Ever since I first cast my eyes on a Nicolai bike I have dreamed of owning one. From a design and construction perspective, they are, for me, the best looking mountain bikes on the planet. The quality and precision of the Nicolai engineering process is just awesome. So many bikes (especially the burlier offerings from companies like Specialized) have had so much post-function styling development work that they often lose their sense of purposefulness. The original Demo 9 for instance – quite attractive, but so much of the detail and the complexity in the frame construction is non-functional. I think Specialized actually released a video which demonstrated the process whereby the engineer responsible for designing a functional frame passed his functional (but to the marketeers – dull) design on to another engineer whose responsibility it was to turn the basic frame into something with a wider aesthetic appeal. Wider not necessarily meaning better.
Nicolai bikes on the other hand exemplify the beauty of hard, cold function. Nicolai bikes don’t feature superfluous stylistic additions. The tubes are round section for main frame elements and rectangular section for the rear end. No convoluted hydroforming in evidence anywhere. And while recent innovations / fads (delete as appropriate) such as tapered or 1.5″ headsets are possible, they like to stick to the tried and trusted (and relatively lightweight) 1.125″ standard. Bikes like the Ion ST are designed and built purely for purpose. The images below illustrate the visual appeal of such an approach.
The Helius AM is Nicolai’s popular All Mountain bike. The Helius AFR is more freeride orientated, and probably a bit too burly for what I have in mind, and the Helius AC is more of a tough trail bike.
As far as I can work out, the Helius AM is pretty much spot on spec-wise. 160mm travel (adjustable from 130mm), with the possibility of using a Cane Creek Double-Barrel shock. The head angle is slacker than my Whyte, at 66.5deg (vs 67.7 on the Whyte). Seat angle is steeper, at 73.2deg (vs 69.9). The wheelbase is longer too. As such, the bike should be more stable at speed, but still easily manoeuvrable, especially with Talas forks (if I do choose to swap them across).
Hopefully I’ll get a chance to demo one soon.