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Monday, November 7, 2011

Van Nicholas Pioneer project...

The Pioneer has to live up to the very high standard set by my Sabbath Silk Route, the bike I rode yesterday and which I used last year in New Zealand. And judging by this morning's relative short (around 32km) ride it's certainly going to achieve that standard.

Despite my good intentions, I didn't actually get up until 6am and set out about 20 minutes later on the River Loop. It's a very popular Brisbane cycling route with a mix of flat and undulating terrain and a decent hill thrown in for good measure. The bike felt immediately comfortable, so my choice of frame size and stem length seem to have been good. I made a brief stop after about 20 minutes to raise the palm rests on the Ergon grips a little, but otherwise the riding position seems comfortable and natural.

Without a computer fitted I don't know how the road speed compared, but my impression is that it is slower than the Sabbath. That can probably be put down the rolling resistance the 26 x 2.0 inch Schwalbe Marathon Dureme tyres I have fitted. This afternoon I'm going to fit a set of Marathon Supremes - the tyre used on the Sabbath, lighter and far more suited to road riding than the Duremes.

It's probably going to take a few decent rides to get used to the slightly wider gear spacing of the Rohloff hub, and I need to master the technique for downshifting on hills. But it seems likely that the 39 x 16 gearing combination I've selected will allow 11th gear (1:1 ratio) to be frequently used on the flats. And descending Highgate Hill in 14th gear I didn't spin out, even thought my speed was probably around 50 kph. The one thing that surprised me about the hub is how noisy it is in the lower gears. I had been warned to expect this, but it's likely the titanium frame transmits and maybe amplifies the sound so it seems rather loud. Some users report that the hub becomes quieter with use, I hope they are right. 

Handling wise I had been expecting the steering to be slow with the long chain stays and wider bars, but it is actually quite agile and seems to turn just as hard as I can lay it over. But it's also very stable and shows no signs of any tendency to shimmy at high speed.

When I arrived at the Coffee Garage at Southbank, the only touring bike amongst maybe 100 or more road bikes, I was very surprised when a bunch of roadies showed a lot of interest and even asked if they could take photos. Wonders will never cease...

Overall I'd have to say I'm delighted with the result. The ride and handling live right up to my expectations. The fit is as good or better than any bike I've owned. It looks and feels fantastic. It's probably a little slower than the Sabbath, but that is to be expected since it is heavier and has wider tyres. I think we are going to be very happy together.


  1. Hi Ron, I stumbled across your blog while researching fitting a bar bag to a Pioneer which I am just assembling. I too am in BrisVegas. Please could you get in contact as I would love to have a chat. slogfester@Xmail.com (replace X with the letter after F). Thx Barry

  2. Hi Ron,
    I LURV your Pioneer, and have been planning a build (this year) or European pick-up (next year) of the very same bikes for my wife and I. I had also been considering a Thorn, but the Van Nicholas looks like a far higher build quality. Plus, your comment on BNA about your dealings with SJS and Robin give me pause...
    I hope you're enjoying the ride - I'll update you with pics once the project cristalises.

    1. Hi Sammy - yes I am enjoying the ride. The Pioneer is a great bike, but I have been told it is difficult to obtain a frame and fork to build your own now.

      If you are considering a European pickup, it may be worth looking up De Vakantiefietser in Amsterdam. The website is in Dutch but Google will translate it for you. I'd also suggest you look at the idworx Off Rohler Ti - it would be my pick.

      If I can help with any information please feel welcome to ask.