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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Van Nicholas Pioneer update...

Nearly 3000 kilometers have passed under the wheels since the Pioneer build was completed, so it's a good time for an update.

Remarkably, the bike has required little in the way of adjustment or fine tuning since putting it on the road. A minor tweak to the angle of the bar ends, and a tightening of the headset is about all.  Oh, and a tightening of the chainring bolts, which worked loose.

That is not to say there have been no changes - the Supernova E3 Pro lightset has been installed. The 26" x 2.0" Schwalbe Marathon Dureme tyres swapped to narrower 1.6" Marathon Supreme for the urban riding that I'm mostly doing. The Rohloff hub now has a 17 tooth sprocket to lower the gearing a little, and to correct a minor chainline misalignment, the original 118mm bottom bracket was replaced by one with a 122mm axle. And I added a mirror. Yes, me - with a mirror on my bike.

On the road, the Pioneer is a real pleasure. The cockpit is roomy, and it is easy to pedal out of the saddle, but the reach remains comfortable. Despite having the tyres inflated hard for urban riding, the titanium frame soaks up road vibrations and provides a lovely smooth ride. The brakes are extremely powerful, and I'm confident they will easily control the speed of the loaded bike on any steep mountain descents. The steering seems agile enough, yet very stable, and I'm getting used to the flat bars. Although wider than preferred, they cannot be further shortened.

There is one aspect of the bike that is a little underwhelming - the Rohloff hub. I will post about this  separately, but for now suffice to say that it does not quite live up to my high expectations. I'm keeping and open mind about it until I have completed a loaded tour - who knows, my views may change.

So how does the Pioneer compare with the Sabbath? Very favourably I think. As an expedition bike it is definitely heavier, but the handling and ride qualities are very similar, and the brakes are much better. I'm looking forward to my next tour when I'll be tackling a few back country roads in New Zealand. More about that later.


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