Van Nicholas Chinook review

 Van Nicholas Chinook Review.

Frame: I've had my Van Nicholas Chinook since 2007 and I'm still enjoying it in 2024

I bought it to replace a 30 year old Steel GIOS Torino that was set up with a Campagnolo Record groupset and Mavic rims of the time, arguable a true classic. In many ways the Van Nicholas Chinook is update of that traditional race bike but using modern materials and components, by that I don't mean branding or history of the marque, I mean that like the GIOS it also has classic lines with a traditional diamond shaped frame set and aimed at a very similar riding experience, I was simply looking for something along the same lines, yet modern at the same time. This is where the 3Al/2.5V Titanium comes in, to quote Van Nicholas "twice as strong as aluminium and half the weight of steel".

The reason for wanting a modern take on a traditional race bike is that over time the goal posts for top end race bikes has moved, where as in the 80s and 90s we could ride our full on race bikes as fast day rides bikes, a modern Carbon race bike is so focused that arguably many reserve it for race day, which is one reason that the Sportive bike market has become so popular as they are in effect race bikes with the set up in terms of stiffness dialed back slightly, or if you like dialed back to the set up of a 90s' race bike! This was also part of the attraction for me, yes I was still racing in 2007 and wanted something quick, but if I'm honest I also wanted a pride and joy indulgent fast day ride bike and the Chinook ticked that box perfectly for me. Perhaps a more accurate way of looking at it is this, where as a modern Sportive bike is a race bike dialed back from a race bike set up, in some ways a Chinook is simply a 90s' race bike that is still made, that, in short, is exactly what I was looking for in as much that I wanted a fast bike that I could still use as a bike, as apposed to a full on focused harsh race bike that may well be very quick but so focused that I would end up cutting my ride short because I was finding the whole set up too harsh.

Where the Chinook differs to the Van Nicholas Sportive bikes is they still list this as race bike, so the rear stays are larger for example, in effort to make the bike stiffer and more race bike responsive under effort, although in reality for me it doesn't push it past day ride levels of stiffness or comfort; perfect for me then! I also treated myself to Easton full carbon forks, a slight indulgence over the Van Nicholas own brand forks which in fairness are very good.

Groupset:  As I was effectively using this to replace my 30 year old Gios I again used a Campagnolo Record group, although it was the up to date current model at the time of course, with one small upgrade over standard, these being the slightly stiffer 'Record Red' Ergo levers for more positive shifting, in hindsight the difference between these and the normal version that I have on my Yukon is so small that I needn't have bothered; badge aside that is, in which case when it comes to polishing the thing it's naturally justified, (I've even written this with my tongue firmly in my cheek...)! In reality Campagnolo Record was in effect an indulgence, an extravagance, but bikes are something I choose to indulge in, and of course, I'm worth it! I have always used Campagnolo, or at least as soon as I could afford to I have, I am old enough to come from a generation when back in the day Campagnolo were arguably the best. Personally I don't believe they are superior any more to the comparable components from either Shimano or Sram but it's still the brand I covet more than the others.

Even though I no longer race I'm still enjoying this bike in 2024

Wheels:  Initially because I used Campagnolo Record I couldn't afford the wheels I wanted, it took another two years before I got the Mavic Kysrium SL that for me finished the bike. These are a stiff, light wheelset, but not so light they or fragile and not so rigid that I can't use them on a day ride. I use this bike only on lovely days, I have my Van Nicholas Yukon for when there is more weather! As such I do run them with a lightweight Vittoria Open Corsa CX tyres, far to light as far as I'm concerned to use as a general tyre, for me they are really race day tyres, or in my case a more precious fast day ride tyre.

Other items: The bars, stem, seatpin are all Van Nicholas own brand, pin and stem seat clamp in their Titanium, a slight indulgence again on my part! To be honest like the wheels I didn't fit the Ti pin, clamp and stem originally, it was just that over time the bike has grown on me to the extent that I wanted to finish it even more, make it even better than it was. So, does that mean the Ti bling made it ride any differently, the upgrades may be measurable with data, but in all honesty I can't tell any difference, apart from when I polish it of course, I enjoy that much more now! Sometimes is hard to actually justify upgrades, performance wide I personally couldn't, but that's not to say I regret it, they finish the bike off for me, in the end you either give into to whimsical desires or you don't and I indulged!

I also use a Garmin Edge 810 that I had not fitted when I took the picture above that if you click on the link I have written quite an extensive review.

Conclusion: I bought this as a modern take on a traditional set up race bike and as far as I concerned that's just what it is. Like my old bike I did race it and I did and do use it as a fast day ride bike. Earlier I mentioned that a Sportive bike for me is a race bike with the set up dialed back, you could say this is dialed back less than some, or you could say this is simply a 90s' race bike they still make, it all amounts to a similar thing. Like my old race bike it inspires me to try hard, to chase the extra mile per hour, but it also encourages me to go a mile further; which is just what I wanted. 

For anyone looking for this style of traditional looking bike in Titanium then after all this time Van Nicholas have naturally updated their range, the 2024 equivalent being the Van Nichola Boreas or their disc version the Van Nicholas Skeiron, as you can see below I can achieve a similar bike fit on all three. Both these new models tick the similar modern and classic lines of the Chinook, I would happily ride and be proud to own either. 

By far the most popular of these updated models is their Skeiron; not many choose the cheapest spec', the most popular being Shimano Ultegra Di2, Dura Ace or Sram with a quality wheelset, tyres and finishing kit. Sadly Campagnolo seem to be a thing of the past these days, my personal choice if buying an updated version of my bike now would be Sram

Although set up to be quick the Skeiron by modern standards is still far from aggressive, for those wanting an even more conservative bike fit with higher and shorter reach to the handlebars then I would advise looking at their Zephyr. Vice versa if you want something more focused and aggressive which will be longer and lower their Astraeus or cheaper Ventus would be my recommendation. I've shown a BikeCad drawing of each below with the same saddle height and set back so you can compare the drop and reach to the bars on each; Chinook, Boreas and Skeiron all similar with Zephyr being more conservative where as the Astraeus and Ventus are more aggressive. All those examples saved on pdf composed from their excellent bike builder online, one of the best websites I have seen.

Van Nicholas Chinook 

Van Nicholas Boreas

Van Nicholas Skeiron

Van Nicholas Zephyr

Overall more compliant than 

Skeiron & Boreas with a shorter- higher reach to the bars.

Van Nicholas Astraeus 

Their most focused model with longer and lower reach to the bars.

Van Nicholas Ventus

Similar geometry to the Van Nicholas Astraeus

In all cases my comments are written with as much impartiality as I believe was possible and as far as I'm concerned fair and accurate, but by the same token I feel that it is only right and proper that the reader is aware of my history with the brand. I have been in the Cycle Trade for thirty eight years, in both wholesale and retail, from 2001-2013 I worked for two Van Nicholas stores. During that time I worked closely with Jan-Willem the founder and designer and was personally involved with the evolution of the frame-bike that was was to become 'The' and significantly 'My' Van Nicholas Yukon; in many ways I designed the bike I wanted for myself; no wonder I love it! From 2013-2016 I worked for Enigma, where my main job description was bike fitting and design of their custom geometry frames, together with the designs-evolution of existing and new models.

Since leaving Enigma I have worked for and I'm pleased to announce that as from 2018 we are now an official Van Nicholas dealer. Combined with our 'Bike Fitting' service and my personal knowledge of Van Nicholas we can help you choose the perfect model, in the perfect size, with the perfect 'Bike Fit'. For more information please click on the following link to send an email