With the SATURN 14 Swift HRZ, NICOLAI enter our big 2024 trail bike group test with a fine example of German manufacturing. Their light e-mountainbike generates 150/140 mm of travel suspension travel and comes equipped with a Bosch Performance Line SX motor, which should give the NICOLAI a welcome boost uphill. But is this enough to secure victory in our test?

NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift HRZ | Bosch Performance Line SX/400 Wh | 150/140 mm (f/r)
20.9 kg in size L | € 11,999 | Manufacturer’s website

NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift HRZ… HRZ? What’s that? It’s short for Harz, a highland area in northern Germany that reaches altitudes of up to 1,141 m and lends the SATURN Swift’s flagship model its name. Fine CNC machining meets sophisticated mechanical engineering design and countless colour configurations. NICOLAI are based near Hanover and have long been represented mainly in German-speaking countries. The SATURN is unique in this test field, as it’s the only competitor that’s produced entirely in Germany, and stands out from the competition with a high recognition value with its chunky weld seams. The beefy aluminium frame houses a Bosch Performance Line SX motor, providing a rather unusual concept: a 20.9 kg alloy light eMTB, which makes the NICOLAI the heaviest bike in the entire test field.

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike 2024 – 15 of the most exciting trail bikes in our 2024 comparison test

The 2023 NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift HRZ in detai

The aluminium frame of the NICOLAI is handmade in Germany – a fact which is proudly written in the non-drive side chainstay. And it’s exactly these industrial-looking details that make the € 11,999 NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift so special. Doesn’t the headset cable routing look a bit odd on a NICOLAI? Yes, it does. But that’s just on our test bike – the production model relies on a more conventional internal cable routing system with cable ports on the down tube. On the swingarm, the cables are routed externally and secured to the frame with zip ties. The chainstay protector is on the small side and glued to the upper section of the chainstay, but while it might be small, it seems to prevent chain slap rather effectively. Moreover, the chainstay looks a bit basic, but this fits in with the industrial look of the bike. Since our test bike is a pre-production model, some of the frame details are still in the development stage, including the rather rough-and-ready motor cover.

The spec of the 2023 NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift HRZ

The NICOLAI relies on the latest drive unit in the light ebike segment, the Bosch Performance Line SX motor, which delivers up to 55 Nm of torque and draws its power from a 400 Wh Bosch Compact Tube battery. The motor is paired with a big, handlebar-mounted Bosch LED remote, which shows just the battery charge status and current riding mode via LEDs, and is rather bulky compared to its competition. The suspension consists of a 150 mm FOX 36 Factory fork with fancy Kashima coating and FIT4 damper, which is cheaper and lighter than its top-tier GRIP2 counterpart and massively restricted the fork’s trail performance in our test. In opposite to our pre-production bike, a FOX 36 with GRIP2 damper will be installed in the series production bike. The fork is paired with a FOX FLOAT X Factory shock, which controls 140 mm of travel at the rear and offers countless adjustment options. FOX also supply the Transfer Factory Kashima dropper post, which worked flawlessly on this bike, but gave us problems on several occasions in the past, as it’s temperature sensitive and gets “stuck” at the bottom. The dropper on our test bike offers 170 mm of travel, which is slightly below average in this test. The most exotic component in the entire group test is the NICOLAI’s Hope Tech 4 V4 brake set, which perfectly matches the NICOLAI’s industrial look with their perfectly machined levers and eye-catching reservoirs. The brakes are incredibly powerful, and paired with a 200 rotor at the front and smaller 180 mm disc at the rear, which overheats rather quickly on long descents – we recommend running big 200 mm rotors front and rear. Shifting is taken care of by SRAM’s latest X0 Transmission 12-speed drivetrain, which ensures smooth gear shifts and makes perfect sense in combination with the powerful Bosch motor. For the cockpit, NICOLAI rely on German component brand NEWMEN, combining an EVOLUTION stem and matching 760 mm EVOLUTION handlebars, which are the narrowest in this test field. The NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift Rolls on a 29” DT Swiss XM 1700 alloy wheelset, which is incredibly robust in our experience. These are paired with Continental Kryptotal tires, in the FR variant at the front and RE version at the rear, both in the medium Enduro casing and soft rubber compound.

The Bosch Performance Line SX motor packs a punch, catapulting you uphill without breaking a sweat. The long rear end always keeps the front wheel planted on the ground.

Drop the anchor!
Hope’s Tech 4 V4 brakes not only provide powerful deceleration, but also complement the industrial look of the NICOLAI nicely.
Lightweight powerhouse
The Bosch Performance Line SX motor delivers plenty of oomph with high pedalling cadences, ensuring tons of uphill flow.
The fork’s fancy Kashima coating is deceiving, promising more performance than it can deliver. The FIT4 damper quickly reaches its limits with fast, consecutive hits and tends to stiffen up quite quickly.
Where does it come from?
NICOLAI write “Made in Germany” not only on their flag, but also on the non-drive side chainstay.
Sweat drops
Tidy weld seams and machine parts as far as the eye can see. NICOLAI are well known and appreciated for their high-quality alloy CNC-machining.


€ 11,999


Motor Bosch Performance Line SX 55 Nm
Battery Bosch CompactTube 400 Wh
Display Bosch System Controller
Fork FOX 36 Factory FIT4 150 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X Factory 140 mm
Seatpost FOX Transfer Factory 175 mm
Brakes Hope Tech 4 V4 200/180 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X0 Transmission 1x12
Handlebar NEWMEN EVOLUTION Alu 760 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss XM 1700 Alu 29"
Tires Continental Kryptotal FR, Enduro, Soft/Continental Kryptotal RE, Enduro, Soft 2.4"/2.4"

Technical Data

Weight 20.9 kg

Specific Features


Tuning tips: 200 mm brake rotor at the rear | If you spare the cash, it’s worth upgrading the fork to the superior GRIP2 damper.

Helmet Troy Lee Designs Flowline SE | Glasses 100% Glendale | Hip Pack Canyon Hip Bag
Jersey Northwave Bomb Jersey | Pants Northwave Bomb Long Pants | Shoes Fizik Gravita Tensor

The geometry of the 2023 NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift HRZ

NICOLAI’s geometries are just as exclusive as the brand itself. Particularly striking are the extremely long chainstays, which measure 452 mm across all frame sizes, from S to XXL. Speccing the same chainstay length across the board can lead to inconsistent handling between frame sizes. The five sizes should cover rider heights between 164 cm and 202 cm. Our test bike in size L features a rather lengthy 455 mm seat tube which sits at 76.5°. In combination with the 170 mm seat post, this restricts freedom of movement significantly.

Top tube 594 mm 629 mm 650 mm 670 mm 695 mm
Seat tube 400 mm 440 mm 455 mm 475 mm 505 mm
Head tube 110 mm 120 mm 130 mm 140 mm 155 mm
Head angle 64.8° 64.8° 64.8° 64.8° 64.8°
Seat angle 76.5° 76.5° 76.5° 76.5° 76.5°
Chainstays 452 mm 452 mm 452 mm 452 mm 452 mm
BB Drop 30 mm 30 mm 30 mm 30 mm 30 mm
Wheelbase 1,221 mm 1,258 mm 1,283 mm 1,304 mm 1,333 mm
Reach 447 mm 480 mm 500 mm 517 mm 538 mm
Stack 611 mm 620 mm 629 mm 638 mm 656 mm

The 2023 NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift HRZ 2023 2023 on the trail

The NICOLAI is without a doubt the most unconventional bike in this test. The first time you swing your leg over the saddle, you feel as if you were sitting on top of the bike rather than being integrated with the frame. Despite the long 500 mm reach, our test bike in size L puts you in a rather compact, upright pedalling position, which is mainly due to the steep seat tube angle, which makes it suitable for long days in the saddle. Speaking of long: the 400 Wh battery provides decent range, so there’s nothing stopping you from planning more ambitious tours. On climbs, the 55 Nm Bosch Performance Line SX motor packs a punch, provided you keep your cadence quite high. The long chainstays prevent the front wheel from lifting on steeper climbs, which means that you don’t have to actively weight the front end.

A feast for the eyes for mechanical engineering enthusiasts and welding fetishists! The NICOLAI bursts with German workmanship.

When the relaxed climb gives way to gravity, the upright position persists, ensuring plenty of pressure on the front wheel. As a result, the riding position is inherently front-heavy, which stops you from actively shifting your weight around the bike. This isn’t very comfortable, especially when you get stuck in a narrow rut, where even smaller side impacts unsettle the NICOLAI. Add the narrow 760 mm handlebars into the mix, and you don’t have much leverage to counteract the lateral forces. Fast, consecutive direction changes aren’t really an option with the SATURN, requiring just as much physical effort as a pair of concrete tap shoes. The long rear end almost makes you feel as if you were towing a trailer, resulting in sluggish handling. Intuitively, you would expect the NICOLAI to come to life on fast, straight sections, but that’s only true to a limited extent. While the NICOLAI is more composed than it is agile, the front end can only handle moderate speeds on rough terrain, as the FIT4 damper in our pre-production bike throws in the towel when the going gets fast. Needless to say, this robs you of confidence, which is a shame, because the rear suspension provides good amounts of support, meaning that it doesn’t suck up the rider’s input like a sandbag, allowing you to actively pump through rollers and pop off ledges. Fortunately, the Hope Tech 4 V4 brakes have your back when things get rowdy and the handling starts to get shaky in fast trail sections, where despite what the geometry chart might suggest, the SATURN doesn’t inspire much confidence at all. What you’re left with is a riding experience that is just as exotic as the bike itself.

Who should take a closer look at the 2023 NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift HRZ?

The NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift is aimed at NICOLAI aficionados and weld seam fetishists alike. If you’re a mechanical engineering enthusiast who would have loved to weld your own bike, you’ll get your money’s worth too. As an aluminium light e-mountainbike, the NICOLAI is a rare find in its category and you probably won’t see another one of these any time soon. Of course, it’s also aimed at uphill enthusiasts who love to challenge themselves and their friends on climbs despite the light support, and aren’t too fussed about descending on technical descents with tight hairpin switchbacks.



  1. sluggish
  2. efficient


  1. cumbersome
  2. playful


  1. nervous
  2. confident


  1. demanding
  2. balanced


  1. harsh
  2. plush


  1. planted
  2. poppy


  1. terrible
  2. very good


Cross Country




Our conclusions about the 2023 NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift HRZ

The NICOLAI SATURN 14 Swift HRZ 2023 is exotic in all respects, in terms of handling, manufacturing process and aesthetics. The combination of finely machined parts, alloy tubes and coarse weld seams sets it apart from the crowd. Riding uphill, the Bosch motor ensures plenty of flow, but descents require a great deal of effort to get used to the peculiar handling. This costs the SATURN precious points and pushes it right back towards the bottom of the test field.


  • Made in Germany
  • Exclusive mechanical engineering look


  • Unconventional handling takes a lot of getting used to
  • Inconsistent spec doesn’t do justice to the bike’s intended use

You can find out more about at nicolai-bicycles.com

The test field

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike 2024 – 15 of the most exciting trail bikes in our 2024 comparison test

All bikes in test: Cannondale Habit LT 1 (Click for review) | Cube ONE55 C:62 SLT 29 (Click for review) | Ghost RIOT Trail Full Party (Click for review) | Merida ONE-FORTY 10K (Click for review) | Mondraker Neat RR SL (Click for review) | Nicolai Saturn 14 Swift HRZ | Orbea Occam LT M10 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Heckler SL XX AXS RSV (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Hightower X0 AXS RSV (Click for review) | Scor 2030 X01 (Click for review) | SCOTT Genius ST 900 Tuned (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL (Click for review) | Trek Fuel EX 9.9 X0 AXS T-Type (Click for review) | Yeti SB140 LR T3 X0 (Click for review) | YT JEFFSY CORE 5 CF (Click for review)

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Words: Julian Schwede Photos: Peter Walker

About the author

Julian Schwede

Juli is used to dealing with big rigs. Besides working on his bike, he also tinkered and worked on buses after completing his training as a vehicle mechatronics engineer. Since the development of large-scale electric motors was too slow for him, he went on to study technical business administration while building carbon fibre tables on the side. Though his DJ bike is welded from thick aluminium tubes, his full-susser is made of carbon and it's already taken him to the top of numerous summits. Apart from biking, he likes climbing via ferratas or vertically on the wall. Nowadays, his personal bike gets ridden less as he tests the bikes that get sent to us, pushing them to their limits to see what they're capable of. In addition to bike reviews, Juli also takes care of the daily news and thinks of himself as the Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent.