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Eurobike 2010: Van Nicholas offers revised road racer, big-wheeled MTB

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Van Nicholas's Astraeus road flagship retains its sleek hydroformed look but adds a few key updates to improve its stiffness.

Van Nicholas's Astraeus road flagship retains its sleek hydroformed look but adds a few key updates to improve its stiffness. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The straight head tube on the Van Nicholas Zion is reinforced with a gusset beneath the down tube.

The straight head tube on the Van Nicholas Zion is reinforced with a gusset beneath the down tube. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The flat plate seat stay yoke on the Van Nicholas Tuareg is visually striking but also supposedly lends a bit of comfort to the rear end.

The flat plate seat stay yoke on the Van Nicholas Tuareg is visually striking but also supposedly lends a bit of comfort to the rear end. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Dropout pivots are placed above the rear axle on the upcoming Van Nicholas Valkyr.

Dropout pivots are placed above the rear axle on the upcoming Van Nicholas Valkyr. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Van Nicholas will soon add a full-suspension bike to its impressive array of titanium machines.

Van Nicholas will soon add a full-suspension bike to its impressive array of titanium machines. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The new Valkyr will come with a tapered head tube.

The new Valkyr will come with a tapered head tube. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A chunky linkage on the new Valkyr will control the shock rate throughout the stroke.

A chunky linkage on the new Valkyr will control the shock rate throughout the stroke. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Van Nicholas fits the new Valkyr with a faux-bar rear end.

Van Nicholas fits the new Valkyr with a faux-bar rear end. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Van Nicholas's Zephyr is purpose-built with comfort in mind.

Van Nicholas's Zephyr is purpose-built with comfort in mind. (Image credit: James Huang)
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It's no optical illusion - the tapered seat stays on the Zephyr are impossibly tiny up at the seat tube.

It's no optical illusion - the tapered seat stays on the Zephyr are impossibly tiny up at the seat tube. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Van Nicholas's Zion 29" gets a shorter head tube and bent seat tube for 2011.

Van Nicholas's Zion 29" gets a shorter head tube and bent seat tube for 2011. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Rack mounts on the Van Nicholas Zion 29" lend a little extra versatility in case user have a mind for touring.

Rack mounts on the Van Nicholas Zion 29" lend a little extra versatility in case user have a mind for touring. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Zion hardtail is also available with a belt drive.

The Zion hardtail is also available with a belt drive. (Image credit: James Huang)
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An eccentric bottom bracket provides easy belt or chain tensioning.

An eccentric bottom bracket provides easy belt or chain tensioning. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Tapered head tubes still aren't terribly common with titanium bikes but expect to see more in the years to come.

Tapered head tubes still aren't terribly common with titanium bikes but expect to see more in the years to come. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Van Nicholas's top-end Tuareg titanium hardtail gets a tapered head tube and a new seat stay yoke for 2011.

Van Nicholas's top-end Tuareg titanium hardtail gets a tapered head tube and a new seat stay yoke for 2011. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Van Nicholas finds room for its logo in the Tuareg dropouts.

Van Nicholas finds room for its logo in the Tuareg dropouts. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Van Nicholas has given its latest Astraeus more rounded chain stays that supposedly flex less laterally than the more heavily pinched ones of its predecessor.

Van Nicholas has given its latest Astraeus more rounded chain stays that supposedly flex less laterally than the more heavily pinched ones of its predecessor. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A neat chain stay bridge adds further reinforcement to the Astraeus.

A neat chain stay bridge adds further reinforcement to the Astraeus. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The chunky rear dropouts offer similar benefits to socket-type drops but with a bit more style.

The chunky rear dropouts offer similar benefits to socket-type drops but with a bit more style. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The newly integrated head tube offers more real estate to join the top tube and down tube.

The newly integrated head tube offers more real estate to join the top tube and down tube. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Many Van Nicholas frames now sport these clean etched-in head tube logos.

Many Van Nicholas frames now sport these clean etched-in head tube logos. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Van Nicholas says the Astraeus's hydroformed tubes add extra stiffness.

Van Nicholas says the Astraeus's hydroformed tubes add extra stiffness. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Fancy a time trial? Van Nicholas offers up its titanium Blaze to put you in a more aerodynamic position.

Fancy a time trial? Van Nicholas offers up its titanium Blaze to put you in a more aerodynamic position. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The deep-section dropouts on the Van Nicholas Chinook provide lots of weld area for the stays but also place some restrictions on where you can place the quick-release lever.

The deep-section dropouts on the Van Nicholas Chinook provide lots of weld area for the stays but also place some restrictions on where you can place the quick-release lever. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The criterium-specific Van Nicholas Chinook gets a tapered down tube, a longer top tube, and a slightly taller bottom bracket for 2011.

The criterium-specific Van Nicholas Chinook gets a tapered down tube, a longer top tube, and a slightly taller bottom bracket for 2011. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Cable stops are welded directly to the Chinook's straight head tube.

Cable stops are welded directly to the Chinook's straight head tube. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Van Nicholas Chinook comes complete with a Gates Carbon Belt drive and a Rohloff 14-speed internal rear hub.

The Van Nicholas Chinook comes complete with a Gates Carbon Belt drive and a Rohloff 14-speed internal rear hub. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Van Nicholas's Zion is a no-nonsense titanium hardtail.

Van Nicholas's Zion is a no-nonsense titanium hardtail. (Image credit: James Huang)

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.