Nevi Gobi Desert review£4,620.00

Retro handling, but uniquely integrated handmade Italian titanium masterpiece

BikeRadar score3/5

When ex pro-racer Sergio Finazzi started hand-building bikes in Italy in 1992, titanium was the go-to material for the premium bike of practically every brand. 24 years later and there are only a few titanium specialists left, and none who push the idea of a full Ti chassis as far as Nevi.

For a start, the 825g titanium fork is totally unique to Nevi. Cowled dropouts are welded on to super fat, tapering oval legs and then welded diagonally onto a hollow cast crown with tapered steerer. The welding isn’t the neatest we’ve seen and the crown has some cellulite surface dimpling from the casting, and at £1,300 it’s more expensive than any XC suspension fork. Nevi’s titanium work for industrial, automotive and aerospace clients means no one else has the in-house expertise to build anything like it, though. Nevi also supplies a bottle of frame cleaning oil in a little wooden book to keep your Ti bride lubed and gleaming.

We were surprised to see that the cable guides under the top tube are riveted, but that means less danger of accidentally burning through the super light tubes when welding

The frame isn’t short of impressive features either, as it’s the first Nevi MTB frame to use a super thin wall (0.58mm thick to be precise) inverted kite shape 6AL-4V down tube. It’s a signature piece that Nevi has been hand fabricating and evolving in its workshop for the past 20 years on its road bikes, so it’s certainly not unproven.

If you prefer a conventional round down tube, then the K2 pairs a 48mm diameter pipe with the same tapered head tube as the Gobi, while the Maniva uses a 1.125in head tube and 42mm down tube for a more compliant ride.

The Nevi sports a similarly old-school 110mm stem
The Nevi sports a similarly old-school 110mm stem

The ovalised top tube and round seat tube are 3AL-2.5V alloy complete with a welded cable stop for the top pull front mech and twin bottle cage mounts. We were surprised to see that the cable guides under the top tube are riveted, but that means less danger of accidentally burning through the super light tubes when welding.

The water cut 6AL-4V dropouts are QR, not bolt through, but both front and rear brake mounts are easy to adjust post style. There’s a decent amount of tyre room between the snaking stays before they join the threaded (rather than press fit) 6AL-4V BB shell. If you’re willing to spend upwards of £4,620 on titanium frame and forks, then you probably won’t balk at the matching titanium finishing kit Nevi fitted to our test sample. That includes a Nevi branded semi-hidden headset, a £360 110mm ‘hidden bolt’ stem, £167 640mm flat bar and £277 seatpost with single bolt red anodised cradle.

An old-school ride

The retro handling might not be for everyone
The retro handling might not be for everyone

Nevi makes the Gobi Desert in five stock sizes, with a steep (72-degree head angle, 73-degree seat angle) and relatively short reach 585mm top tube. Add a 110mm stem and 640mm top tube, and the twitchy steering was a stark reminder of how difficult more technical trails were to ride in the '90s. In its defence, it’s the sort of handling that die-hard titanium fans upgrading their original Merlin will find familiar.

Thankfully, there’s a full custom geometry option available if you want something more thrill friendly, and obviously you can complete the bike with whatever cockpit dimensions you want, too.

While it’s hard to justify the cost over a carbon rigid fork, the natural compliance of the thin wall titanium legs makes the rigid fork surprisingly forgiving and controlled. We even got down some rocky old-school descents unscathed as long as we picked our lines carefully and kept it on the ground most of the time.

That same compliance, plus long 445mm chainstays and sticky compound tyres on the Mavic WTS wheels, does make the Gobi less responsive under power than we expected for a 9.79kg hardtail. Cue more time spent spinning in the smaller chainring than flexing the frame in the big ring, and a sudden interest in Nevi’s neat looking Bosch Nyon equipped e-bike!

Even without a motor, the low weight and smooth ride makes it a premium partner on epic outings with extended climbing sections and less challenging descents. In fact, exactly the kind of marathon rides that typify XC mountain biking back in the Nevi’s Italian homeland, but which also still resonate with a lot of old-school riders in the UK.

  • Price: £3,320 (Frame) £1,300 (Fork), US and Australian pricing not available

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

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