- by Danny Beveridge
- Published: 25 May 2012
Titanium. It’s the least common and most exotic of the four major frame building materials and passionate fans of the metal often claim that it gives the bike a unique character and ride quality. Something that other materials just can’t replicate. And if “nothing rides like titanium,” we realised as the Van Nicholas Euros rolled out of its delivery van, that nothing looks like titanium either.
The question that needs answering is: Does titanium just look good, or does it ride differently too? To do this we rode the 2010 model Euros, which is functionally identical to the 2012 model, save for the fact that the newer model has slightly different decals and a laser engraved head tube.
The Euros can be purchased as a frame only or as a complete bike; our example came with the current season Shimano Ultegra groupset and a few other nice options such as an upgraded Van Nicholas OEM carbon clincher wheelset, titanium seatpost and titanium seat tube collar. As pictured, this bike retails for around $5,500.
It truly is a magnificent looking bike. While, of course, personal tastes vary, the traditional lines of the Euros’ titanium tubing will never look dated the way some modern bikes surely will. The beauty is in the details; take the rear dropouts for example – exquisitely sculptured. When you begin to spot these details, you begin to understand what owning a titanium bike is about – class and subtlety.
This attention to detail in the frame is reflected in the quality of the OEM parts. The saddle, for example, is wide and flat and the bar tape is thick and comfortable. The optional titanium seatpost looks magnificent in the frame.
While we fell in love with this bike, there were a few small things we didn’t like. The Spin Stix skewers weren’t a great match, as the rear dropouts stopped them from spinning all the way around, making it difficult to get tight (and without “lawyer lips” that’s important). The rim tape wasn’t up to scratch either, and we kept bursting tubes. In all, though, it’s not a terrible list of quibbles and the distributor was happy to take this information on board to fix on future models.
The VNT 50mm carbon clinchers were very impressive. Reasonably light but quite stiff, they offer a great feel under acceleration. It’ll cost around $900 to upgrade from the standard wheels to these ones but they change the character of the bike significantly.
We took the Euros out for quite a few rides before we looked at the numbers. Our first impression was that it felt like the bottom bracket was a little high, but in fact, this wasn’t the case. Instead, it’s simply that the weight is distributed a little more forward courtesy of a steeper seat tube. In fact, contrary to our initial opinion, once you get used to it, the Euros responds really well to getting down low and pushing with your hips into the corner.
The handling is helped by the steering which is progressive and stable at high speed. We put this down to a slightly slacker head tube and slightly shorter rake. We also feel that the flexion properties of the titanium front triangle plays a role here – providing a little give mid-corner. In short, it has a solid, trustworthy descending character.
While the steering isn’t twitchy, it’s by no means lazy. For something that’s at least partially targeted towards the comfort-conscious buyer, the Euros’ geometry is actually quite aggressive; it shares almost exactly the same geometry as the top-of-the-line Astraeus.
When it comes to issues of ride quality, there will always be some contention, so we’ve injected some science into what is a subjective minefield. First of all, be assured that under sprint conditions, the titanium Euros does feel different to modern carbon race bikes. Tested up to 1300 watts, it feels as though it gets progressively stiffer and stiffer the more it flexes (instead of the more linear feel of carbon). This progressive stiffness provides a really stable base and makes it feel reliably strong, rather than unyieldingly rigid. It felt good to sprint off and was more than stiff enough to ensure the wheels never rubbed the pads.
When it came time to test the frame’s vertical compliance, we took the bike to some rough chipseal roads to test it out. Of course, we had high hopes for the Euros since it seemed to be a lot smoother over the normal roads we had been riding. The lesson learned, however, was that a rough road is a rough road, no matter which bike you’re riding on.
Somewhat disappointed, we wondered if the titanium hype had gotten to us. To test this, we attached an accelerometer to the top of the seatpost on both the Euros and an Orbea Orca and set out to see what the numbers would say. We then used several statistical tests to assess the most important characteristics. As you can see from the table below, every measurement put the Van Nicholas ahead of the Orbea, and by roughly the same amount (usually around 10%). Hooray for science!
|Road Noise||16.32%||Standard Deviation of accelerometer data|
|Average Size of a Road Bump||10.50%||Average size of an upward movement in accelerometer data|
|Bump Damping||9.02%||Standard Deviation of change in accelerometer data|
|Actual Bump Damping||11.96%||Standard Deviation of change in accelerometer data – upward movements only|
|Damping of a Pothole Bump||27.10%||Size of acceleration – same pothole, same sp|
The Van Nicholas Euros is an expensive bike, but it’s not the kind of bike you upgrade in 12 months – it’s the kind of bike you buy to ride for the next 12 years. The manufacturer and local distributor stand by their product and, if you purchase or sell any Van Nicholas bike second hand, the local distributor will check it over for any maintenance issues, repolish it, update the decals on it and “re-certify” it for around $250. This ensures the next owner can be confident in riding it for another 12 years!
After enjoying the Euros for a few weeks, we have to admit there is something special about it.Van Nicholas claims the Euros is ideal for long days in the saddle and judging by the accelerometer data we collected, it’s hard to disagree. While comfortable, it is still stable at high speed making it well suited to racing too. In the jostle of a charging bunch on a criterium circuit, the extra stability is very welcome.
The Van Nicholas Euros is an investment in pleasurable cycling and if you’re willing to trade around 300 grams for a nicer ride quality and/or a bit more style then the Euros lends itself to a wide range of applications.
Van Nicholas bikes are available in Australia from Blue Globe Alliance (www.blueglobe.com.au) who are happy to
fully customise every detail of your new bike.