Germany's Nicolai have slimmed down their range to just five core designs for 2012 – although they still offer a total of 14 different models – but they continue to push the boundaries of bike design, with frames built to accept Pinion's new gearbox and their own G-Boxx system, plus an electric-assist downhill bike. Check out our gallery for loads more images.
Ion is Nicolai's 'gravity' range. The 220mm Ion20 downhill frame (£2,150) remains in the line-up for 2012 but it's joined by three new models. The Ion18 (£1,800) replaces the Helius AFR freeride frame and offers a lower centre of gravity, with 203mm of rear travel and a 180mm fork up front.
The Ion14 (£1,800) is a versatile beast which can be run with a 100mm fork and short-stroke shock as a four-cross racer or with a 140mm fork and longer shock as a park bike. All feature Nicolai's proven four-bar Horst link suspension design, plus either 1.5in or tapered steerer tubes for improved stiffness.
The Ion e-bike is the real head-turner though, with a Bosch electric motor to power you to the top of the hill and make uplift queues a thing of the past. The Ion20 E-Boxx has 180/203mm of front/rear travel courtesy of a RockShox Vivid 5.1 shock and a claimed frame weight of 14.3kg (31.5lb).
The shorter-travel (160/170mm) Ion16 E-Boxx comes with a Cane Creek Double Barrel shock and weighs slightly less, at 13.9kg (30.6lb). The motor can also be built into Nicolai's Helius and Argon frames. UK pricing for the E-Boxx models is still to be confirmed.
Nicolai Ion16 E-Boxx
The Helius RC (120mm, race/trail, £1,875), Helius AC (145mm, trail, £1,780), Helius AC 29in (120mm, trail 29er, £1,825) and Helius AM (170mm, all-mountain, £1,780) carry over for 2012, with the latter gaining cable guides for a dropper post. Again, all have four-bar rear ends plus either tapered (bikes with up to 150mm of fork travel) or 1.5in steerer tubes.
The AM will now also be available with Pinion's new 18-ratio P1.18 gearbox. Both lighter – a prototype complete bike shown at Eurobike weighed 15.2kg (33lb) – and cheaper than Nicolai's G-Boxx system, this is said to offer a massive 636% gear range. The first production run of the Helius AM Pinion has already sold out. Provisional UK pricing is £3,150 for the frame.
Nicolai Helius AM Pinion
The Rohloff-based G-Boxx system is still available too, on Nicolai's Nucleon bikes. The Nucleon E2 frame (£4,800) is based on the Ion, with 200/220mm of travel, while the Nucleon AM (£4,400) is based on the Helius AM, with 160-170/150-190mm of travel.
It's not all about full-suspension bikes at Nicolai – they offer a quiver of aluminium hardtail frames too. The Argon is available in versions for cross-country (Argon CC, 26 or 29in wheels, available with Rohloff hub gear or Gates belt drive, prices from £1,150), trail/all-mountain (Argon FR, £1,200), urban/touring (Argon TR, £1,225) and road (Argon Road, £1,175) riders.
Nicolai Argon FR