Dutch titanium specialist Van Nicholas has updated its top-end Astraeus road racer, retaining the hydroformed and diamond-profile top and down tubes but adding a newly integrated head tube and less heavily manipulated chain stays for the 2011 season.
The integrated head tube – not to mention the new etched logo – makes for a cleaner front end but Van Nicholas founder Jan-Willem Sintnicolass says its larger diameter also provides more room for the top tube and down tube welds, thus improving front triangle torsional stiffness and overall handling precision.
Likewise, last year's pinched and squeezed chain stays have given way to rounder cross-sections at the bottom bracket end, reducing lateral flex and making for a more efficient drivetrain but without affecting the Astraeus's notable comfort, according to Sintnicolass.
Van Nicholas has taken even more of a comfort-oriented approach for its Zephyr road model, built with biaxially ovalized top and down tubes to keep front triangle torsional flex to reasonable levels but with frighteningly tiny seat stays – measuring just 17mm in diameter – that taper down even more at the seat tube.
The idea here is to yield as much vertical movement to the rear end as possible, which is further helped along by the semi-compact frame configuration: offsetting the seat stays and top tube helps the seat tube bend back slightly under impact and the longer, 27.2mm seatpost flexes more than a shorter, larger-diameter one.
Capping the 'comfortable long distance cruiser' theme is the longer head tube and slightly slackened angles for a more upright riding position and more stable handling.
Over in the opposite corner of the Van Nicholas booth sat yet another example that 29" wheels are finally beginning to grab hold in Europe: the Zion 29". While the big-wheeled hardtail isn't entirely new for '11, it has undergone a few key revisions. The head tube has been shortened up to allow a lower bar position – critical for shorter 29" riders – and the seat tube now sports a slight kink for greater tire clearance.
Van Nicholas's Zion is a no-nonsense titanium hardtail.
Van Nicholas will also add a full-suspension rig to its range called Valkyr. Aimed at the cross-country and marathon crowd, Valkyr will boast 100mm of travel at either end with a faux-bar rear end – fully crafted in titanium, of course. Oversized and hydroformed tubes will help bolster the front end against torsional flex and there's even a tapered head tube to fit the latest crop of suspension forks.
US readers should take note: Van Nicholas is making a push into the American market and has dropped its shipping costs there to zero so if you've been considering buying one, now's a good time.