The NICOLAI ION G15 is never going to be a bike for the masses. And that’s exactly what makes it unique. In these fast moving times, products with a strong character are becoming increasingly important as we long for individuality, handcrafted art and authenticity. The NICOLAI ION G15 can offer all of this, but does it ride well?
NICOLAI is not one of the big players in the mountain biking industry, yet almost every ambitious mountain biker will have heard of the exclusive brand at some point. The German prestige-manufacturer is becoming increasingly popular for its “Made in Germany” frames. The boys and girls at NICOLAI love some good CNC and you can tell by looking at their bikes. The brand-new ION G15 is no exception. The frame is embellished with gorgeous details of finely-machined aluminium and perfect welds all rounded off by colour-coordinated anodized parts.
A long story! The NICOLAI is inspires tons of confidence on steep downhills.
But NICOLAI isn’t only known for the industrial look of their bikes. Over the last few years, the Geolution geometry has been drawing attention and widely been discussed within the mountain-biking community. What’s behind it? Together with British tech-guru Chris Porter NICOLAI has totally reworked the concept of frame geometry. The main focus was a very slack head angle (64°) combined with a long frame (reach 515 mm in size L). This is supposed to improve freedom of movement and give you a mighty boost of confidence. To allow for optimal balance the bike also features relatively long chainstays (445 mm). The combination of all these numbers results in a 1,341 mm wheelbase. Just to compare: A Specialized Demo downhill bike in the same frame size is 62 mm shorter!
NICOLAI offers the ION G15 as a frame kit with a variety of shock-options, colours and specs. Our test bike is a complete QLFLINE-build and costs € 6.349.
Our large size NICOLAI ION G15 is a true blast and makes conventional bikes look like kid-bikes. But once you’re in the saddle the riding position feels a lot less extreme than it looks. Thanks to the steep seat angle you feel nicely integrated between the wheels while the riding position feels pleasantly upright and comfortable. The relatively heavy weight of 14.75 kg (incl. inner tubes) doesn’t seem to affect the bike’s feel nor its climbing characteristics; the NICOLAI actually climbs surprisingly well. Even on very steep technical climbs, the front wheel stays glued to the ground. Having said that the ratio of the 11-speed transmission (30 t chainring) struggles on long steep climbs and if you’re planning to spend many hours riding uphill we recommend a smaller chainring.
The NICOLAI ION G15 in detail
Fork FOX 36 FLOAT Factory 150 mm
Shock FOX FLOAT X2 Factory 150 mm
Brakes Hope Tech 3 E4 (2018: Magura MT7) 200/180 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X1 Hope Cranks
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth 170 mm
Stem Hope AM 35 mm
Handlebar Renthal Fatbar Carbon 780 mm
Tires Continental Der Baron 2.4″ / Mountain King 2.4″
Wheelset DT Swiss EX 1501 (Series: Hope Tech Enduro)
Weight 14.75 kg
Price € 6,349
Not a bike for wimps – if you like homogeneous carbon shapes you better close your eyes
“But surely such a long bike will struggle in corners!”. This is the most common prejudice against this extreme geometry. Far from it! Obviously, the NICOLAI ION G15 is no BMX but it’s still a lot more agile than its geometry suggests. “Balance” is the magic word. Because everything on this bike is long the riding position is centred and well balanced. To our surprise, it took very little time to get used to the new feeling and from the very beginning we realised that there is a lot more room to move around than on bikes with a more conservative geometry. On one hand, this affects its cornering-agility but at the same time, it gives you a huge boost of confidence.
During our first test-rides we felt as if the long front-end would pull the upper body over the front end on steep-technical terrain. The riding position was anything but integrated between the wheels and we struggled to lean back and let the bike do the rest. A handlebar with significantly more rise was the solution. As soon as we’d fitted a handlebar with a 40 mm rise the concept of the bike made a lot of sense and all of a sudden the geometry of the ION G15 conveyed huge amounts of confidence. OTB fear? Not for a second. The good natured handling is predictable and makes the NICOLAI feel controlled even at high speeds. Only manuals require some extra strength but after a few attempts you’ll get the hang of it – provided you can manual at all!
As the name suggests the ION G15 sports 150 mm of travel. To be precise 150 mm on the front and 145 mm on the rear, both ends are managed by potent FOX Factory suspension. The tuned rear-end is firm and very progressive and conveys good feedback. All of this makes the G15 a very direct bike that allows you to rail berms and build-up speed when riding hard.
However, the sensitivity and response could do with some improvement. This affects the traction of the bike and prevents it from tracking the terrain properly. But on the other hand, the NICOLAI bails you out on all sorts of dodgy landings and deals with nasty compressions without batting an eye.
The geometry of the NICOLAI ION G15
Issues such as the weak Hope brakes or the hard chainstay-protector (which caused a hell of a racket) were promptly addressed by NICOLAI and aren’t even worth a mention anymore.
The NICOLAI ION G15 is a bike with a strong character that stands out for its unique looks and great handling. If you’re after a classy hand-built trail bullet which feels composed but inspires huge amounts of confidence, this is the bike you’re looking for. But the G15 isn’t only aesthetically rough around the edges. The rear end isn’t the most sensitive out there and if you enjoy manuals and an agile handling you better look elsewhere.
- Superb CNC look
- Good price/performance-ratio for
a “Made in Germany”
- Not for riders who want a super nimble bike
- Rear end is not very sensitive
- The standard front end is too low
For more info head to: nicolai-bicycles.com
This article is from ENDURO issue #032
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Words: Photos: Toni Buckenlei / Christoph Bayer