Van Nicholas Chinook review

Unique titanium choice

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £3,087.00 RRP

Our review

A Ti bike that’s at home on the start line, but save the carbon wheels for race day
Skip to view product specifications

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.

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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.

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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.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Chinook Ultegra 10-spd Complete (11)
Brand Van Nicholas

Description Vredestein Fortezza Tri Comp 700x23 tyres, Sizes: 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62cm
Rims VNT Elements 50mm carbon aero, bladed spokes, 20 radial front, 24 2-cross/radial rear
Top Tube (cm) 55.5
Standover Height (cm) 80.5
Seat Tube (cm) 52
Chainstays (cm) 40.5
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 26.5
Weight (lb) 17.4
Weight (kg) 7.91
Stem VNT Elements alloy 11cm, 11/8in x oversized
Seatpost VNT Elements carbon, alu head, 27.2x300mm, twin-bolt clamp
Seat Angle 74
Saddle passport Navigator padded vinyl, steel rails
Rear Wheel Weight 1527
Brakes Shimano Ultegra
Rear Derailleur Shimano ultegra short cage
Headset Type Orbit MX
Head Angle 74
Handlebar Van Nicholas VNT
Front Wheel Weight 1090
Front Tyre Continental Ultra Sport 700x23c
Front Derailleur Shimano ultegra
Frame Weight 1425
Frame Material 3AL/2.5V titanium, non-replaceable gear hanger.
Fork Weight 410
Fork All-carbon 11/8in steerer
Cranks Shimano ultegra 50/34 compact, 2-piece, 172.5mm arms
Wheelbase (cm) 98.5