Chappelli is a Sydney-based maker offering classically styled bikes, which it sells direct to the public through its own retail outlets and online store – keeping prices low. The NuVinci doesn't stray far from the brand’s 'fixie' image, but incorporates stealthy gears for greater practicality.
Featuring the rather pricey and rarely seen NuVinci ‘infinitely geared’ rear hub, this Chappelli is a price-conscious version of the brand’s AU$2,495 (US$2,357 / £1,380 at time of writing) NuVinci Platinum, a bike that won an Australian International Design Award.
While the cheaper bike doesn’t receive the same custom painted, steel lugged frame as the Platinum, it has the same hub – undoubtedly the most distinctive part given its relatively low price.
Tom Davies, the co-owner of Chappelli, readily admits that it’s a stretch to use such an expensive hub on a bike of this price, which he claims makes up close to a third of the total cost. Unfortunately one A-grade component isn't enough to make a thoroughbred steed, so we were curious to see how the rest of the bike measured up.
Ride and handling: fast, if not a little twitchy – and the silky ‘shifting’ can be distracting at first
The NuVinci hub is unlike all other internal geared hubs in that it’s continuously variable without fixed gear ratios. The best analogy for how the systems compare is a ramp vs stairs: both share a progression between similar start and end points, but the ramp achieves it in a smooth linear fashion while the stairs require forced steps along the way.
No numbers on this indicator, just a simple bike on a gradient. The hill profile changes as you twist the shifter
Gearing changes are accomplished via a grip shifter at your right hand. There’s a clever indicator that shows a bike rolling along flat terrain to moving up a steep hill – understanding shifting doesn’t get easier. The lack of a noticeable clunk or click to indicate a shift is a little strange at first, but it doesn’t take long before you’re cruising and consistently twisting your hand to adjust your cadence.
Compared with a conventional derailleur system, the Nuvinci does miss some low- and top-end range but – excluding Sydney’s steepest hills – it’s enough to comfortably cruise most urban streets.
The Chappelli NuVinci isn't the sort of bike to get dressed up for riding
With just two sizes on offer, fit will be a compromise for many, but this isn’t the type of bike to grab for overly long commutes or rides. Shorter trips, urban adventures and café stops are what the Chappelli NuVinci does best – and it fulfils this role in style.
With our 54cm size (the smaller of the two options), arriving with a long and large looking frame, we were worried that perhaps it would feel oversized. But the stubby 80mm quill stem brings the length back to normal, putting you in a comfortable position for cruising the streets.
Road racing bike 26mm width rubber keeps the Chappelli rolling along quickly, though a wider tread would provide a more stable and forgiving ride. But the chromoly frame and thin tubing do a respectable job of soaking up road imperfections and stop things from getting too rattly up top.
Narrow handlebars make cutting through traffic easier, but the trade-off is a twitchier ride
The 54cm narrow chrome handlebar fits with the bike’s fixie styling, but a wider bar would help smooth out the occasional twitchy handling up front, and also provide a little more leverage if you’re facing a steep incline.
Frame and equipment: a focus on style – and on that rear hub
Our sample arrived in the ‘Pistola’ style: metallic grey paint with chrome rear end, fork and parts throughout. It’s a ‘bling’ getup that certainly looks more expensive then it is. If all that chrome is over the top for you, there are other options too.
Aesthetically the bike is clean and classy, but the messy cable routing along down tube looks like a careless afterthought
The sealed nature of the NuVinci unit means the only maintenance the Chappelli regularly needs is via chain lube and a track pump. (We do of course recommend getting the brakes and rest of the bike adjusted from time to time too.)
While the sealed and rather service-free nature of the NuVinci is a huge bonus, there are some negatives with all geared hubs. Besides the previously mentioned expense of the system, the NuVinci adds some noticeable heft to the bike – at 12.46kg it’s not a light machine. The NuVinci also adds some extra friction to your input, though this is unlikely to be of concern given the bike's intended leisure use.
The basic Tektro road brake calipers and flat handlebar levers are decent quality items, but they lack immediate stopping power on the 33mm deep silver rims. The brakes did improve with use, but we never felt truly confident in traffic or at high speed. We're told that future versions of this bike will receive upgraded and more powerful Tektro calipers and levers – certainly a good move.
The Chappelli NuVinci's potential downfall? The brakes lack power and the grips lack traction
While the padded saddle should be comfortable for most, the style-oriented leather grips are firm and rather slippery – not exactly ideal for an item that's meant to provide comfort and control.
These niggles aside, it's hard not to be at least a little seduced by the Chappelli NuVinci's clean elegance. It's an impressively affordable creation, and novice riders are likely to love the simplicity of its gear control system.
Chappelli has just appointed a UK distributor and will be launching www.chappelli.co.uk, customers and retailers can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently there is no distributor in the US, but Chappelli will ship internationally