AM Nicolai Ion G15 GPI

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
The Dream Build
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Not using a template, just because the bike doesn't quite fit what the template offers, and I've spent all the time making my build spreadsheet, so there's an attached .pdf if you want to see a better quality version of this (see bottom of the post).

The Plan
I'll probably do a few installments for this bike and I'll reserve a few posts after this to update at a later stage for when the time is relevant. Essentially the first bit will be about the purchase and building process, once I have a few months of riding the bike under me, I'll give an initial impressions report and then I'll write a long term review at a later point as well.

So STRAP IN, put your reading glasses on and get ready for some words!

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Zaf

Gearbox Frother
The Purchase

I have been looking at Nicolai's since late 2015. In April 2016 I got a quote for an Ion G16 GPI (the original heart throb pictured below), that I never purchased in the end, but this idea of going to a Nicolai gearbox has been playing away in the back of my head for some time now.

At the start of this year I revisited the idea, and got back in touch with Nicolai. At this point in time the G15 GPI (gearbox designation) didn't exist, I was asking initially about the G13 or G16 GPI again. In the course of discussion, I decided to bite the bullet on a custom frame, at which point I said that I was after a 29er G16 but with less travel on the rear, and Max responded with "We're making a G15 GPI, it's not released yet; but it sounds like what you're after!" and sent me through the tech sheet for it. Needless to say, it kind of hit the nail on the head, I paid a little extra for a shorter seat tube so that I could slap a 200mm dropper on there safely and by Feb I had paid, in full, the €4000 ($6800AUD) incl. postage.



The Issues
The build order was put through, and in early April they launched their new website, and with it, the G15 GPI became an official, available for purchase frame option. I had managed to catch them at a busy time and my build was shuffled back a little because they were relocating their workshop, an additional delay in an order of gearboxes from Pinion set it back again slightly.

On the 22nd May I got a heartbreaking e-mail. My frame was welded and ready to go, but they'd not made it to the custom seat tube order. So I was given an option to accept the frame and they'd refund the custom order fee, or they could could cut the seat tube out and replace it, but it might show cosmetically. I double checked my numbers, having bought most of my parts at this point, but the seat tube needed to be shorter to fit with flat pedals. I asked if they could just start the front triangle fresh and sell the one they'd built to standard spec to the next customer to order a Large, they had a new build order in the works and an ETA within hours of sending the e-mail. Although I would have preferred it to have been right the first time, they were great to deal with when the problem was noted, and made sure I was looked after.


The Parts
Obviously there was quite a bit of time before the frame arrived to start going over what parts I wanted to hang on the frame. I had also been looking over some of the other builds and noticing some quality German/European components so was starting to preference components accordingly.

The rear wheel was tricky to figure out. I needed a single speed Boost hub (rare to begin with) and I wanted to run Syntace rims having seen a few other builds and reports on them (Pic below related!). Finding the Pinion hub made life a lot easier on the hub search front, but when the rims arrived I found that the rear rim profile was asymmetrical, and my hub flanges are even, so there is an imperceptible dish to the rear wheel. I reasoned that the slight dish on what is widely (hur) superior hub flanges outweighed the OCD of running mismatched rims.
My next option on the list was to go with NEWMAN rims/wheels. The guys from that company came from Syntace originally (my rear wheel build included their nipple washer on it to evenly distribute spoke tension to the rim), and a lot of the design concepts follow through between the two brands, like the preload adjuster on their bearings etc.


Suspension was were I wanted to save some money. I had a Durolux which was dialed in thanks to its time on the Slash, and the Vivid R2C coil from my Yeti SB66c that I could happily run on the bike as an initial build while figuring out what I wanted to go with. Intend BC were high on the radar at this point; made in German, beautiful build quality, fantastic reviews on them, Cornelius was a lovely guy to deal with when buying the headset and has a really nice business ethic. However I'd just bought the Syntace front wheel in Boost, and at the time, the Intend BC Edge was only available in 20mm (and that's the recommended choice from manufacturer). So swallowing the $2300AUD for the fork delivered, PLUS a new front wheel was going to blow things out massively. Not to mention, the cost for that fork alone is now punching at a full Ohlins package. It was around this time I started making my spreadsheet a little more complex.


After seeing Mojo go over to EXT for their Geometron bikes, I got in contact with EXT who put me onto Chris in Australia. That was a super easy purchase in the end, extremely easy to deal with, and he had the money and an order put in seen after. Then it was choosing a fork to match the shock, Formula made sense, so that slotted into place and my suspension was sorted (fork is still in the post because I ordered a 46mm offset, but once the frame arrived I had to build it and the Fox36 was there, so on it went).

I had seen Vecnum before, but after the Paul Aston review and bike check, I couldn't help but throw money at a mechanical post with 200mm drop, and the Bikeyoke revive was resigned to second place status. Ergon grips come in a twist shift compatible format, grabbed a saddle to match, Acros handlebars and stem to throw the grips on, an Intend BC and Reset Racing headset for it to turn on, throw some Continental Tyres on and she was sorted!! Ready to Build!!!


The Build

So the bike frame arrived last Thursday, but I had a few other life complications that meant I didn't even get to see the frame until Friday afternoon; chief among which was that the delivery person caused the dog, on the property that I live in the granny flat of, to go absolutely burko which woke the child which had just gone to sleep. Needless to say, it wouldn't have been safe to go home without an adequate cool-off period.

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I didn't get many photos of the build beyond a few opening box shots and throwing it in the stand and oggling the welds. But the box was extremely well packed to say the least; filled to the brim with foam blocks etc. I need to make a correction of the record here as well, the MINTY FRESH NEWLY INSTALLED lighting in the shed was fantastic!!! However my phone takes shitty photos outside of sunlight and it was the only camera on me. I was also pretty absorbed in some of the other details of the build, so didn't get my phone out much. But I'll take some photos of the things worth mentioning and edit them into their correct spot.

Unboxing
As was to be expected, the welds on this bike are incredible; there's a precision and thoughtfulness to most every part of it that leave no doubts to it's durability. The bike came with the gearbox installed, with the dropouts pre-set to offer correct belt tension with the installed 34t Gates rings. In the bottom of the box, below all the packing foam, there was a nice bag of goodies including spacer set for the rear hub, chainring, user manuals, grip shifter etc.


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Cables
Cable routing is all external except for an internally routed dropper. I also selected to have provisons for external routing for the dropper as well, having bought a Vecnum, which adds mounting points to the underside of my top tube.
With the exception of a single cable tie mount for the rear brake line on the chainstay, all the routing points are CNC'ed and anodized clamps that are cinched down with a 3mm allen. Annoyingly, the bolt for the mounting point underneath the shocks top bolt, can't be accessed without undoing the shock's top bolt and moving it out of the way.

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I was also hoping that because of the external routing, I could easily switch brakes out. However, to keep the routing clean, when I had the cut rear brake line I threaded it underneath the welded linkage strut. Although this keeps the routing quite clean, it does mean that a rear brake change will involve a cut line again.
Brake Link mount.jpg

Building
There was surprisingly little to do when constructing this bike. Other than measuring my belt line and getting the spacers correctly onto the rear wheel (more time spent calculating than assembling), all that was required was pressing in the headset, throwing a crown race on the fork, slapping the shock, wheels and brakes on and done.
The TRP Quadiem's were really good to route, although having bought them US they were all backwards, and some of the routing couldn't occur until the line was cut. However they behaved beautifully, and didn't require bleeding even after the line was cut, I haven't even topped the reservoir off (I will this weekend), they just pulled straight in and kept on working.
Rear wheel was a little tricky, it's a bit more of an involved process getting the wheel on and off. The axle is a bolt thru, there's also a little guide in place of where a derailleur hanger would sit, that holds the timing belt onto the rear cog. This is VERY tightly spaced, to the point that I can hear rubbing on it and the belt when riding (now that there's dust everywhere). I did try running it with this removed, but it is essential to making sure the belt doesn't skip. I may simply file it back slightly to allow for a bit more clearance to the belt.
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In any case, you also need to push some slack onto the belt by easing off the tensioner next to the gearbox, which is sprung quite firmly, get the belt onto the cog, then get it into it's dropouts and insert the axle. A fucking mission to do with the bike in the stand, it's a job that needs the bike on its back to make easier, in which one hand is giving the belt some slack while the other pushes the axle in without having to weight support and align the rear wheel to the dropout.

The Shifter
For anyone going to a Pinion...do not do what I did and "skim read then wing it" with this part of the installation. Once you have the cable outers routed, and are ready to set up the shifter, STOP and follow every little instruction to the letter. Needless to say, I struggled with this part a little, and once I had stopped, and gone through every step outlined in the manual it all came together just fine. I completely wrote off 3 perfectly good quality shifter cables before taking a breather and listening to @mint355 to get it done.
Gearbox Shifter Cables.jpg
In anycase, it is very involved process in setting the gearbox manually to it's middle gear, making sure the cable carrier that then meshes with the shifting mechnism is properly oriented and engaged, winding it back to one of the extremes of its shifting range, routing one cable, tensioning it through to the OTHER end of the shifting range, securing the next cable (without winding it back, because that'll fuck it up!).
As it was nearly midnight at this stage, and I had no further shifter cables, I didn't get my head around how to switch it in such a way that has harder gears be a twist towards me (moto throttle style). This is proven to be little to no issue though, shifting has proved to be quite intuitive like this.
 

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Ultra Lord

Beanie Fitment Specialist
Well damn, the total $ is lower than what I was expecting. this is sooooooo much nicer than the what intense/specialized/trek offer for the price! 10k for a sworks hardtail git fucked, gimme that hand made gearboxy goodness any day of the week.

how fuckin stoked are you man, this thing is amazing.
 
Reactions: Zaf

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
@Ultra Lord I might need to update that figure. There's another $765 in duty costs, and I don't think I have the postage added in their either. A few other little expenses that haven't been accounted for, and then little things like it only counts one set of pedals/brakes at a time, when in fact I've bought a few for this bike. In any case, in practical terms it's about $12.5k mark.

Stoke level is off the charts!! My new flat pedal shoes arrived today as well, so I can throw the Burgtec's on tonight and keep myself honest for a while.
 

Nambra

Postmeridian
$12.5k for a 17kg bike - that's quite the investment @Zaf! But well done sir - I salute your passion for your utopian ride. It looks like it will probably outlast all of us.
 
Reactions: Zaf

Jpez

Is bad
There’s just something about a raw frame covered in dust.
That bike needs some serious hills to point down. Looks amazing.
 
Reactions: Zaf

stirk

Wheel size expert
Let the gearbox love posts triple in volume!!


Seriously though its a bloody nice bike and gearboxes really should be the norm but not enough money in it for the big two.

And at 17kg it's only 2.5kg heavier than my bike you'd hardly noticeable that weight penalty.
 
Reactions: Zaf

Switch

Likes Dirt
You went straight for the money shot and we missed the foreplay :(
I have been waiting for your PYR with a photo journey from unboxing through to the dirty images you posted. With all your comments in the lead up the skipping straight to the end has left me unsatisfied. ;)o_O
 

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
You went straight for the money shot and we missed the foreplay :(
I have been waiting for your PYR with a photo journey from unboxing through to the dirty images you posted. With all your comments in the lead up the skipping straight to the end has left me unsatisfied. ;)o_O
I didn't get many build shots as it was getting put together. It was dark and cold in the shed on Friday night, lighting wasn't great for photos either.
Plus, you know how these PYR's work, gotta have all the gloss in the first post, small attention spans and all that jazz. If people want to read on, they will, but not going to make everyone go scrolling through text to find the pics.

Also, look at it! Taking photos of that bike clean and unridden just seemed perverse!
 

slider_phil

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Putting the arguments for gearboxes and what not out of the way. I just love that you spent the time and effort researching and doing exactly what you wanted. Massive props for a dream bike build!

Every component thought out and stuffed together in a sexy German package. Seriously, that first ride must have felt great
 

stirk

Wheel size expert
I agree that no mountain bike should be photographed too clean and shiny or it looks like a shed ornament.
 
Reactions: Zaf

Oddjob

Eats Squid
@Zaf you are one confusing dude. You seemingly researched the absolute shit out of this bike (see wacky headset choice) but your wheels are all over the shop. From memory, you went 28h sp front, 32h jbend rear. The rear rim is offset when it doesn't need to be and the front isn't. I'm not aware of any Syntace axle kits so your stuck with 15x110. I'm having a grand mal seizure just typing this out.

It's almost as if you wanted to have zero spare part commonality, make spares as expensive as possible and limit your fork choices in the future.

Sent from my SM-G900I using Tapatalk
 

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
@Zaf you are one confusing dude. You seemingly researched the absolute shit out of this bike (see wacky headset choice) but your wheels are all over the shop. From memory, you went 28h sp front, 32h jbend rear. The rear rim is offset when it doesn't need to be and the front isn't. I'm not aware of any Syntace axle kits so your stuck with 15x110. I'm having a grand mal seizure just typing this out.
Tonic-Clonic these days, we haven't used Grand/Petite Mal for ages.

I wanted Syntace wheels, but the rear hub was going to be laced to the Pinion Hub, which was 32h. The only Syntace rims that come with a 32h drilling were the W30's (which I only later discovered were an asymetrical design) and decided to simply work around. The front I was going to build myself with the J-bend hub, but when I evaluated the costs, the pre-built wheel was going to cost me exactly what the hub and rim (without spokes nipples) were going to; so I went with the pre-built.

Love or hate it, Boost 15x110 was the safer option to go with, even the Intend BC's are now offered with different axle standards, and after I went with the Formula Selva it didn't make much difference anyway (all my forks run this standard no). If I really want to go with a 20mm fork, I'll probably build some DT Swiss 350's to EX471 (32h rear) and EX511 (28h front) in any case.

The rear spoke count is simply due to weight distribution and adding strength to the wheel build. I prefer a thinner rim on the rear for two reasons, lighter mass at the circumference of my rotational mass, and 2.3-2.4" tyres get a rounder profile on the slightly thinner internal which allows them to roll on center tread patterns more effectively and drag less. Also, anecdotally, wider rims on the rear seems to lead to more slashed sidewalls out here.

I agree that no mountain bike should be photographed too clean and shiny or it looks like a shed ornament.
A clean bike is criminal! Operational surfaces only.

Putting the arguments for gearboxes and what not out of the way. I just love that you spent the time and effort researching and doing exactly what you wanted. Massive props for a dream bike build!

Every component thought out and stuffed together in a sexy German package. Seriously, that first ride must have felt great
First ride was special, but it's definitely getting better as I ride it more; which isn't too surprising given the abundance of new concepts the bike encapsulates.
 

datnat

Likes Dirt
Nice work Zaf! Worth the wait, no doubt ;) the raw finish is hard to beat.

Is the Vecnum living up to expectation?

A quick hijak - had a quick pedal on the Mojo last Saturday, is a game changer ....away for the week so have to wait a bit longer for ride time...:(

Cheers
 
Reactions: Zaf

Oddjob

Eats Squid
I guess this goes to the root of our differences in philosophy. If I was going to build your bike I would have gone with I9 torch boost ss hubs and the W30 rims. The asymmetric rims would have worked beautifully with the hi/lo hub flanges. I haven't run the maths, but my guess is that you would of had equal spoke lengths and 80% l/r spoke tension. Super comp triple butted spokes or aerolites would have worked a treat and you would have ended up with the same POE, less cost, lighter weight and easier spares and adapter kits.



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