Van Nicholas Astraeus (custom build) £1903

Dutch titanium mastery

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

At first glance it might look just like any other titanium bike out there, but the Dutch-designed Astraeus has a few surprises hidden – and not so hidden – under its shiny silver skin.

Van Nicholas are known for their competitively priced titanium bikes, but at around £2,000 the new Astraeus sits at the top of their range, twice the price of the next cheapest road frame. And with a frame weighing 1,560g it’s no featherweight either. So what justifies the Astraeus’s price? Quite a few things, it seems…

Ride & handling: Bridges the gap between titanium and carbon fibre

The Astraeus really flies out on the road where, matched with Reynolds’ Ouzo Comp fork, it truly inspires confidence. Throwing it into corners, tackling technical descents, grabbing the brakes… nothing fazes this bike’s handling. 

Its super-stiff bottom bracket area comes into play as it responds to hard efforts in a way that we’ve previously only experienced on carbon fibre bikes. 

In fact, the Astraeus bridges the gap between titanium and carbon fibre, in terms of stiffness, more than any other titanium bike we’ve ridden. True, there are a lot of carbon bikes lighter than our 7.8kg test bike, but there’s no denying the appeal that a stylish titanium bike has.

Frame: Unique diamond tubing creates a stiff, shapely chassis

At first glance the Astraeus resembles Van Nicholas’s other bikes – a well finished, neatly welded 3Al/2.5V titanium frame – but on closer inspection you’ll notice the differences. Drawing on work carried out at the Delft University of Technology, researching how to optimise frame and bottom bracket stiffness, Van Nicholas’s designers have come up with a frame with diamond-shaped tubing.

The H-shaped chainstay bridge, increasing stiffness in the bottom bracket area, is also a result of this. But the single biggest development is that the Astraeus represents the first use of hydroformed titanium in bikes. Long used in producing aluminium, this process uses dies and high-pressure fluid to form materials into shapes hard to achieve by other means.

The frame is seamless and double butted, and being titanium it won’t corrode. So while it is expensive, barring crashes the frame should outlast the owner.

Equipment: Mavic wheels and good quality own-brand kit 

You can spec Van Nicholas bikes with a wide variety of kit. Ours came with the company’s own-brand stem and handlebars, which are light and well made, and while the welded titanium seatpost proved a bit fiddly to adjust, it looks great and perfectly complements the bike’s look. 

Mavic’s Cosmic Carbone SL wheels aren’t the lightest around, but they will certainly pay dividends on fast, flat roads – similar to those in Holland where the bike was developed – where the full aerodynamic benefit of their deep sections come into play.

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