Van Nicholas Tuareg 26″ Titanium XC Hardtail

March 2013 this bike has now been replaced by the version 2013, 27.5″ – 650b
It’s still a Van Nicholas Tuareg , it’s the same but better

While I was at the Roc d’Azur in October 2010, I looked at a couple of titanium frames with thoughts of upgrading my ‘hardtail’ Lapierre Pro Race : why ?

I still really haven’t found any other ‘full susser’ bike that is as good as the Rocky Mountain Tribal that I had before or without going overboard with the wallet, so for the moment that will probably stay my full susser for yet another year to come.

The Lapierre pro 300 hardtail, I’m more than happy with but as usual I have itchy fingers to build or modify my bikes with the new year coming, and more the Lapierre than the Rocky Mountain

During the Roc I had looked at a Sobre Ti frame, which is a very nice and not to expensive, about 1200€ but its fitted for 120mm forks, and I’m running 100mm and don’t feel the need to run more than 100mm.

I also looked some other frames such as the Skyde, but at around the 1800€ mark, this was just to expensive.

This week while I was looking at the site as I was almost ready to order the Pompino frame as my new singlespeed when I saw a promo for a Titanium MTB frame from the company Van Nicholas, 43% reduction from about 1520 € down to 880€. Frame version 2010, that’s why is was going cheap as the 2011 version is slightly different.

The model Van Nicholas Tuareg Frame was to be good to be true, a full XC frame, almost identical sizing as my Pro Race 300, I checked with friends the name is known in the Ti bike frame building industry, its made in China (as so many framers these days, including recently built Rocky Mountain bikes) which is a shame, but boy what a beauty it is :

Certain parts on the frame are just a work of art … you can see the quality of the welding and metal work in the pictures below

If all goes well everything all except the BB and the Ahead set from the Lapierre will fit, the BB I have a brand new spare XTR lying around, so that’s no problem, the rest should be good, I will just change the stem from a 100mm to a 90mm as the Tuareg is a tiny bit longer and I need to buy a new Ahead set.

So I’m waiting for the delivery so that I can start working on it, this plus a new Pompino singlespeed that I building up, boy am I busy ……

Update : Received the frame today 07/12/2010, boy is it nice, time to get it home and start work on it, stripping the Lapierre and building it up, nearly all XTR pieces. I’m going to order the Van Nicholas Ti seat post today, I’ve ordered a Deus 90mm stem rather than the 100mm from the Lapierre, Now need some seriously sexy wheels to go with it rather than the XT’s, am thinking about some American Classics MTB 26, or some ZTR NoTubes Crest rims on Hope pro II hubs, but not sure yet.

I’ve started building up the frame :
so far, BB*, XTR Cranks, XTR front and back Derailleur fitted , Chris King and Hope seat clamp, TI seat stem

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bb-xtr-1024x768.jpg
Notice the two 2.5mm spacers on the drive side and one the left side as the frame is 68mm wide

Van Nicholas Ti Seat Post , I’ve rarely seen a seat post as sexy as this, Weight 264 gms, diameter 31.6mm. Update : my first rides :  the tube keeps slipping down the frame, (I sent it back and changed it for a Race Face XC carbon SL, the same as on my Rocky)

Wheels : These have arrived, I finally decided on ZTR Crest rims on Hope Pro hubs, need to fit them with Stan's no tube tape and some tubeless ready tyres, these wheels are very light, the back weighs in at 840 gms and the front at 720  gms, after riding these wheels, one thing I noticed, in undoing the plastic valve cap,  (I wanted to adjust the tyre pressure) the valve core stayed with the cap, instant deflation, so you have to be careful with these valves, when unscrewing the valve cap, I think I'll not bothering fitting caps.

Fork : A brand new grey Fox 32 RLC Fit 100mm has arrived, the grey version goes just perfectly with the Ti colour.

Tyres_1 : I’ve finally received the Stans No Tubes rim tape. Also  received Swalbes tubeless ready tires, both fitted nice and easily, just like a tubeless tyre en a tubeless rim, both ‘popped correctly’ when pumping them up. Nobby Nic, tubeless ready version DD 590 gms, Racing Ralph, Tubeless ready version DD 585 gms
Update : better weather now, I changed tyres to a Rocket Ron 2.25 front and an Racing Ralph 2.25 rear, version DD, both Tubeless ready, saved even more weight with the RR front 🙂

Brakes : I’ve bought and fitted Hope Tech X2 brakes, these are rather sexy, machined CNC alu, with braided hoses, instead of plastic ones, 6mm diameter rather than the standard 5mm. this actually created a slight problem, the TI frame has for me one design error, the brakes lugs are not cut, in other words you have to thread the hoses rather than ty-rapping it, (this also means that I had to take the brakes apart to thread the hoses) as the lugs internal diameter is 5mm ish, I was unable to tread the hoses as they are to large, so I got out the Dremel, cut the lugs so that I could open them slightly and thread the hose. Both rotors are the floating Hope Saw rotors.

Now I have braided hoses that are light grey in colour and brakes that look and feel really nice, also unlike the Shimano brakes, I was able to shorten the hoses without having to purge the brakes, nice, very nice indeed.

Shifters : I’ve dropped the Shimano Dual Control and gone back to ‘normal’ shifters as one day I’ll go to a 10 speed set up, and Dual Controls don’t work with 10 speed setups, shame as I’ve used these for a long time, in fact they are still on my Rocky Mountain setup for the moment. I’ve fitted Hope matchmaker brackets to fit the shifters directly on the brakes, making the handlebars less cluttered.

XTR shifters with Hope brakes matchmakers

Remark : all the threads on this frame, the BB or for fixing the back derailleur are very clean, the BB I was able the screw both sides fully in by hand. I’ve built a few bikes in my time, these have to be the cleanest threads that I’ve seen yet.

Update : 11 February 2011, did a 40km ride, home to work and back again, the Van Nicholas is the same size as my Lapierre Pro Race 300, and apart from the brakes and the wheels the rest is an all XTR setup, it rode quite differently, it absorbs more vibrations than the Lapierre Alu frame, as it was the first outing on it, I took it slowly, stopping to adjust brakes, saddle hight etc, but it does ride more comfortable, will be able to test it better in the next couple of weeks.

I managed to get two more rides done this weekend. Update : The Van Nicholas Ti seat clamp arrived, even with it fitted their seat post still kept slipping when riding, and no much how I tightened it, So I changed it for a Race Face Next carbon SL, the problem went away, the seat post no longer slips down, also as I changed the saddle to a Selle Italia SLR which is lighter than the Flite, the bike now weighs in at 10.45kgs (I’m going to send the seat post back to Van Nicholas, as I believe that it must be slightly undersized)

Apart from that all is fine, its lighter than the Lapierre, it’s fast, and at the same time more ‘supple’, I’m having a little problem adapting to shifters, I’ve been riding Dual Controls to long …

Update : Mi Avril, between the Singlespeed and the Van Nicholas, I have clocked up over 1300 km so far, its going to be a good year.

All off road riding has been done on the this bike (The Rocky is sitting in the garage ..) I’m riding faster and feeling better.

I’ve just order and awaiting some new pedals, The new XTR M980 as the Time pedals are rather used and I’d like to try the new XTR’s to see what they are like. Update : pedals arrived and fitted, nice, the shoes sit better on them and there is less float, I feel the difference in the back leg coming up with the pedal stroke, clipping in is not quite as good, but this should get better as the shoes wear in to the pedals, unclipping is fine, need to adjust it though to make it a little harder, this is easily done with a allen key.

Update 08/08/2011 : I’ve decided to go 2 * 10, the XTR crank set has already arrived 28/40, and the rest has been ordered, if all goes well I can try it next weekend, I’m sure I’m going to have ‘fun….’ on the hills  and that I going to miss my 22 / 32 but hell, why not.

So far so good 🙂

Update : When its finished its never finished, My crank set was becoming worn and was starting to have problems with chain suck, So rather than just changing the crank set or rings I decided to go for a 2 * 10 set up, I bought a XTR 28/40 XTR crankset up, with a XTR front dérailleur, XT back dérailleur and XT Cassette 11/36 (need the big 36 to go with the 28 ring ) and some nice new XTR shifters (note : I had to take of the Hope matchmakers and the won’t fit the 10 speed shifters)

Problem straight away, when fitting the cranks I came up against the famous Q Factor (which I’d never heard of before), the Q Factor means how close the crank set will be to the frame and the cranks were only about 1mm from the back stay, this was not good, as I could see that under pressure the crank could touch the stay and damage it.

I found out that the Q factor for the XTR Trail version had an extra 3 mm on it (69mm against 66mm), the same Q factor as the 9 speed XTR but as I had already bought this one and didn’t want the trail version I decided to do some DIY  on the crank and f**k the guarantee. It seem OK so maybe Shimano could take note and modify their cranks as I’ve seen on the forum, other people coming up with the problem)

So what I did is grind about 2mm from the back of the crank when it was nearest to the back stay, 2 mm less (thickness) and for about 15mm long where the axle of the pedal is screwed in, I’m sure that this will not affect the crank strength as they are so thick anyway, you can see for yourselves with the photos, I know have a clearance that is OK I can even fit a chain stay protector on without it being touched by the crank.

For info I’ve fitted a horrible XT 11/36 cassette, it’s so big (I’ve always used a 11/32, so the 11/36 seems so big … most of my friends run a 11/34 but not me ……) but I will need the 36 as with the 28 front  ring its going to be hard work on the hills, before I was running a 22/32/42 crankset and now  it’s  a 28/40, this means that the 28/36 will give me the equivalent of a 22/28 (before it was 22/32) so I missing a couple of pignons, I just hope that I can hack it, otherwise I’ll be walking more and more on the steep sections. 🙂

Update September 2012 : In a few weeks time I’m going down south to do the Roc d’Aur, Europe’s biggest MTB meeting, Normally I do with the Rocky Mountain with a 3 * 9 setup, but I’ve just sold this and so I’m going to do it with the Van Nicholas.

My only concern is the 2 * 10 Cranks running a 28/40 setup, here were I live its fine, rarely needing a higher gear, but with the Roc this will not be the case as there are a lot of high and hard climbs to de done.

So I’ve just bought some  Sram 2 * 10 XO 26/39 cranks, with the back 36 cog this should be enough to get me up the most of the climbs, and the nice things about the cranks is  the Q factor, its perfect so no need to grind anything down so that it fits.

It’s finished …  again 10.7 kilos

Update November 2012 : While starting the Roc d’Azur this year October in the south of France, the very first day, a friend with whom I was riding said to me while we were taking a break, hey look your frame looks ‘funny’ around the seat post … so we looked a little closer and saw that the frame was fracturing around and slightly above the seat tube welding.

So back to the car ‘riding standing’ up for most of the ride, to take a real look at the frame … It was almost completely fractured  as you can see in the photos, in fact luckily for me I ride with a 400mm seat post and over 145mm are inside the tubing as it was my seat post that was keeping the frame intact and possibly saving me from a nasty accident.

A week later and back home (I finished the Roc d’Azur with my old Rocky Mountain that I had sold to a friend a couple of weeks ago) I contacted Planet-X, On One bikes who were great, they confirmed that was a problem covered by the guarantee, which was fairly obvious, I think that it’s just due to a default in the Titan, as it’s not even the weld that had fractured, and they sent me a transporter to pick up the frame once I had stripped it completely down, compliments here to On One as I live in France and they paid for the transport, which is normally for me to pay and it was done two days after my phone call and confirmation par mail, fast …..

This was almost three weeks ago, I’m now still awaiting to see what Van Nicholas are going to do, as they can either repair the frame (I doubt and hope that is it not repairable) or change it for a new Tuareg frame, this will show how good the Van Nicholas guarantee is … for the moment I’m a little worried as they don’t seem to be as rapid as On One was when I contacted them …

Update December : Van Nicholas have finally come back to me, they have agreed to change my frame as its covered by the guarantee, The  only ‘hic’ is that the new version is a 650b only, I don’t mind this as I feel that it is the way to go for hard tails, leaving the 29ers for the full sussers, I will of course have to change my wheels, head set as it’s a conical and of course my fork, but that I don’t mind.

This frame should arrive end of January, so lets wait and see, it will give me time to buy the new gear and an excuse to start a new page in this blog of mine.

So for the moment I’m riding around on my Singlespeed or my new Cannondale road bike, when the weather permits.