the Ventus.
The Ventus is also well priced against the J.Guillem Major. That's a very similar bike to the Van Nicholas, with the same tyre clearance, although the ride is a touch firmer.
The 105-equipped Major costs £2699.99; it does get a set of DT Swiss P-1800 wheels, but that doesn't cover the extra outlay.
If you really want to try the titanium way of life, the Ventus is a compelling way to dip your toe in. It's just such a great bike to ride: fun, direct, involving, stiff yet comfortable. It really has so much going for it, and you can upgrade until your heart or wallet is content.
Entry-level price for a titanium bike, but with high-end performance – a real joy to ride
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Van Nicholas Ventus
Size tested: 57
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Shifters/Brake Levers: Shimano 105
Chainset: Shimano 105
Cassette: Shimano 105 (options available)
Front mech: Shimano 105
Rear mech: Shimano 105
Chain: Shimano 105
Rotors: Shimano 160mm F&R
Calipers: Shimano 105
Stem: VNT Alloy
Handlebar: VNT Alloy
Seatpost: VNT Alloy
Wheels: Shimano WH-RS171 Disc
Tyres: Continental Gran Sport Race 28mm
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, "Our entry-level road bike delivers the high performance, technological innovation and characteristically smooth Titanium ride that come as standard with a Van Nicholas, at a wallet-friendly price."
I think that pretty much sums it up. It's a lot of bike for the money.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This is the entry-level build, but you can spec the Ventus frameset with various groupsets, components and wheels depending on your budget.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
For the money this is an excellent quality frame that is very well finished.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame uses 3Al/2.5V titanium alloy tubing while the fork is full carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is quite racy but manages to take just a step back from a full race bike, which means that it's easy to ride for those of us who don't want twitchy handling.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
There is nothing out of the ordinary here.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfort levels are good; it's quite a stiff ride but Van Nicholas has struck a good balance.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness is very good, especially around the bottom bracket area.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Power transfer levels through the bottom half of the frame are up there with many carbon frames.
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? The fun side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Van Nicholas has held the Ventus' steering back just enough that it never feels twitchy, while giving good levels of speed and precision.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I'd like some slightly thicker bar tape for UK roads.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The handlebar and stem cope with out-of-the-saddle efforts.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
A good spread of gears is achievable with Van Nicholas' customisation. It could do with lighter wheels though.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The Shimano 105 groupset is one of the best out there for performance versus value, and I wouldn't change a thing.
Wheels and tyres
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?
They do the job but the Ventus is crying out for something lighter.
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?
Decent all-round tyres, but the Ventus' performance would benefit from something lighter and grippier.
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 kit that does the job.
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 Ventus is well priced, competing with the likes of Ribble and J.Guillem whose models are mentioned in the review.
Use this box to explain your overall score
This might be Van Nicholas' cheapest build on its cheapest frame but there is nothing budget about the Ventus. It is a great quality frame with an excellent ride. In this build the only real issue is that the wheels bump the weight up.
About the tester
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,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!