BLISS ON TWO WHEELS: A 9-week biking journey from Portugal to Holland on the Van Nicholas Titanium ‘Deveron’ Touring Bike.
If somebody had instructed me that I used to be going to fly to the opposite aspect of the world from Australia, decide up a touring bike that I’d by no means seen earlier than, soar on it and experience 3,500 km over 9 weeks by means of all terrains with loaded panniers, I’d most likely have mentioned they had been dreaming. However, that’s what occurred, precisely. Alongside the way in which I bought to know the Van Nicholas (VN) Deveron Titanium touring bike just like the again of my hand and right here’s what I consider it.
The VN Deveron is a full titanium, touring particular bike. It appears to be like eye catchingly good, is fantastically constructed, and comes with all of the attachments you’d affiliate with a excessive finish touring bike – back and front kickstands, dynamo hub, pannier racks, high quality mudguards, sturdy design and end, high quality tires and (typical of a Dutch constructed bike) a key operated again wheel lock. It additionally has a few additional options which certain stand out within the crowd – an 18 velocity Pinion gearing system and a Gates heart drive belt. The mannequin I rode was additionally geared up with a set of Magura hydraulic rim brakes. The Deveron has that unmistakable ‘strong’ really feel that severe touring bikes undertaking. The geometry guarantees a ‘relaxed’ experience.
After many months of group and planning, in early Might 2016 I met up with my good pal TOURING-BICYCLE from www.bicycletouringpro.com (BTP) in Lisbon and after a number of days sightseeing traveled north to the greater than useful VN agent, Miguel Tomazzini. A couple of changes later (the resort lobby turned a motorcycle workshop for a short time) we had been off and heading down the highway. The plan was to do three cycle excursions in Portugal ending up within the Douro area, then head north by means of Portugal, then northern Spain into France. Darren would then head south into Andorra from Foix, whereas I turned north and headed for Holland.
The primary day was solely a 70 km experience, however was the standard first time out touring, i.e. stopping each half-hour to re-adjust one thing which wasn’t fairly proper – pedals, seat, handlebars and so forth. (you understand the story). After that I used to be snug and was free to get to know the bike.
Darren and I had a good time seeing the sights of Portugal, Spain and France from the bike saddle. We ate fairly effectively, examined our rain-gear usually and took heaps of images and movies for later publication. Darren’s newly acquired drone additionally made it’s first look and there’s loads of movies from our biking journey so that you can watch on the Bicycle Touring Professional YouTube channel.
The surroundings was nice, with a number of variation between surf, seashores, mountains, agricultural nation, cities, and fields of wildflowers – we had all of it. A number of the greater cities are tough to get by means of, however as soon as we had been again within the countryside we had been joyful. A number of the climbs had been taxing and a number of the descents spectacular. I particularly beloved shopping for native fruit, apricots, and cherries from roadside stalls. The Portuguese wines went down effectively after a protracted day.
The First Impressions
Properly, ‘clean and cozy’ had been the primary issues that I bear in mind feeling. The titanium and the construct certain do assist to clean that highway out. We had been on gravel and bitumen with a little bit of rain and wind blown sand that first day and the experience was sensible. The Pinion system was completely new to me so feeling my means across the gears took up all my idle moments, however by the tip of that first day I felt that I had the ‘really feel’ for the Pinion system.
The following impression was the ‘seat’ of the bike on the highway. It ran true and safe because of the geometry and the positioning of the Pinion gearbox. The phrase that got here to thoughts was ‘using on rails’. My experience at dwelling (and the bike I rode with Darren in Taiwan) is a VN Yukon, which has rather more nippy geometry, and the Deveron is a very completely different really feel – ’relaxed’ sums it up.
It was additionally environment friendly…no matter I placed on the pedals went straight to the highway, very direct and easy.
The Magura hydraulic rim brakes are smooth and clean. Regardless of being rim brakes, they pull up effectively and no sore fingers after lengthy descents. They wanted adjusting as soon as after 200 km and nothing additional. Newer fashions of the Deveron will most likely have disc brakes.
The Gates heart drive belt is well-known and written about everywhere in the web and I’ll assist each optimistic assessment of it. No lube, no adjustment, no cleansing, no fuss and quiet – ‘flawless’ fairly effectively sums it up.
The Pinion gearing system is the longer term for touring bikes in my view. Quite a few MTBs have this method now and there’s a brand new lighter weight mannequin simply launched, however the set of 18 velocity gears on the Deveron was sensational. What do I imply by that ? Properly, the vary of gears (636% or so from high to backside) meant that there was at all times a gear it doesn’t matter what. Gear 1 dealt with the mountains in northern Portugal and the Basque nation simply and far of the time I fluctuated between gears 1 to 4 for many climbs. Contemplating that I’m 68 years previous, a youthful, fitter rider with extra lung capability would breeze up something in larger gears than me. The purpose being that there are many low gears for the loaded climbs.
The center of the vary gears, 6 to 10 are fabulous in ‘lumpy’ nation (eg, Belgian Ardennes) and the upper finish of the vary 10 to 18 are actual candy cruising gears, 16 being my favourite with the solar shining and a small tailwind! The 11% increments between gears made for clean transitions from one to a different. The power to alter gears whereas stationary and having the ability to skip a number of when caught out on a hill can be a plus.
With 18 straight usable gears, no duplication. Nothing to lube, regulate, clear or typically fiddle with – it’s on the bike and away every single day. The truth that the Pinion weighs round 4 kgs provides to the general dealing with of the bike by centering and decreasing the entire heart of gravity. Which means the bike feels anchored and secure on the highway, a phenomena which has been described in different evaluations of the Pinion system. I can’t converse extremely sufficient of Pinion.
Whereas it could be of little curiosity to the touring bicycle owner, I observed that the Deveron can be surprisingly quick for a motorcycle of it’s kind. On a few days I ‘put the foot down’ and was actually zipping alongside, to my nice amusement and pleasure… it was nice enjoyable.
Every part else labored completely – the dynamo hub which was turned on from day one to the tip. The Shwalbe Marathon Almotion tires – not one puncture. The pannier racks, the mudguards, the pump (I pumped up another person’s tires at some point!), the Brooks ergonomic handlebar grips – didn’t have the slightest downside with something.
One other characteristic of the Deveron completely price noting is the addition of a entrance kickstand which was an excellent bonus. It attaches to the entrance pannier rack and means no extra juggling the load of the bike when packing. Hadn’t seen one earlier than, however price becoming on any touring bike – I’m a convert.
The Deveron dealt with no matter situations introduced themselves on any and every single day. Some days had been within the rain and dust, some on sandy tracks and all qualities of bitumen from very tough to runway clean. The experience was at all times snug and clean, with me getting off the bike within the afternoons contemporary and in good condition. Some days I completed, had a espresso and rode one other 30 km simply because I felt nice. The ‘highway smoothing’ qualities of titanium are effectively documented and the Deveron isn’t any exception. No sore necks or shoulders. When you’re within the ‘candy’ gear, the pedaling appears easy… as I discussed earlier, each little bit of vitality you set by means of the pedal finally ends up on the highway. I rode primarily on again roads with little visitors and the occasional cycle-way. One time in Portugal the highway simply stopped and we needed to soar a barrier and experience like loopy for 10 km alongside a freeway till we discovered an exit.
Descending on lengthy steep descents was additionally attention-grabbing. The Deveron appears to hurry up very easily and steadily. There’s by no means a sense of getting ‘uncontrolled’. I’m at all times cautious on the descents and with the mixed weight round 115kgs (me, Deveron and equipment), it provides as much as a fairly a little bit of momentum going downhill, however the experience was at all times true, clean and controllable, rain or in any other case. As I discussed earlier, the Magura hydraulic brakes are smooth and my fingers had been by no means drained or crampy after a protracted, generally chilly/moist descent.
Quite a few completely different cyclists wished to attempt the Deveron out whereas I used to be using the bike throughout Europe this summer season and their first remark was at all times how clean the experience was. This was at all times the primary impression from others, not solely me. Different riders additionally favored the Pinion gearing and most mentioned they wished one!
Whereas using every single day, I went over the Deveron in my thoughts and tried to seek out features which had been disappointing or which failed or didn’t work effectively each time. Fact to inform, I couldn’t discover something. Certain, the brakes wanted one slight adjustment, however that was actually a easy ‘200 km service’ fairly than a fault. No different part failed or gave hassle or didn’t meet the excessive requirements which VN promoted. I’m a free agent and don’t work for VN, so if there have been issues or deficiencies within the Deveron, I’d be the primary to announce them, however merely put… there weren’t any. The one factor I can say is that the bike I rode had aluminum forks and my private desire could be for metal.
The VN Deveron is a excessive finish, dependable, sturdy, heavy obligation, touring particular bike which delivers on the promise of a snug, trouble-free tour. It’s the type of bike which I might fortunately soar on tomorrow and experience to wherever, I belief it fully. The mix of the Pinion gearing and the Gates centre drive belt is the ‘gold commonplace’ and is the way forward for bicycle touring in my opinion. The nineteenth century American poet Walt Whitman wrote a poem entitled “As A Chook On Pinions Free” which type of sums it up!
There are a lot of touring bikes in the marketplace and an growing quantity with the Gates/Pinion mixture. They’re most likely all fairly good and are priced across the identical value vary and have comparable options. Nevertheless, I haven’t ridden all of these different manufacturers and I’m not into evaluating one with one other, however I’ve ridden the Van Nicholas Deveron as a lot or greater than anybody and I feel that it’s the most effective… the ‘gold commonplace’. If there’s a greater touring bike round, I’d like to experience it and evaluate.