Van Nicholas 650b Pioneer

Van Nicholas 650b Pioneer

For the bicycle tourist, Japan is a heavenly destination — one filled simultaneously with bright excitement and serene hideaways. You can pitch a tent just about anywhere, the locals are polite, the scenery and culture is spellbinding, and so is the terrain.

Van Nicholas is a Dutch company that specialise in bicycles for the dedicated European tourist and although this one was designed for 26″ wheels, it’s heading for Japan with 650b sizes instead, where they are more common.

Van Nicholas 650b Pioneer

You may remember the wonderful Cinelli Porteur we featured a while ago, built up by Martin Zeplichal, a Viennese designer and developer. He was also keen to share another project: his Van Nicholas Pioneer that he intends to take on a tour of Japan next year.

Van Nicholas 650b Pioneer

The 26″ frame took a bit of tinkering to accommodate the 650b wheels, but that was accomplished through the use of Paul Components’ vertically adjustable Motolite brakes, which enable a 650b or 700c wheel to be run on a 26″ frame.

Van Nicholas 650b Pioneer

Martin applied a similar style to his tourer that he did for the porteur, allowing us to admire the beauty of aged metal. The titanium frame and polished parts look shiny now, but after a few thousand miles will begin to develop their own stories.

Van Nicholas 650b Pioneer

The introduction is already told by the rear light, a Radios unit from the 60s that’s been updated with LEDs and powered by the SON Edelux dynamo front hub. The headlight is set on a custom mount atop aluminium fenders.

Van Nicholas 650b Pioneer

The drivetrain is powered by a high-polished White Industries crankset slotted into an eccentric bottom bracket — a choice of single speeders worldwide — the robust construction of which will guarantee years of trouble-free cycling.

The rear wheel is built around a maintenance-free 14-gear Rohloff internal hub, also preferred by serious tourers and commuters. It’s a serious bit of kit, but the perfect vehicle for losing — and finding yourself — in the Japanese countryside.

Special thanks once again to Martin Zeplichal and Bengt Stiller for the photos.

Van Nicholas 650b Pioneer

  • Ur Momma

    Very serious kit. Nicely overbuilt for longevity.

  • Opulence ≠ taste. Less than sum of parts.

  • Mark Twain

    This baby is built to overcome another atomic bomb without a scratch. Love the classic randonneur elements on modern technology. Very stylish.

  • Dolan Halbrook

    Nice build, but if you’re going down that (rather expensive) road, why not a custom Ti 650b-specific frame instead of retrofitting something off the shelf? I really dig the fender mounted Edelux however.

    • tsetse

      Originally I’ve planed to built up the frame with 26″ wheels but when testing, I instantly found it had far too much clearance for relatively skinny 26″ randonneur tires. Luckily the frame turned out to fit perfectly with a 650B rim and the Grand Bois Lierre, which is my favorite tire. The Ti fork however is custom designed and built to fit this situation. Plus: 650B tires are easy to get in Japan, the future home of this bike.

  • Batsi

    Love the bike! Can anyone tell me what rear light this is?

    • tsetse

      The rear light is a vintage (french) Radios light with modern LED internals and stand-light. You’ll find lots of cool vintage lights on french e-bay.

      The cute little fender mount is designed and CNC machined by Mitch Pryor of M.A.P. cycles.

      • Batsi

        thanks!