In this week’s feature on our blog, we take a look one of our latest Nicolai builds, a 2015 Helius TB 650B that belongs to the same owner of the bike in our last feature.
His first Nicolai was a Rohloff Speedhub equipped Helius RC. After which, he progressed on to another internally-geared, but longer travel option, a Helius AC Pinion. He then decided on a tailor made Helius TB 650B to create a lighter, faster, and more agile ride for the local trails.
Starting from the cockpit, we mated one of the lightest aluminium stems around, Thomson’s Elite X4, with ENVE’s RSR bar for its rigidity and weight savings of course.
We gave the RockShox Revelation RCT3 Solo Air suspension fork some custom treatment to match up to the factory tuned RockShox Monarch RT3 rear shock. This gave the bike excellent tracking capabilities and small bump sensitivity to gaurentee a rad time in the trails on the Helius TB.
No trail bike would be complete with a SRAM XX1 groupset, which we absolutely love for it’s simplicity, reliability, and low weight. We equipped it with a 30T Blackspire MonoVeloce chainring over the standard SRAM ones for better wear resistance, and a stiffer pedal feel. The DMR Vaults pedals were also upgraded with titanium axles, and all bolts were swapped out to blue titanium ones.
It’s no surprise that we’ve decided to spec the bike with Atomlab Suprelite SL 650B rims (which are comparable to the current carbon rims in the market), with a pretty decent weight of 420g a piece, and at a fraction of the cost of a carbon rim. In order to make sure the wheels are further lightened, we laced Marwi titanium spokes to the quick-engaging/fast-rolling Atomlab Pimplite 102 hubs.
We can’t help but be amazed at how the little updates to the suspension linkages in the Helius family of frames have not only made the bike more efficient, but it has not lost any of it’s signature plushness. On a 12.24kg bike like this, it is pretty much perfect for a light-to-mid-travel build for local terrain in Singapore, not to mention the regular long distance jamboree races across the causeway.
Reliability, simplicity and an even weight distribution. These were the three main points that we really wanted to put our focus to when it came to this build, Nicolai’s Helius AC Pinion.
The frame initially came in a raw finish, as one of the biggest problems any Nicolai owner encounters, would of course be to decide its colour. And we thought it would be a good time to give this bike a good makeover during its downtime.
We were really digging Nicolai’s Anodised Titanium finish but we all know that it’s not possible as the frame is not prepped from the factory to be anodised, and any aftermarket anodising would possibly void its warranty. Thankfully, we managed to find a matt ‘Frosted Oyster Grey’ paint job that would be a brilliant substitute for the Anodised Titanium.
Since we couldn’t anodise the frame, we decided to trick out the smaller components in anodised blue. These included the Pinion’s chain tensioner, crank bolts, rear derailed hanger, rear RockShox Maxle Axle, and some of the suspension fork dials.
With the owner’s other bike (a Nicolai Helius TB) as his light weight ride in his stable, we decided it was time to make this bike a bit more planted/stable with a new pair of Atomlab DHR SL rims, at 440g per piece and a 25mm inner width. This gave the long travel trail bike a wider contact patch for better tracking and grip in the trails.
We gotta admit we do get too constantly get caught up with our usual suspension tweaks/servicing and custom hand build wheels of a million color combinations. But builds like these never fail to remind us of the passion that we have for conceptualised builds, especially when they turn heads wherever they go. 😉
In this article, we’re gonna feature not just one, but two Nicolai builds. While the ION14 is no longer in Nicolai’s official production roster since 2014, we’re going to use these two bikes to highlight the endless possibilities when it comes to giving an already two year old frame a rebuild/revamp. You’ll see why we absolutely love working on Nicolai frames at AttitudeBikes.
Purchased as a pre-owned tailor-made frame, this titanium anodised ION14 was one of the last to arrive in Singapore (till date, 9 out of approximately 15 ION14 frames in the world are in Singapore)
After we made some quick measurements in order to be sure that the tailor made frame would fit our customer, we had a chat with him in order to better understand his requirements and his intended usage for the bike. A bold suggestion meant that we would be trying out our first ever 650B conversion on a Nicolai ION14, building it up with a pair of Atomlab SL 650B/Pimplite 102 wheels, and a 2015 RockShox Sektor 650B, for a lightweight trail setup.
With the components list pretty much sorted out, we then focused on the colour scheme. The original titanium anodised finish was a subtle and awesome base for us to work with, and we finally decided on giving the final build some blue accents on not just components, but a set of custom made Nicolai decals.
The larger wheels matched with the efficiency of the ION’s brilliant suspension platform made this one quick bike, capable of sprinting through our trails with ease.
The next build was inspired by the iconic Gulf Oil racing liveries (the owner simply adored the classic Gulf/Ford GT40’s), and when time came for a revamp for his bike, it was not difficult to decide on a colour scheme/theme. Upgrades included a BOS Deville 140mm fork, a Atomlab Suprelite SL/Pimplite 102 wheelset, and an orange PimpKit for the Truvativ Hammerschmidt crankset.
Don’t be fooled by all that bling though, this bike was meant to be ridden hard in the trails. 😉
Photos courtesy of Benjamin Teo for AttitudeBikes.
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.