Conventional wisdom has it that titanium bikes are better suited to sportives than racing. Dutch Ti specialists Van Nicholas don’t agree, and describe the Chinook as a ‘circuit racer’. The company opted to build our test bike in a seriously racy spec to prove the point.
With carbon fibre wheels and a flat-back riding position, it's a veritable speed machine. But the deep-section hoops gave us nervous moments on windy days, and compromise the comfort that most buyers expect of titanium.
- Highs: Elegant slender tubes make for a surprisingly responsive frame, and the carbon wheels make the Van Nicholas effortlessly quick.
- Lows: Deep-section wheels take their toll on the comfort for which titanium is renowned, and push up the price. The aggressive riding position won’t be suitable for everyone either.
- Buy if: You want to stand out on race day, and are prepared to trade a little comfort for speed.
From Van Nicholas’s in-house brand VNT, the Chinook's deep-section clinchers add €620 (around £553) to the price compared with a set of Easton Aero wheels, but they save nearly 200g. They make a huge difference to the way the bike rides, for better and worse…
One downside is that the handling is distinctly twitchy in crosswinds, and sudden gusts can easily knock the bike off line. Titanium’s trademark comfort also suffers with deep section wheels fitted, especially at the front of the bike, where the thin bar tape and aluminium handlebar and stem combine to send a lot of vibration through to the palm of your hands.
Swapping to a more forgiving wheelset improves comfort no end. On the other hand, change the wheels and you won’t go anywhere near as fast. The smoother the road and the higher the pace, the better the Chinook likes it. Light and aero wheels and a low, aggressive riding position make the Van Nic a good choice for lone breakaway specialists.
This bike has a greed for speed that's truly addictive. The thin tubes might not look stiff but they do a surprisingly efficient job of getting power to the back wheel. It takes some serious wattage before there’s any noticeable flex. Yank hard on the bar and there’s some movement, but it’s only really an issue in the final mad dash for the finish line.
So, point proven, you can make a hardcore race bike from titanium. But it would be easy enough to take the Chinook in a different direction. Having ridden the bike with Easton wheels we know how comfortable it can be. Taking the €1,199 (£1,069) frame as a starting point, with careful component choices you can tweak the bike’s character and dial down its complete price accordingly.