AM Nicolai Ion G15 GPI

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
I am still going to write a ride report for this, just been tied up. A lot has been going on in recent months (really glad to put 2018 in the history books), I'm only just back on the bike after being off it since mid November.

On that note, it's a fucking unforgiving ride to be on whilst unfit! I have lost a fair bit of condition in that time, and on the back end of an URTI at the moment, so not made any easier. It's a bike that likes to be given speed so it can hold it, but if you're not fit enough to get it up to speed, kind of lumbers around like a big tank. Panzerkampfwagon Nicolai G15.

Anyway, still puts a massive grin on my face to ride, hopefully the fitness bounces back quickly. Still selling a few frames and bikes etc, toying with the idea of another bike to the quiver to fit between the G15 and the Sutra, also looking to buy a new guitar though...all the possibilities floating around, but for now "just ride" and see where that takes me.
 
Last edited:

dancaseyimages

Mountain bike pornographer
Super keen on your report, make sure to include some photos.
Great to hear your thoughts on the fitness part of the rides to, just from my entry level standpoint.
 

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
352216

Okay, so I've clocked a little over 1000km on the trails now with this bike. A lot less than I would have hoped to by now. 2018 proved to be an extremely tough year, come November I hit a wall with everything and other than commuting to work and back on my Kona, I didn't touch the bike until March. At which point, my newfound lack of fitness really battered my motivation around a bit.
As of this week, I've started to get back into training, and feeling the rhythm of it all again. Keeping things small and achievable so as not to burn out, and I'll taper up as my body re-adjusts and fitness returns. But might start writing little parts of the review.


So what better place to start than:

The Bad
I'll say it right here, this isn't the quiver killer I was expecting/hoping/wishing/forcing it to be. This really is a dream bike for me, and I'll love it forever and always, and the good parts about it are not just amazing, they've completely changed my perspective on how a bike should ride and feel. I also knew there would be inherent risks in jumping onto early versions of emerging technology, and that has been thoroughly proved with some of the drivetrain issues encountered along the way.

I also have to make mention that I knew it wouldn't be a bike that would thrive in Alice Springs before buying it. Every review of these things implies they really prefer the "winch and plummet" style of riding, and Alice Springs undulates and has smaller hills and you really find yourself on the power a good deal of the time. So it comes without surprise, a 145mm/160mm overbuilt Enduro sled was a bit of a monster. The weight is an odd point, as the bike genuinely doesn't feel super heavy to ride, however this is only properly masked with some fitness. The mental game of knowing the bike is about 18kg (with waterbottle and full spares in frame bag) realllllllly plays with you when you're suffering already.

Understandably, this bike really plays into the momentum game, so if you've got the legs to keep it rolling at a reasonable average speed, the active and supportive suspension will just eat trail and absolutely monster anything. The other side of that edge; is that when you're even slightly below that speed and momentum setting...the bike becomes a pig. You will sink into the travel, the front is in a different post code to the rear, you don't lean it in properly and you just feel like you're fighting it. It's in no way a Sunday cruiser, there's nothing casual about it; you either you ride it and ride it hard or it's going to turn around and crush your body and spirit.

It's a "meeting your hero" scenario. The bike had some really big fantasies to live up to prior to owning it, and it didn't meet all of them, which has been a bit humbling. It is still my favourite bike in the world, but this past year has been a big adjustment of the reality of the bike with the expectation of it in a lot of ways. Not always easy, but always worth it (story of 2018 in general).

352215

The Drivetrain
The Gearbox has been faultless...the Gates Belt drive has been problematic. Obviously, I had the snapped belt early on in the bike's life, and then that entire ordeal with warranty, and contact, and lead times and getting a chain in just to get the bike running. That was a nightmare, although Gates did eventually come to the party (and even gave me a second belt as an apology for the issue) it took the bike off the trails for a good while and was chasing tails trying to get it sorted. It has since proven to be every bit as robust as I had originally been let to believe they were, but when it goes wrong there's no quick solution.

About a month ago, the bike developed a "whirring" noise in operation, even on a fairly light pedal load (you can hear the gears meshing in low gears when stomping pedals, this was different); a noise I erroneously had attributed to the gearbox and later found it to be the belt drive. With regards to the mental game, having a constant noise on pedaling absolutely ruined me, when I finally diagnosed and fixed it, the bike got about 20kg lighter in my mind.
The bike has sliding dropouts to adjust belt tension in neutral position, with the pulley then taking up the slack through the travel. What had happened on the introduction of this noise, is that the tensioning lock bolt had backed out, and then the dropout had slid forward on one side in the dropout about 2mm. This wasn't noticed in wheel alignment terms, but it did mean that the belt drive now had a slightly different attack angle between the cogs, and with the centre track was now causing the noise on pedalling. It wasn't until about a week later, having the bike upside down, and eyeballing the "slightly out" wheel alignment that I was able to properly diagnose and fix this. Only to find that if you run too much tension on the belt (rear dropouts too far back) you can get a similar noise under load.

While I was trying to diagnose the issue I did an oil change on the gearbox to find that it was quite light on oil (about 10mL drained). I've noted any leaks in the time using the bike, but it doesn't seem to be a cause of large concern. The entire process is very straightforward and about as complex as undoing four hex bolts, leaning the bike over a drip tray, and then filling and injecting a syringe.

When it works, it's silent and beautiful and properly maintenance free. There is a certain satisfaction in throwing the bike away dirty and knowing there's nothing to do to it. But it is a very sensitive setup that really has had a bit of any unexpected learning curve to it. Takes time and care with the setup, get it right and it's really lovely, get it the tiniest bit wrong and you'll be scratching your head with it. It's been a love/hate relationship with the belt drive, I now feel I have a handle on the intricacies of it and feeling more confident and happy with it, but's now almost 10 months into owning this, and I'm only just getting there now.




This should do for now. more to come though.
 
Last edited:

beeb

Likes Dirt

Okay, so I've clocked a little over 1000km on the trails now with this bike. A lot less than I would have hoped to by now. 2018 proved to be an extremely tough year, come November I hit a wall with everything and other than commuting to work and back on my Kona, I didn't touch the bike until March. At which point, my newfound lack of fitness really battered my motivation around a bit.
As of this week, I've started to get back into training, and feeling the rhythm of it all again. Keeping things small and achievable so as not to burn out, and I'll taper up as my body re-adjusts and fitness returns. But might start writing little parts of the review.


So what better place to start than:

The Bad
I'll say it right here, this isn't the quiver killer I was expecting/hoping/wishing/forcing it to be. This really is a dream bike for me, and I'll love it forever and always, and the good parts about it are not just amazing, they've completely changed my perspective on how a bike should ride and feel. I also knew there would be inherent risks in jumping onto early versions of emerging technology, and that has been thoroughly proved with some of the drivetrain issues encountered along the way.

I also have to make mention that I knew it wouldn't be a bike that would thrive in Alice Springs before buying it. Every review of these things implies they really prefer the "winch and plummet" style of riding, and Alice Springs undulates and has smaller hills and you really find yourself on the power a good deal of the time. So it comes without surprise, a 145mm/160mm overbuilt Enduro sled was a bit of a monster. The weight is an odd point, as the bike genuinely doesn't feel super heavy to ride, however this is only properly masked with some fitness. The mental game of knowing the bike is about 18kg (with waterbottle and full spares in frame bag) realllllllly plays with you when you're suffering already.

Understandably, this bike really plays into the momentum game, so if you've got the legs to keep it rolling at a reasonable average speed, the active and supportive suspension will just eat trail and absolutely monster anything. The other side of that edge; is that when you're even slightly below that speed and momentum setting...the bike becomes a pig. You will sink into the travel, the front is in a different post code to the rear, you don't lean it in properly and you just feel like you're fighting it. It's in no way a Sunday cruiser, there's nothing casual about it; you either you ride it and ride it hard or it's going to turn around and crush your body and spirit.

It's a "meeting your hero" scenario. The bike had some really big fantasies to live up to prior to owning it, and it didn't meet all of them, which has been a bit humbling. It is still my favourite bike in the world, but this past year has been a big adjustment of the reality of the bike with the expectation of it in a lot of ways. Not always easy, but always worth it (story of 2018 in general).

The Drivetrain
The Gearbox has been faultless...the Gates Belt drive has been problematic. Obviously, I had the snapped belt early on in the bike's life, and then that entire ordeal with warranty, and contact, and lead times and getting a chain in just to get the bike running. That was a nightmare, although Gates did eventually come to the party (and even gave me a second belt as an apology for the issue) it took the bike off the trails for a good while and was chasing tails trying to get it sorted. It has since proven to be every bit as robust as I had originally been let to believe they were, but when it goes wrong there's no quick solution.

About a month ago, the bike developed a "whirring" noise in operation, even on a fairly light pedal load (you can hear the gears meshing in low gears when stomping pedals, this was different); a noise I erroneously had attributed to the gearbox and later found it to be the belt drive. With regards to the mental game, having a constant noise on pedaling absolutely ruined me, when I finally diagnosed and fixed it, the bike got about 20kg lighter in my mind.
The bike has sliding dropouts to adjust belt tension in neutral position, with the pulley then taking up the slack through the travel. What had happened on the introduction of this noise, is that the tensioning lock bolt had backed out, and then the dropout had slid forward on one side in the dropout about 2mm. This wasn't noticed in wheel alignment terms, but it did mean that the belt drive now had a slightly different attack angle between the cogs, and with the centre track was now causing the noise on pedalling. It wasn't until about a week later, having the bike upside down, and eyeballing the "slightly out" wheel alignment that I was able to properly diagnose and fix this. Only to find that if you run too much tension on the belt (rear dropouts too far back) you can get a similar noise under load.

While I was trying to diagnose the issue I did an oil change on the gearbox to find that it was quite light on oil (about 10mL drained). I've noted any leaks in the time using the bike, but it doesn't seem to be a cause of large concern. The entire process is very straightforward and about as complex as undoing four hex bolts, leaning the bike over a drip tray, and then filling and injecting a syringe.

When it works, it's silent and beautiful and properly maintenance free. There is a certain satisfaction in throwing the bike away dirty and knowing there's nothing to do to it. But it is a very sensitive setup that really has had a bit of any unexpected learning curve to it. Takes time and care with the setup, get it right and it's really lovely, get it the tiniest bit wrong and you'll be scratching your head with it. It's been a love/hate relationship with the belt drive, I now feel I have a handle on the intricacies of it and feeling more confident and happy with it, but's now almost 10 months into owning this, and I'm only just getting their now.




This should do for now. more to come though.
Great write-up Zaf. Very considered and honest, and also all too familiar (I'm sure for many of us) reading about the mental games a bike can play on you (or that our minds imagine anyway...).

I'm sure as fitness improves and matches with your hard-won familiarity with getting the driveline running sweet, there'll be plenty of happy memories to be made with this machine.

I'm sure when your big move eventually occurs - this thing is really going to melt your brain on the gravity trails!
 
Reactions: Zaf

slowmick

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Great write up. Sounds like there is a ways to go before gearboxes and belt drives are for the masses - either that or bike shops will have to step up their service game. Lucky you have the Kona to keep you moving forward while you nut out the issues.
 
Reactions: Zaf

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
Great write-up Zaf. Very considered and honest, and also all too familiar (I'm sure for many of us) reading about the mental games a bike can play on you (or that our minds imagine anyway...).

I'm sure as fitness improves and matches with your hard-won familiarity with getting the driveline running sweet, there'll be plenty of happy memories to be made with this machine.

I'm sure when your big move eventually occurs - this thing is really going to melt your brain on the gravity trails!
It's been an interesting process, a lot of these complaints really didn't exist when I was a little fitter, but things cascade quite quickly when you're not feeling as strong. The entire time I had the "whirring noise" issue, I just couldn't shake this thought of "conservation of energy" and knowing that I'm now hearing the drivetrain, where I hadn't been previously, and thinking of the energy bleeding away as sound instead. It near ruined me psychologically.

On the last note, I've put in notice and I'll be out of Alice before winter's end this year and living in Newcastle for the foreseeable future after that. With any luck I'll have the "THE GOOD" section of the review up before then! ;)

Great write up. Sounds like there is a ways to go before gearboxes and belt drives are for the masses - either that or bike shops will have to step up their service game. Lucky you have the Kona to keep you moving forward while you nut out the issues.
I still love the Pinion (in theory and in practice). It'll get a much bigger mention in the positive aspects of the bike review, but sadly they're not going to be for everyone just yet.
There are no doubts in my mind about the romantic reasons to having bought this bike. Logically I new it was early days in the MTB application for gearboxes, these are the first models really rolling off the lines with them, and I can count the full suspension Pinion bikes out there on one hand at the moment. But, I truly believe in the advantages of them, and I feel part of this purchase was in a small way, my contribution to helping it establish itself as a viable alternative in the hopes that a decade from now they will be more available and refined for those who follow me into it.
 

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
I'm not convinced on the belt drive. I'm happy with the chain on my Nicolai.
It's taken some time, but I'm now comfortable with it. The sound difference compared to a chain is unbelievable, it's so much quieter (as long as it's in correct adjustment).

Nicolai's new Saturn 14 looks like a proper "quiver killer"!

https://www.pinkbike.com/news/first-look-nicolais-saturn-14-trail-bike.html

I want to replace my Primer with something more aggressive at some stage and I really miss my raw Canfield Riot look...
It's beautiful isn't it?!
I have just picked up a G13 for my "XC" duties, and in the process of building that and my girlfriend's bike up. Wheels won't be along until May, so expect a build thread closer to then. The Saturn's are gorgeous, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it replaced the G13 at this stage, it even looks to use a lot of the G13's tubes for that front triangle.
 

hifiandmtb

Sphincter beanie
Love your work @Zaf. Let's take her into a different environment, as you say.

I keep thinking I need a long(er) low(er) slack(er) bike but I've got the lucky chance to ride the latest best of breed (even if only for a few mins) to know that what I own now suits where I ride now.

It's a commitment to buy a bike without being able to even spin it around the block!
 

slider_phil

Likes Bikes and Dirt
It's beautiful isn't it?!
I have just picked up a G13 for my "XC" duties, and in the process of building that and my girlfriend's bike up. Wheels won't be along until May, so expect a build thread closer to then. The Saturn's are gorgeous, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it replaced the G13 at this stage, it even looks to use a lot of the G13's tubes for that front triangle.
I've learnt in the last year that for the majority of stuff close to me, the aggressive xc style of bike works exceptionally well for both me and the trails (very undulating and not very rocky). It's only when I head up into the Vic North East (Bright, Falls Creek etc) that I look to the bigger bike due to the steepness, rocks and it's almost always a long ride up before you descend rather than undulating terrain.

The Primer was my own "quiver" bike as it did everything "pretty" well. But now the Czar does the undulating country "exceptionally" well and I'd love to replace the Primer with a bigger, longer bike to get that bigger separation.

The G13 would be cool but I think the Saturn would suit my style a bit more. Hell, a Saturn 11 and 14 would be a pretty nice combo too

Have you taken that Kona out on some gravel type rides yet?
 
Reactions: Zaf

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
The G15 would definitely prefer some big mountains, and I am keen to get it onto some and see how it runs.

It'd be an interesting comparison, to see how the Saturn 14 rides compared to the Ion G13 platform. If someone were to buy one...we could maybe do some back to back testing...NUDGE NUDGE!!!
 

nzhumpy

Googlemeister who likes bikes and scandal
That G15 just sounds like a absolute headache @Zaf, I'm willing to do you a favour and take this burden off your hands for you, I have a feeling that it'll be too big for me but I'm a good bloke and willing to overlook such small details...

Once you get to Newcastle this should find itself closer to it's intended habitat.
 

Zaf

Gearbox Frother
That G15 just sounds like a absolute headache @Zaf, I'm willing to do you a favour and take this burden off your hands for you, I have a feeling that it'll be too big for me but I'm a good bloke and willing to overlook such small details...

Once you get to Newcastle this should find itself closer to it's intended habitat.
You might be onto something...do you know a good home it could go to?! Where it'd be loved? is there a big backyard for her to play in?

Don’t forget you owe us a sydney meet up aswell. Flat pedals on it preferably.
Haven't forgotten. I was so depressed at my physical state I didn't even bring a bike wiht me a fortnight ago when I was down there. Just hid my face and my shame.

I sold my Stumpy and left the flat pedals I liked on it (OneUp's). I've got some Burgtec's, but they'll go on the girlfriend's bike...and I didn't like them; platform was too small for my feet. I'll have to pick up a pair of the OneUp's in alloy this time, and get onto it with the G13 again.
 

Ultra Lord

Beanie Fitment Specialist
Haven't forgotten. I was so depressed at my physical state I didn't even bring a bike wiht me a fortnight ago when I was down there. Just hid my face and my shame.
Palease, I’m 9 months out of a discectomy on my L4/S1, only managed to rebuild 3cm mass From what I lost off my left leg. Half the time I’m cooked from my rehab gym work and the other half I’m cooked from working.

Hifi’s just come off his surgery too, but somehow manages to fly uphill still though (wtf bro).

Give oddjob a beer before riding and he’s cooked.

Being unfit just means pushing the bike up.
 
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