Good value titanium 29er, but go custom to get the handling right.
Van Nicholas is a Dutch company making affordable titanium bikes with lots of à la carte options. Unlike the 26in-wheel Tuareg, the 29er we test here comes frame only; if you wanted a build-up like this one, it’d cost you around £2000.
The ride: could be sprightlier
While the Tuareg’s handling isn’t exactly bad, it’s not as sharp as it could be. The often-unfounded criticism of 29ers – that they’re only good in a straight line – has the ghost of truth about it here.
Titanium’s ride qualities are sometimes exaggerated. It feels much like steel, just not as heavy. Like the aluminium On-One Scandal, it’s lovely and light for a 29er. If it doesn’t handle as well, it still eats up the ground, particularly when climbing long slopes or when you hit long sections of stutter bumps.
Frame: relaxed titanium
The head angle here is a bit slack for a 29er, given the limited fork offset, so it’s worth considering a custom frame. A 70-degree head angle is less than last batch of 29ers we tested, which were mostly 72 degrees. Big-wheelers call for a steeper head angle and/or more fork offset than a conventional bike to reduce some of their extra, stabilising trail.
All that probably explains why the handling isn’t what it could be. A bit of tweaking to accommodate thebig wheels would work wonders. [Or you could get a bike with sensible wheels – 26incher Ed].
The frame is neatly TIG-welded from 3Al/2.5V titanium alloy. The numbers tell you the percentage of aluminium and vanadium that’s in the mix to improve strength.
While it’s almost as strong as steel, titanium isn’t as stiff. To compensate, the tube diameters are a bit larger and tube walls are thicker. Frame details include a slender-as-steel gusset at the head tube, bosses for both V and disc brakes, and pretty cut-out
V logos at the seat-stay wishbone and dropouts. There aren’t any rack eyelets, but you can get a tailor-made Tuareg 29er frame for £1011. That can have whatever ﬁttings, dropouts and frame angles you desire.
Equipment: quality selection
The narrow ﬂat bar also limits the handling; a wide bar would deﬁnitely help, giving you more leverage in turns and tight spots.
Otherwise, the components hung on the Tuareg’s frame beﬁt its quality.
An XT groupset works crisply and efﬁciently.
The White Brothers Magic 80 29er fork is one of the better ones on the market for big-wheelers. The fork lockout has an auto-off function, courtesy of a threshold valve that you can set to suit, so it only activates on hits that are big enough for you to want suspension. This saves ﬁddling with a lockout switch and lets you get on with your riding. Initial performance wasn’t as smooth as a RockShox Reba SL 29er, but should bed in.
Finishing touches are nice. The Van Nicholas saddle has titanium rails, of course, and the seatpost is titanium. It’s kinked backwards to give it layback and the saddle is held securely with an annular clamp.
Even the tyres are nice: Schwalbe Little Alberts are light for a 29er tyre and their tread proﬁle suits a range of conditions.
The test bike’s brakes were set up Continental style, but that won’t be an issue if you’re buying the frame only.