The Helius TB is Nicolai’s latest answer to the ultimate lightweight XC/Trail frame that does not only climb well, but doesn’t lack on the descents either. Despite having 130mm of rear wheel travel and a fairly slack 67.5 degree headtube angle, Nicolai claims that it is still one hell of a capable machine, thanks to its geometry and suspension kinematics.
We had no doubts about their claims but we were really hoping to try it out for ourselves. Thankfully, a customer of ours placed an order for this tailor-made anodised gold/blue Helius TB 650B specially built for both local/regional trails and races (most of which are the long distance XC types). The build had to be as light as it possibly could without sacrificing reliability and the need for ‘carbon everything’.
One of the only few carbon parts on the bike were the ENVE RSR bars that were bolted onto a 50mm Thomson Elite X4 stem. Shimano’s XTR brakes provided more than enough stopping power with the help of Braking’s laser-cut 180mm (front)/160mm (rear) rotors.
We simply had to give this build our own unique touches to do the tailor-made frame some justice. Starting with a set of custom chrome blue and gold die-cut vinyl for the RockShox Revelation.
The 140mm of travel up front was great during descents and high speed corners. But it never felt excessive to us, even when it came to steep climbs.
The light/linear tune of the RockShox Monarch shock was a perfect compliment to the Revelation up front. It did not require any high end suspension to keep the bike planted on the trails thanks to the low weight of the bike.
Once again, aesthetic details were a top priority, and a set of custom chrome blue Nicolai decals were produced for the frame.
It didn’t just stop at the frame and fork though, the SRAM XX1 cranks were given that special touch of chrome blue too.
We also stepped it up in the details game, and gave the DMR Vault’s a set of alternate blue/gold pins to match the rest of the bike.
SRAM’s awesome XX1 drivetrain provided an adequate range of gears and shifting was as crisp as can be.
The tubeless converted Atomlab Suprelite SL 650B rims were laced to their Pimplite hubs (Pimplite 102 rear), with Phil Wood spokes and Atomlab Torque nipples; and wrapped in Maxxis’ Ardent rubber.
Weighing in at 12.03kg, with a 1122mm wheelbase, the Helius TB felt very well balanced despite it’s relatively low weight. Nicolai got it spot-on, it had a perfect combination of being able to climb like a Helius RC (Nicolai’s discontinued XC race frame) and descend like a Helius AC (Nicolai’s’ current all-mountain frame in the Helius range). You could say we had so much fun on it in our local trails that we were hesitant to return the bike after a few test rides.
Incidentally, the 2015 Nicolai Helius AC (pictured here) has gone through some slight revisions making it even more similar to the TB with a drop in rear wheel travel, turning it into a dedicated trail machine, while the ION16 takes on the All-Mountain duties in the Nicolai range for 2015. With Eurobike 2014 just around the corner, we’re excited to see what else Nicolai has in store for 2015.
Photos via: Benjamin Teo and Nicolai
Despite having gone through a minor revision recently, Nicolai’s Helius platform still retains it’s signature four bar linkage design that soaks up everything in it’s path, a characteristic that some riders prefer over the stiffer and more progressive ride that the ION platform gives.
The owner of this bike is a fine example of one of those riders. Having already owned two Nicolai’s from the Helius platform, his love for them did not stop when it came to his next project, a tailor made Nicolai Helius AC Pinion 29er; sporting the same blue paint job as the older Gates Nicolai Team bikes, titanium anodised seatstays and extra love parts.
And when we said ‘long travel’ we weren’t kidding, a 160mm RockShox Pike up front is still pretty long even in current 29er standards.
The Pike is matched up to Cane Creek’s Double Barrel Air CS (Climb Switch) for better efficiency during climbs.
Wheels consisted of a good balance of weight savings and reliability, with Chris King’s ever so popular ISO hubs front and rear, laced with Sapim CX-Ray spokes…
…to ENVE Components AM rims with custom declas, complimenting the Helius AC’s blue paintjob.
The centrally mounted Pinion P1.18 kept the weight distribution nice and even, despite it not being a very heavy gearbox to begin with!
We’re pretty certain its full range of gears were definitely utilised when the owner took this very bike on a couple of overseas rides, including an epic one in the Himalayas!
Hope Tech’s X4 brakes definitely provided plenty of stopping power on tap.
Having already ridden his Specialized Stumpjumper 29er for quite a fair bit and enjoying the benefits of going wagon-wheeled, it’s geometry served as the base for this frame. After which, tweaks were made in order to create the ultimate long travel 29er all-mountain bike that he desired.
The sheer brilliance and evolution of the Helius platform continues to amaze us, even after all these years. The ride has never been bad, but it just keeps getting better and better. Nicolai has also continued to make little tweaks and improvements, with the up and coming 2015 Helius AC featuring one piece rockers that will be utilising a bearing system similar to the ones being used in the current ION range.
Photos via: Benjamin Teo/AttitudeBikes
With the increase in popularity of the 650B/27.5″ wheel size in the MTB scene, we had been toying around with the idea of doing our very own 650B conversion on a regular 26″ sized mountain bike. We are definitely aware that most 650B bikes are built specifically for the wheel size. Converting a bike would not be a straight forward process, and a bike that has been converted would not exactly feel nor ride like a 650B specific bike would. But just how different would it be?
We got the chance to find that out, thanks to one of our customers who was looking at getting a new paint job, as well as a pretty thorough parts upgrade for his 26″ Santa Cruz Blur LT. He was curious to find out how a conversion would turn out, and so were we.
So let’s get to it!
Starting off with the frame, the original paint was removed and it was given a fresh new coat in lime green. We also applied a custom set of die-cut metallic red Santa Cruz vinyl after it was brought back from the paint shop.
It was perfect match with the Fox fork that was given a candy red paint job.
The previous drivetrain was replaced with SRAM’s XO1 group set, perfect for the All-Mountain set up that this bike was intended for. Since a front derailluer would no longer be required, we removed the direct mount prior to sending it for its new paint job.
We also mounted a Carbocage Taco plate for some added protection for the chainring.
The old 26″ wheel set was replaced with Atomlab’s Suprelite SL 650B rims, laced to Atomlab Pimplite hubs with Phil Wood spokes.
This included the all new Pimplite 102 hub in the rear, that we have been blown away by so far!
As we were fitting 650B wheels onto a 26″ specific fork and frame, a little modifications/adjustments were needed to ensure that everything worked smoothly. An additional bump stop on the Fox fork was required to prevent the front wheel from hitting the top crown under full compression.
The rear shock also had to be re-worked to prevent the rear wheel from hitting the frame under full compression.
Tyre clearance was definitely a big issue as well. Thankfully, these 2.1″ Mavic tyres fitted without a problem.
After a short AM trip to Bali with his newly converted bike, the feedback we got from our customer was positive. He said that although the bottom bracket height was raised a little due to the larger wheels, he was still able to corner well with after some slight lowering of the front stack height. The Blur LT definitely accelerated a lot better from his previous 26″ set up thanks to the larger wheel size and rigid Atomlab wheels.
While we were pretty glad that the outcome was positive, we’re in no way stating that a converted bike like this one would ride as well as a 650B specific bike. In the end, it all comes down to personal choice and preference.
Whether you hate them or love them, there’s no denying that Fat Bikes have gained quite a lot of popularity in the recent years. Originally invented for efficient riding in the snow covered trails in Alaska, you can now find them being ridden all over the world in various terrains; both off, and on-road. That includes us here in Singapore, where there has been a steady increase in the numbers joining the Fat Bike community. And when industry giants like Trek and Specialized start to produce their own versions, you’ll realise it isn’t just a fad.
This featured bike stands out in the sea of the more common cro-mo Fat Bike. Moots as we know are legends in building the finest Titanium frames, which just makes this FrosTi build that much sicker.
Just look at that…
Now, on to the build. This owner of this FrosTi came to us to have his bike rebuilt to make it more ‘trail friendly’ as he takes it off-road very often. Starting from the cockpit, we ran a tradition MTB stem/bar setup.
We also relaced his Surly Marge Lite wheels with the 11nine 15mm thru-axle hubs.
They are designed to be run with with 11nine’s LuLu suspension fork for a nice and stiff front end!
The old Surly crankset was replaced by e.13’s XCX Fat Bike Double Crank that drives the SRAM X0 groupset.
The rear wheels were also relaced with Hope’s Pro 2 Evo Fatsno hubs!
These bikes may look odd at first glance to most of us riders due to their super wide (almost) 4″ tyres, but put away all that you remember about riding a bike, and you’ll realise it’s actually heaps of fun to be able to roll over everything with ease, on a bike that has no fancy suspension designs and linkages.
Photos courtesy of Benjamin Teo/OC Visuals for AttitudeBikes.
Nicolai’s Argon hardtail frames have been in their lineup for as long as we could remember. Over the years, it has evolved to meet the needs of riders from various cycling disciplines; from XC riders, to roadies, and even down to average commuter.
In 2011, Nicolai team riders Daniel Jahn and Frank ‘Schneidi’ Schneider helped with the development of the Argon FR. Thanks to their input, the Nicolai Argon AM was born, and Schneidi took the Masters Challenge win at the Megavalanche the following year, on a SINGLESPEED Gates Carbon Drive equipped Argon AM.
Well, only the bravest like Frank Schneider would bother riding a singlespeed hardtail in the Mega (we wouldn’t even want to ride one to commute for that matter); that is why for us normal folk, we spec ours with gears.
This anodised black Argon AM Pinion 650B with anodised green extra love bits was one of our most eagerly anticipated frames that arrived during the recent Nicolai shipment.
You might even find the colour scheme a little familiar as it belongs to the same owner as this Nucleon AM.
It also happens to be the first 650B bike that we built, so it really does have a special place in our hearts.
The Argon also features this newly designed headtube gusset, keeping the front end nice and stiff for those long travel forks…
… Like the all-new murdered-out 160mm RockShox Pike RCT3, one of the plushest forks out of the box!
These were the first pair of Atomlab Suprelite SL 650B’s that we built, lacing them to Chris King hubs (142 x 12mm in the rear) with Phil Wood spokes and Atomlab’s Torque nipples. Rubber side down were Schwalbe Racing Ralph’s.
The drivetrain is by far our favourite part of the Argon. The Gates Carbon belt driven Pinion gearbox makes maintenance a breeze as there are no chains to lube, and all 18 gears are protected in it’s sealed housing.
Besides having a longer lifespan than a regular chained setup, you can instantly feel power being transferred to the rear wheel during each stroke of the pedal. It’s simply lovely, and we wish all bikes could be belt driven!
The weight of the Pinion gearbox was also barely noticeable when we test rode the bike, it still felt really quick and agile!
Gear shifts were also lightning quick via Pinion’s own shifter.
With all that said, it only leaves us with one problem, saving up more money to get one for ourselves.
Oh wait, but In addition to that, Nicolai just released the Argon FAT (For All Terrain) at the recent Nicolai Hausmesse 2013. I guess that now makes it two Argon’s on our ‘to buy’ list.
Argon AM Pinion 650B photos courtesy of Benjamin Teo/Oh Cheese Visuals for AttitudeBikes.
Argon FAT photo courtesy of Nicolai Bikes.
Sure, it may not descend as well, or be as fun as most modern trail bikes; but in the hands of an experienced rider, the Nicolai Helius RC is one hell of a fast bike in our local trails, thanks to its low weight and efficient cross country geometry.
This build was conceptualised when the owner was upgrading from his trusty titanium XC hardtail, and requested for a quick/lightweight short travel full suspension bike for local terrain. It couldn’t have too much rear travel like a regular trail bike, and it had to be reliable.
We’re big fans of internal drivetrains at AttitudeBikes, and we know that there’s nothing more reliable than keeping them sealed, away from the elements.
Hence we spec’ed the Helius RC with the 14-speed Rohloff Speedhub. Installation was a breeze thanks to the Rohloff cable guides on the frame.
The Rohloff chain tensioner and the bottom bracket mounted Carbocage XC guide keeps the chain nicely secured.
With just around four inches of rear wheel travel from the DT Swiss rear shock, pedalling efficiency is not compromised, but it is still forgiving when things start to get rough in the trail. Not like it really mattered to the owner though, cause he already had blistering pace on his hardtail!
The entire raw finish on the frame (except for the bronze anodised chainstay) wasn’t meant for weight savings, it was for aesthetics, and we LOVE it.
Check out the beautifully CNC’d headtube! The raw finish simply brings out the details to another level.
With the new longer travel/trail focused Helius TB replacing the Helius RC in 2013’s Nicolai line up, we’re excited to see how it performs against the RC. But one thing is for sure though, we’ll definitely miss having a super fast XC race fully in the Nicolai line-up!
All photos courtesy of Benjamin Teo/Oh Cheese Visuals for AttitudeBikes.
We’ve had the pleasure of building up some amazing Nicolai’s throughout the years, and it’s no doubt that one of the most memorable builds in recent times had to be this Nicolai ION 14 ‘Wild Fire’, owned by a very close friend of ours.
Regular visitors/customers of AttitudeBikes would have definitely seen this bike in our showroom, as the owner usually leaves his bike to our care when he isn’t riding. It also meant that we got to ride this bike regularly, which he gladly allowed us to.
Throughout the past year, we’ve ridden/raced the Wild Fire on various trails from local cross-country loops, downhill trails, to the local BMX track, and we thought it would be perfect to do a little review and give you guys an insight on how versatile this 4-5″ travel bike can really be on local trails with just minor changes to it’s set up. As you can see, nothing much has changed on the bike since we built it over a year ago.
To keep things fresh, we will be comparing how we set up the Wild Fire for the recent Red Bull Dark Knights (a short course, urban downhill race), and the Chase The Sun MTB Series (a XC endurance race).
Apart from running slightly different drivetrains, there were no other changes in components during the two races.
We stuck with the Hammerschmidt during Red Bull Dark Knights as there (sadly) were some sudden, short climbs that led straight to descents throughout the course. With a flick of the lever to the 1:1 gear, we could easily climb, shift it back into overdrive and put the power down.
For Chase The Sun, we swapped the Hammerschmidt out with a 1×10 drivetrain as it kept the overall weight low, and it simplified gear changes for us so that we could concentrate on pushing as many laps as we could. It also helped greatly that the XC course was much more predictable.
The progressive ION linkage worked brilliantly. It’s pedaling efficiency was great when sprinting/accelerating, and once we hit the mid-stroke in the rough sections, the four-bar linkage really soaked everything in its path.
Running a slighty softer air pressure on RockShox’s Monarch Plus rear shock during the Chase The Sun series, we also took advantage of the 3-Position Compression settings. Fully opened, it was perfect for overtaking riders on their XC race machines during the descents. Flicking it into the mid compression ‘Pedal’ setting gave us just the right amount of damping when maneuvering over rocks, logs, and sketchy rooted sections, but yet it remained efficient when we needed to climb. When the compression was completely locked, the Wild Fire accelerated even better on the flats sections, making it easier to maintain cadence and speed. It worked really well for long climbs too, if you knew the track well.
To be honest, we never expected an excellent 4X/Slopestyle machine like the ION 14 to be such a versatile bike even in the trails. Sure, it may not be the best at climbing, but it was VERY acceptable in our opinion. Minor tweaks in it’s setup turned it into a great short travel trail bike, perfect for our trails in Singapore.
Sadly, we recently received news that the ION 14 will no longer be available in Nicolai’s official 2014 production line up, but this is just gonna build more anticipation for the ION16 as we wait for it to arrive on our shores soon!
All photos courtesy of Benjamin Teo/Oh Cheese Visuals for AttitudeBikes.