Van Nicholas Yukon review.
Van Nicholas Yukon review.
2007 to 2020 including updates to my own bike and the evolution of this model from Van Nicholas
This is a review of my own 'Van Nicholas Yukon', a bike I've owned and used on a regular basis since 2007 and still enjoying in 2020. Back in 2007, Richard Hallett the then editor of www.roadcyclinguk.com asked me to write a review; after which I also reviewed other items for the publication that I also use on this bike; by clicking 'on the links' you will take you to a far a more in depth review of each.
The picture above is from the initial build although I've been gradually upgrading the components since, in part due to an indulgent desire to do so, but of course it's thirteen years old so now things have worn out, wheels and tyres for example. I've included many of the updates so it is in effect a review of the bike from 2007 until now, so anyone considering the current Van Nicholas Yukon Caliper or Van Nicholas Yukon Disc models should still find my review of value.
Frame Geometry: This is essentially the same style of bike that I have always used for my tours, what we now call an Audax bike but 'back in the day' we called them training bikes, as they were set up to be slightly quicker than a more focused Touring bike and often used by a club racing cyclist; as I was back then. We used these as a fast winter training bikes, as well as 'chain gang' 'club runs' part of my winter training routine included the odd YHA weekend away somewhere, travelling with light luggage only, plus in the summer we would often have a few days away on a short tour simply because we were time rich, it was cheap, and we could; as such I have never really coveted heavy loaded touring, preferring a faster overall set up. Back then this was because I was still racing, and now many years later it's because in short I'm not as young or fit as I was, so I desire a set up that transfers as much of my pedal power into forward motion. In reality it's less about an extra mph, more about getting through the last hour when I've had it, completely boss eyed and I'm crying for my mum!
Pannier and mudguard mounts aside where they differ from a faster race bike set up is slightly shallower head angle and longer chain stays and overall wheel base, all combine to aid stability and increase comfort. A modern sportive or endurance bike often share a similar geometry but normally without either the pannier or mudguard mounts.
Modern Gravel bikes are often set up to take guards and panniers but are generally closer to a more traditional touring bike, compared to an audax bike they are inclined to have an even longer wheel base and shallower head angle as well as being heavier duty all round, larger wheels and tyres, forks and frame, all result a very comfortable but slower overall set up.
The Audax style of bike like the 'Van Nicholas Yukon' in conclusion fills the gap between a race bike and touring-gravel bike set up.
Frame Material: The frame is made from aerospace grade 3Al/2.5V Titanium, to quote Van Nicholas "twice as strong as aluminium and half the weight of steel". This type of bike often doesn't lead a precious life and Titanium is an ideal choice, tough, no paint to chip, doesn't rust, very resilient to fatigue and that is before you factor in the riding experience. For sure trying to describe the difference frame material has on how a bike 'feels' is down to the individual perception of each rider, 'no difference' to one rider is a 'significant deal breaking difference' to another.
My Yukon was largely a frame change and not a completely new bike, the donor frame/bike being a craftsmen handbuilt Reynolds 531 frame of similar geometry, much of the equipment was transferred so the comparison between both was quite a valid. For me the riding experience instantly felt smoother and more comfortable, it was as if the roads had been resurfaced; to me it made that much difference.
Wheels and Tyres: I initially fitted Mavic Kysrium Equipe, no longer in production but similar to the current Aksium Elite, they gave me a good balance of 'weight', 'comfort', 'durability' 'ride comfort' and 'price'. Price was indeed a consideration, ideally I would have invested slightly more in the Kysrium Elite as they tick all the same boxes, but with bigger ticks! The Equipe gave me 10 years of good service, I then updated them with some hand built wheels using Mavic Open Pro rims on Campagnolo Record hubs that I built myself using DT Swiss spokes. I would be just as happy riding Aksium Elite or Kysrium Elite; I just fancied a change and my handbuilt alternative offers a similar riding experience; plus truth be told I am a wheel builder and I just fancied making myself a pair!
I replaced the 700 x 25c Continental Ultra Gator Skins with Bontrager AW2 tyres also in 700 x 25c, in effect their version of the Gator skin but cheaper; I have to say I have been very pleased with the new wheels and tyre combination.
Updated to Handbuilt wheels with Campagnolo Record hubs, Mavic Open Pro rims
Brakes and gear mechs': The Transmission is Campagnolo, since 2007 I have upgraded the Campagnolo Ergo levers and rear mech' to match the front, so I now have Campagnolo Record for all three items; I also changed the brake calipers to Van Nicholas, although I had been using Campagnolo calipers, that initially were to shallow for the brake shoes to reach the rim, but with a little filing of the drop out slot they did just about drop low enough, but, being a race bike caliper they did pinch the guard, where as the Van Nicholas calipers go around it; so, in short they worked better.
As for why the upgrade from Campagnolo Veloce Ergo shifters and rear mech' to Campagnolo Record yes I can tell the difference, the gear change is more precise and the brakes both feel and work noticeably better, although in part that's also down to the caliper which work perfectly with Campagnolo, Shimano or Sram shifters. I confess the upgrades were really a case that I wanted to treat myself far more than it was down to necessity, the Veloce were more than good enough, so all I have really done is gone from good, to even better.
I use Campagnolo simply because I always have, I know that especially in cycling forums people can get quite passionate when comparing the three main brands, personally as long as you can spec' components to achieve what you want gear ratios wise as I will elaborate on far more below, then as far as I'm concerned Campagnolo, Shimano and Sram are all quality components; my personal preference being Campagnolo and if I'm honest it comes down to desirability, not quality and function.
As much as I am a 'Campagnolo' fan if I were choosing a Yukon now the disc version with Shimano would probably be my choice as I can achieve the gear ratios and functionality I need. Add to that these days Shimano is more readily available, so if I did get an issue when on tour I am more likely to get back on the road with the help of a local bike store; far fewer stock Campagnolo than they once did.
Gear levers upgraded to Campagnolo Record
In my case for example I like gears of around 60”, you will see that I have got those on both middle and outer ring. I have done this essentially because this is a bike I use for two roles, solo rides of 15-20mph and touring rides of 12-15mph, to save repeated chain ring changes I can essentially use the big ring mainly for solo rides and the middle ring for more sociable rides. Even though it only has a 96" top gear I find that easily high enough for a mid 20-25 mph work out, for 15-20mph cruising I have ratios that I like available mid cassette on the 46 ring, this I find is the perfect set up for me. Of course everyone is different, some prefer a lower low gear and a higher high gear, horses for courses as they say.
It does take a bit of thought as to what you need both in terms of ratios and then equipment choices to achieve them, but it can nearly always be done. In my case for example I did invest in a high quality chainset to get the ring combinations I wanted, as for me personally back in 2007 I found many road specific triples to large for me and the ATB chainsets too small for what I wanted and the compact double did not offer low enough ratios either.
In 2020 this no longer applies, compact doubles and the new GRX Shimano range offer just what I want. As an update if I were deciding on equipment in 2020 there is no longer the necessity to choose the transmission set up I did back in 2007
Garmin Edge 810 GPS
Accessories: The other items used are Van Nicholas alloy bars, stem, clamps and seatpin, that I may upgrade at some stage, like with the transmission upgrade this because I want far more than need to! The bar and Rack Bag are Carradice Super C, the bar bag I use on tour only. The rear rack is a Blackburn with rear light, I also take a small font light in the bag that I attach for misty climbs or long mountain pass tunnels. I had been using the superb Cateye Strada Wireless before I invested in a Garmin Edge 810 GPS that I have been using since 2013 and it's still working in 2020. The 810 was their flagship model, currently it's the Garmin 1030, far more popular is the 830 which is cheaper, more compact but with similar functionality. Although the overall size of the 830 is smaller than my 810 the actual screen size is similar and I was coping with that OK, so it's this model I would be investing in if updating now.
Saddle: I personally like a 'Specialized Toupe 143mm'.
We are all different, one rider may swear by a saddle and another can swear because of it, the 'Specialized Toupe 143mm' is the saddle that currently works for me. Note I said currently, our bodies change as we get older and as such the choice of saddle may evolve as we do, for example I did love Brooks leather saddles until my mid forties, as you can see the picture at the top taken in 2007 has a 'Brooks Team Pro' fitted, I now prefer a saddle with a channel along the middle, as this helps to stop the numbness that I was starting to get, something that up until my mid forties had not been a issue, to be more specific about the numbness let's just say I am a typical man, there is a certain part of me that I would like to keep in tip top condition for as long as possible and when it started to go numb I decided it was time for a change!
Mudguards: SKS; do exactly what it says on the tin; enough said
Van Nicholas Yukon
Conclusion: If you have read my review of 2007 the conclusion I came to back then was " if you want a well made, fast, mile eating, weather-resistant, durable bike, then the Van Nicholas Yukon is worth considering". So, has time changed my opinion; in reality I like it even more now than I did then! I've thought why this maybe, like many things it's the sum of the parts, I've ridden a few tours on it as well as day rides of course, so I've become attached to it, it's become my two wheeled friend that takes me on tour.
Naturally there is a bond that forms between man (or woman) and machine when it's seen you through some bleak moments that I dare say we've all been through, a mountain pass where we've blown completely half an hour before top or a ride into headwind all day with rain stinging the eyes, or the the sense of achievement that often goes with completing a challenging ride or tour, balance this with the simple joy of cycling on a lovely sunny day and with the odd lifelong memory all thrown in and all this helps to form a fondness to our bikes and I'm no exception, for me my Yukon equates to holidays, a comfortable mile eating bike that is also quick enough to inspire me to try a bit harder when either the conditions or even just my mood so takes me, let's face it there is always a mad half an hour on most tours where for no reason the ride with your new mates ends up in a full on burn up!
It's another reason I've upgraded it since 2007, not because I needed to, it was far more because this has become my favourite bike and I wanted to. In 2007 if you asked me what was my 'best bike' I would have said my more focused faster set up Van Nicholas Chinook, over time my Yukon has grown on me to the extent that I've promoted that to my 'best bike' instead! I've got six bikes, some in fairness I don't use much, but dread the thought that should I have for some reason to get rid of them all except one; then without hesitation, my Yukon is the one I would keep, it does all I want it to and then some.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Van Nicholas Yukon remains their best selling bike in the UK; as expected there has been some evolution in that time, an integrated headtube-headset for example. I've added a BikeCAD drawing of both mine and the current caliper model; as you can see it's a clear evolution of the same bike. As expected there is also a disc version that has instantly become the new best selling version here in the UK, although the caliper version will remain the desire for disc braking on this kind of bike is in reality far higher.
I were buying one now as I briefly mentioned earlier I'd probably spec' the Disc version, if money was no object I'd potentially choose either a Shimano Ultergra or Shimano GRX RX810 2 x 11 group with Mavic Ksyrium Elite UST Disc wheels; I maybe even tempted to go Ultegra or RX810 di2. All those examples saved on pdf (all composed and dated 150320 and subject to change) from their excellent bike builder online, one of the best websites I have seen, the prices and illustration changes as your build your perfect Van Nicholas
2007 Van Nicholas Yukon.
2020 Van Nicholas Yukon
2020 Van Nicholas Yukon Disc
Van Nicholas Yukon review. 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 the over 30 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 www.candncycles.co.uk 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 firstname.lastname@example.org