With a comfy titanium frame and super-reliable Roholoff hub, the Van Nicholas Amazon is luxury urban transport from t'Internet.
Ride & handling: relaxed & climbs well
Despite being a significant 18 per cent heavier than the recently tested version with drop bars and derailleur gears, the Van Nicholas climbs better than any other Rohloff-equipped bikes that we’ve tried recently.
A little perseverance was needed as the fork had a tendency to chatter until the Shimano cantilever brakes had a chance to bed in properly. The cantilever brakes fall short on power compared to V-brakes on fast descents, but we aren’t complaining with their performance around town.
The bike’s upright riding position feels relaxed and sprocket sizes were judged to be about right for general cycling duties.
Frame: resilient material, eye-catching details
The Van Nicholas Amazon’s 3Al/2.5V plain gauge titanium tubing has a tough, resilient quality that’s suited to the urban environment. (The tubing numbers refer to the percentage of the alloying elements aluminium and vanadium that give the titanium extra strength.)
The welding falls short of the artisan standards of US-produced frames from the likes of Merlin and Seven, though the intricately machined dropouts are certainly eye-catching.
A Bushnell eccentric bottom bracket is used to tension the chain, and unlike its derailleur-equipped sibling there are no disc brake mounts. It’s otherwise well-appointed with rear rack and mudguard braze-ons, together with cable stops and guides exclusively for the Rohloff hub.
Equipment: gorgeous extras
Our Van Nicholas came with some optional extras that we reckon are definitely worth the cost and include a beautifully made titanium setback-type seatpost, a leather Brooks saddle and highly effective Ergon grips.
The Rohloff hub gear ratios are in larger steps than we’re used to with a derailleur-equipped bike. Unlike other hub gears, full pressure can be maintained on the pedals when changing gear.
Van Nicholas also operates an exchange policy so parts can be swapped out if they’re the wrong size.
Wheels: hub gear quick release problem solved
The Van Nicholas uses DRC aluminium rims with butted stainless steel spokes. The Rohloff rear hub contributes to the heavy feel of the rear-end, but the Continental Sport Contact 700x32 tyres compensate well for this and are a better choice than touring-specific tyres as they roll faster and are highly effective shock absorbers into the bargain. Rear wheel removal is a cinch thanks to twin quick release clips that disconnect the control cables from the hub.
Verdict: easy order, great bike
Top marks go to the Van Nicholas site with its easy-to-use system. The Amazon Rohlo? has bags of street cred and while there are more a?ordable ways of entering into the experience of owning a bike with this hub, the Amazon frame’s resistance to casual knocks and the sheer beauty of those dropouts makes it worth the stretch.