Bike to test… Nicolai and big wheel content…
What can I tell you?
It’s a custom bike – but kind of a pre-production Ion 15 built in collaboration with Chainline (who frequents STW). It belongs to Dipper of Gravity Sports in Buckie and is his personal bike. Sizewise it should be just about perfect for me although from looking at it I want to move the saddle forward… and fit pedals!
All the kit is top end. Pike fork, CCDB Air shock with the switch thing, Derby Carbon rims on Hope hubs, full XX1, Reverb Stealth, XTR brakes. It felt very light as I wheeled it into my workshop.
I’ll post my thoughts mid January when I’ve had a good chance to take it out on various trails… shame I probably won’t get it up into the big mountains but thats winter in North East Scotland for you.
And Yes… what a way to try your first 29erPosted 4 years agochiefgrooveguruMember
I’d prefer the shock the other way around. It’s exactly how I’d build it otherwise, though. Nice one.
Yes, that seems to be the more usual way to mount a CCDBair, lower moving mass that way. But what an impressive bike, I bet it’s incredibly fast downhill!
The depth of those carbon rims does make it look rather like a full-sus fatbike at first glance though…Posted 4 years ago
You’ll do well to bend it!
I mentioned to Dipper but since it’s your first ride on big wheels a couple of things to note..it is slack for a 29er. I like it like that, it’s 0.5deg slacker than the production bike. ST on the production bike is also 0.5 deg steeper.
On Riding it..
If your a lifelong 26″ rider it will feel ‘different. You may need a few rides to acclimatise to the way you need to ride it. But I know you ride hard so might not affect you so much. You can afford to be ham fisted with it, it will forgive you, if you need to get it round just chuck it round, it’s surprising how much grip you have. It’s also bloody stiff, especially with good wheels like those, that and the fork…it will go where you point it.
The trail key changes the way it rides hugely. Going from Low to High the BB is lifted by 8mm and the head angle steepened by 0.5deg. It might not sound like a lot but it makes a real difference so it may be worth trying both. Unless you just love one of course.
The high/steeper setting makes (me anyway) it feel like you steer the bike more so it’s that steering input at the bars that’s dominant.
In low/slack it’s much more of a steer with the back/counter steer/lean/weight the pedal kinda feeling, you can be less delicate about throwing it around. I like it like that, it’s pretty different to a 26″ trail bikes and maybe why other manufacturers keep the head angle steeper.
I don’t like the HansDampfs at low pressure. I’ve taken them off mine. I don’t like the way they feel at the edge in cornering. I fitted an OnOne Chunky monkey and preferred it along with a Smorgasbord.
Ardents work well but not in slop. Maxxis High a Roller IIs similar to chunky monkey but roll better. Conti RQ 2.2 are well regarded by the Nicolai team and the 2.4 is available soon.
Running a 2.25 (which is still a big tyre on those rims) speeds up the transition in corners.
Production bike differences to note
BB height on production is the same,
Head angle is 67/67.5 (0.5 deg steeper) Seat Angle 74.5/75 with 150mm fork.
With 160mm fork HA 66.5/67 (same as Dippers) SA 74/74.5 (again the same)
Chain stays on production are 8mm shorter as a result of some changes to the yoke. It was my preference to keep the seat angle slacker and forgo the shorter chain stays when we designed it, I just prefer that for pedalling.
The upshot is the production bike is a touch shorter too. (We are talking 15mm overall) Basically the main German market and German trails tend to be much tighter with little flow compared to ours so Nicolai decided to steepen it up a bit on the basis it’s easy to change with an angleset with little impact on the overall geometry.
So overall, it’s a bangin bike (I would say that) give it a chance, don’t be shy with it and try both high and low settings. Enjoy.
Any questions about it compared to the production bike if you do like it feel free to email me.
Hope you like it.
Sorry to go on, it’s my favourite subject! Just give it a good thrash with an open mind!Posted 4 years agoYetimanMember
I managed to squeeze in a quick blast on the ION before handing it over to messiah and I must say it rode very well indeed, but not all that different to my AC 29er, which my wallet is thankful for. Maybe the front wheel was ever so slightly easier to pop, but handling wise there definitely wasn’t anything majorly different between the two. Looks wise i prefer the ION but again theres not a lot in it. What I did notice though was just how good some of the components were….the CCDB air shock is way better than my tuned Float, the XX1 drive train felt great and is now on my shopping list (I’m currently running 1×10 with a General Lee adapter), and the Derby carbon rims were a hell of a lot stiffer than my alu Havens. Despite the arctic like weather conditions I’m glad I got up early on Sunday morning to take the ION for a spin.
Looking forward to your first impressions messiah.Posted 4 years agoHob NobMember
I looked at getting one of these instead of my Enduro, but couldn’t get onto one.
That’s the first one I’ve seen built up, but I don’t quite like how the frame looks, I think the straight seat tube makes it look a bit goofy.
Would look better with a bit of a curve on it with the base of it in line with the BB shell.
Still if it rides anything like the Enduro 29, which it should, really – then I imagine it will be a riot 🙂Posted 4 years ago
HobNob, I found the opposite, I don’t Like the seat tube bends! It’s a shame there were none about to try unfortunately as it’s only just gone into production. Mine and a Dippers along with the Nicolai Conti race proto were the only ones made until recently. We started the project before the Spesh came out but it was released just before we took delivery.
It will be similar to the Enduro, the production bike even more so in head angle and front centre with a 150mm fork anyway. That one has a slightly lower BB and a bit slacker, more so when running a 160mm fork. Seat angle is less steep on that one as you can get away with it with the slightly longer stays and maintain good seated climbing with a 50mm stem. According to Nicolai the Brits and the French like it slacker than the rest of Europe in their experience! Who knew.
I’m really glad we’ve got bikes like the Enduro and Ion out there now, it’s helping to break down preconceptions of what a 29 can do and providing choice. a few more came out but we will see if they survive with the 27.5 onslaught.
Yetiman, the main difference I notice compared to my old AC is in the really rough stuff like at Antur Stiniog or the beast in the peaks, that and standing up pedalling coming out of corners, the pivot point is designed around 28-32 single ring and stiffens up on initial travel, but it’s then more active and DH like when things get rough in the mid stroke then progressive at the end, coupled with 150/160 fork you can push just a bit harder. Its a very different curve to the AC, less forgiving of the rear shock though, you need something like a CCDB air/void/Vivid etc to get the best of it. The lower BB changes the feel too I think, it’s really noticeable between low and high(same as AC) as mentioned.
I’ve been speaking to Nicolai about how to go about getting more people on their bikes, you need to ride them. The demo tour in Germany is successful and something similar in the UK would work I think, but as a smaller manufacturer that’s expensive in more than one country and it’s not viable to pass the cost onto (the few) dealers really. It might be possible sometime in the future who knows. in an increasingly carbon dominated world the way to get more people on them is to make them available to try in my opinion. Fair play to Dipper for making his bike available. I’ve tried to do the same to those that want to try it, although not for extended periods.
I’m looking forward, I think, to hearing how Messiah gets on. It won’t necessarily be love at first ride I know that….Posted 4 years ago
Damn you all, I’d decided on the Ion 650b, Ive finally picked the colour and am about to put the order in to dipper and then I read this thread, I’ve never wanted a 29 but I have to admit that the Ion 15 sound pretty good!
Also does anybody know anything about the new ccdb coil cs?Posted 4 years ago
Philbert31 the 650 and the 15 have pretty much the same wheelbase as a result of the headangle.
Depending on whether you’re in a hurry (this is dependant on production date I guess), if ou’re not a million miles away I’m sure we could arrange a thrash on either mine or Dippers before you take the plunge.Posted 4 years ago
I’m sure you won’t be disappointed either way.NobeerinthefridgeSubscriber
JCL – Member
Sweet but no bottle cage on all these bikes is a no sale for me. Do people really like riding with packs all the time?
POSTED 4 HOURS AGO # REPORT-POST
Nope. In winter, if I’m riding for less than 3 hours locally, or if I’m going though towns, I don’t bother with any stuff at all. I likes a gamble…..Posted 4 years ago
I’ve managed three decent rides with the ION 15 but unfortunately I haven’t managed to get it up into the big mountains (due to weather and other stuff).
Here is a picture of it in my local forest which is mostly short-sharp-techy-riding
I have to give it back on Thursday so short of a miracle (or taking a day off work which is the same thing at this time of year) I’m unlikely to get more than another (nightride!) local forest scoot with it 🙁
I had been hoping to give it a real try in the mountains as what I was expecting from what I have read about 29ers is that it would struggle with the techy features in my local forest; but that’s enough about preconceptions/misconceptions/assumptions.
I can report back that the ION 15 is an absolutely lovely bike to ride in my local forest and is one of the best bikes I have ever ridden. I found myself not thinking at all about the wheel size and just riding around the forest throwing the bike into the terrain in much the same way I usually do. There feels to be no bad habits or quirks which I needed to fathom, and hence from the first section of singletrack we were getting it-on together like old friends.
Dipper has the bike set up in very much the same way I do and we are of similar enough build that I didn’t have to faff with anything other than seat position. Equipment wise it’s very similar to my beloved Helius AM so I think it is comparing apples to apples on AM/Enduro type bikes.
The “fabled” 29er improved terrain roll-over does seem to be in evidence as this bike loves to roll through the terrain; and I would say it takes less effort than my 26er to attain speed over rough stuff, and it likes to keep that speed. Due to the mud at this time of year I wasn’t challenging any Strava KOM’s but the ION feels fast, and the grip on techy climbs is great, both of which at this time of year are refreshing. Compared with my Helius I found the big puddles and mud bogs have a reduced slowing effect on the bike and we were able to maintain momentum through things where I would be expecting to lose speed. Some of this is probably due to the wide tyres on the wide carbon rims but I’m sure most of it is due to the 29er wheel size. On the really techy doonhall chutes and rock gardens I love to ride (and in which I was expecting to have troubles) there was nothing eventful to report; the bike and rider struggle through in much the same way as we have to do with any other well sorted bike (i.e. with a grin on my face). Jumps and drops caused me a few issues until I relaxed and just let the bike get on with it; I was trying to pull the back end up and this tends to pull the bike to one side. I was probably doing this as I was expecting the bike to be long and unwieldy but it’s not; I was making the issue happen. As with any good bike the best results are to trust the bike and let it flow, you don’t have to fight it (unless you want to… which can also be fun).
It doesn’t feel like cheating and I doubt I was going any faster (or slower) than I would on my own bike, but I did feel like I was having to put in less effort to get the bike to do what it was doing and that was a great feeling. Little manuals were fine as were hops for puddle jumping; and when required and conditions allowed I was able to get a good rhythm for pumping for speed over the terrain (I’ve found some bikes/suspension just don’t seem to allow this).
Great bikes are great bikes. What has put me off even trying 29ers until now is forks. I’ve tried to use 32mm stanchioned forks a few times over the past few years and for where and the way I ride I hate them – noodly b***rds of things that have me struggling to keep the bike in a straight line through the porridge, wet roots and rocks which I have/love to ride. The 29er Pike fork on Dippers ION is a great fork and fixes this issue; it goes where you point it and there is no “sawing-action” required at the front of the bike to keep it going there. Damping wise the Pike feels good although I did bottom it out a few times on some bigger hits where the fork feels to blow though the travel; it might need a different volume spacer or some other fiddling (I ride a little harder than Dipper… and I’m used to my Marzocchi 55 fork with an Avalanche damper which is amazing). The CCDB-Air shock feels like a very good match for the Pike fork, again no unpleasant traits but not lively as is the CCDB way. There is some pedal bob when honking out of the saddle with the bike (as you would expect, I didn’t try the switch thing as I always forget to switch them back), and I would prefer if the fork and shock were a little more supple but that’s my personal preference and I wasn’t willing to fiddle with Dippers set up as it was damn good as it was.
The wide carbon rims and big tyres on the ION feel great. There was no perceivable flex to the wheels and the whole bike feels very solid and yet surprisingly light and, dare I say even, nimble.
My Helius has always felt a little short and riding Dippers longer Ion has once again shown me that I do want/need more length in my life (reason/excuse for a new bike made). More width also felt good with the 780mm wide carbon more (I normally run 745mm).
On the wheel size debate I had already come to the conclusion that the next bike I buy will have larger wheels; but that was just due to the marketing pressure of the 650b/27.5/AM/Enduro revolution (and its apparent lack of downsides). Having ridden the Nicolai Ion 15 29er I am now utterly convinced that big wheels bring benefits to the party; hence the next bike I buy will certainly have larger wheels, and probably larger than I thought I was going to buy (although it would be nice to try some 27.5″ wheels first I’m tempted to simply go for the bigger option).
So I guess the big question is would I buy a Nicolai ION 15 after this test ride… HELL YEAH BABY!Posted 4 years agoTazSubscriber
Great thread guys (maybe my wallet will disagree !!!)
I am toying between 3 bikes as my next bike. Intense Carbine 29er (which I can get a stonking deal on!) or an Ion 16 27.5 or Ion 15 29er. I am a Nicolai addict it has to be said (7 owned in total :oops:)
Messiah my dilema is the same as yours 27.5 or 29er. Leaning more towards 29er after reading all of this. Really wish test rides were easier to come by.Posted 4 years ago
Taz, if your not a gIant, or located somewhere terribly obscure, you’re welcome to try mine…there appears to be a bit of a queue building up but it’s good for being shown around local trails!
If you’re nearer to a Dipper, I.m sure he would oblige too. Also consider keeping an eye on the production schedule, , handily hidden under the Service menu on Nicolai’s website, he Ion 15 appears to be going down quite well 🙂
There is also a small piece in the new numeric catalog on it. Which you can get here.Posted 4 years ago
Messiah my dilema is the same as yours 27.5 or 29er. Leaning more towards 29er after reading all of this. Really wish test rides were easier to come by.
I understand this dilemma. I’ve been trying to ignore all the 650b/27.5 threads as I can bring nothing to the discussion since I haven’t ridden one. My personal thinking is that over the last few years I’ve been loving my big 2.4″ Conti Rubber Queen tyres and I miss them when running other rubber; one of the big reasons I love them is the balloon like size of them which is very nearly 650b/27.5 (Yes, I know it’s not bigger than the new bigger 650b etc but its damn close to those early ones which started the whole thing). From this experience I was definetly going down the 650b route with my next bike as now that decent tyres and rims are available there are no downsides… and you can always run a 26″ wheel with a big tyre if you have too (emergency) or want to lower the bottom bracket.
I’ve been wanting to try a good 29er for a while; but as I mentioned I didn’t see the point in trying just any XC/trail bike as that is not the type of riding I enjoy. For most of last year I wanted to ride as much as I could on the bike I would be racing at the Trans-Savoie so I didn’t want to change my hardtail or test a 29er and try to get to know a new bike. Now I’ve had the time and the opportunity to try a good 29er I have felt some benefits as I mentioned. What is a little perturbing is that just as I get to try a good 29er the industry has gone 650b/27.5 nuts and almost all AM/Enduro bikes are going that way.
But… and it’s a big one; I think Chainline(Pilot)/Dipper/Nicolai are really onto something here with the Ion 15. This could be one of the first of the truly AM/Enduro optimised 29ers (See also the BMC Trailfox and Specialized Enduro 29er’s). So many of the AM 29ers which have come before seem to be overly compromised by hangover XC geometry and flexy forks/wheels/tyres that they never had a chance of feeling great.
I can’t get out of my head how well this Ion 15 rides, as I mentioned I just got on it and was instantly throwing it about like I had been riding it for years; I think going back to my little Helius is going to be very interesting… I love my Helius and its an awesome AM bike but I think the game has been moved forward by this Ion 15.
I’m a procrastinator but I’m struggling to come up with reasons not to place my order as soon as I can speak to Dipper.Posted 4 years agoTazSubscriber
Chainline – Thanks for the offer. I am Bristol based so will be talking with my local Nicolai dealer (Psyclewerx) to see if I can get any demo’s. Given I would definitely give the business to them I think it appropriate I discuss with them first.
Messiah – Invaluable advice and surprising how close your thinking has been to mine
Ok – getting closer 🙂Posted 4 years ago
Hey Taz, no problem, I’m not a dealer and have no problem with buying from a good lbs.
At the moment, and I hope it can be changed somehow, unless the lbs buys a frame and builds it up as a demo, there aren’t any demo’s! Unless you travel to Germany nowhere they run a demo tour.
Hence I was just trying to give you the opportunity to see if its something you’d be interested in. I have a few friends in Bristol and it’s not so far if you did want a bash. Just drop me a line if other avenues become exhausted.Posted 4 years agoduirMember
but I don’t quite like how the frame looks, I think the straight seat tube makes it look a bit goofy.
Nicolai make bikes that are based on engineering logic rather than to fit in with current trendy looks. Apparently a straight round or square tube is much stronger than a curvy one (I read that and am not an engineer). They even went so far as to machine their own SRAM front mech’s on the latest bikes to avoid having to alter their design.Posted 4 years ago
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