NICOLAI ION G16 EBOXX
Nicolai is a German bike brand that made their name on building some exotic, full-suspension mountain bikes, and they’ve now made the leap into the e-bike market. We recently had the chance to test their latest Bosch CX-powered Ion G16 Eboxx in the Rincine Trail Area near Florence, Italy. Nicolai takes a unique approach in the mountain bike market and are known as the go-to frame maker when a company has a special project or when any concepts need to be tested.
Nicolai has long been at the forefront of modern mountain bike frame-geometry development. All bikes have been getting longer and slacker, but nothing is as long and slack as the G16. The medium size we rode has the same reach as a normal-to-long large frame from many other designers.
“Riding the G16 in this corner, we simply drifted by the tree in one of the most surprising, controlled pieces of sideways action we’ve ever had on slippery conditions.”
The aluminum frame has an extruded double-wall downtube for strength and to house the power-tube Bosch battery. All cable routing is also internal and easily threaded through these extra cavities on either side of the downtube, and the battery is contained and protected by a custom battery cover. All bearings on the frame use extra O-ring seals, plus sealed bearings to create a quad seal.
There is a 10-year availability of spare parts guaranteed and a five-year warranty on the product. The frame also is completely customizable with “mutator links” that allow any wheel size to be used, any shock and allow any form of micro adjust to be done to the geometry. If that isn’t enough, the bike can be ordered (for an extra $805) with your own desired geometry pre-welded into the frame. All of that for a cheaper price than many top-of-the-range production bikes.
The G16 is a very special bike. First, they set up a custom unit just for us to test, and second their development tester Paul Aston asked for a range of details about our preferences for bike setup before he even arrived.
Paul says Nicolai bikes are, “Generally sold through our direct-sale platform and so are delivered with standard setup. But, if you come on a test ride with me, we will help with setup so that the rider can mirror when the bike arrives. In the future, we are hoping to deliver preset to riders’ needs and even with the handlebars aligned and the pedals attached.”
Component choice is customizable, the setup we tried included a wireless seatpost, which we found interesting, and a 29-inch front wheel and 27.5-inch rear wheel. Braking was provided by Magura with their MT7 brakes, which were sharp and gave a good feedback on the trail with zero fade. Both ends were supported by 160mm of Fox suspension travel.
Bosch provides the juice and kinetic energy to power the bike along. The Kiox display is centrally mounted and has all the power modes expected from Bosch. We mostly used the e-MTB mode, which is a dynamic mode that takes readings from the torque sensor to give more power when the rider pushes harder—almost like having an automatic transmission. Bosch was the first company to implement this as a feature. The Bosch motor gives a solid push up the hill that never falters. It feels like you have power on tap when you want it. This less-cycle feeling might be interesting to riders who come from a motorcycle background.
Battery life is as expected from a 500-Wh battery, giving us about 2700 feet of climbing for our 200-pound weight. We can swap the battery out easily, so with two batteries, a rider can enjoy a big day out on a bike.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
Bikes like this are going to appeal to those who like to be at the very front end of bike development and trust the ideas of forward-thinking designers. If you feel safe with a more current market-oriented approach to bike design and geometry then this bike will challenge your ideas and might make you feel uncomfortable. It will probably take five years for the mass market to get to the start of these geometry numbers and even then it will be a controversial move. If you feel ready for change and want your bike to be a new riding experience the G16 could be that bike.
E-bikes are obviously meant to give a climbing experience that excels; otherwise, there would be little point to having an electric assist. The G16 was the very best I’ve have ridden for climbing in our recent memory. The notable function of this was the fact there was no front-end lift on steep trails. We ran out of leg power before the front end lifted. Very few bikes have given us this experience. Bosch motor power and this geometry are a challenge to beat.
The 133.3cm wheelbase is long, and the head angle is an open 63.5 degrees. The rear chainstay distance gives extreme stability when climbing, though the rider position doesn’t feel extreme, and the added reach means the rider feels cocooned in a very stable setup. It is possible to pop wheelies easily, and riding whoops is simple. Cornering is the same as another bike we have ridden, except more stable, and the extra length did not stop us getting around any corners.
The first corner we hit was off-camber and slippery wet mud on a steep slope, with a tree at the apex waiting to ruin us. Riding the G16 in this corner, we simply drifted by the tree in one of the most surprisingly, controlled pieces of sideways action we’ve ever had on slippery conditions. After that experience the rest of our trail riding time was only a reflection of this. Whoops were plush and stable, and the jumps seemed smaller than when we were riding on another bike. The ability to drift and blast our way through anything made us feel like the bike was unable to crash. Security in extreme trails as we get older is important, as is the idea that we want to still feel like a hero riding. Straight-line speed is smooth and confidence-inspiring, and we struggled to think about negative elements of the bike.
Suspension at these head angles, though, does need to be turned properly. The front end had a tendency to feel a little harsh in very fast, rocky or stutter sections. After much discussion with fork manufacturers, we found out it was because of lubrication. With an extreme head angle, the mid-chassis flex action and characteristics placed on the Fox fork put this single-crown fork and most forks at the limit of front-to-back stiffness. It is like sitting in the middle of a bridge with no central support; it is going to flex. Recommended solutions to make sure no binding took place during this flex or limiting stiction includes storing the fork at a horizontal angle (hang bike up by front wheel) and good fork maintenance.
We tried the standard derailed shifting, which worked flawlessly. However, Nicolai also offers a Gates Carbon Belt-Drive version with electric, 14-speed, internal hub shifting from Rohloff.
This is one of the best-handling, current, aluminum, customizable e-bikes we have ridden for off-road use since we started riding e-bikes. It’s hard to quantify why and how without riding one. The price reflects the excellent build quality and the design approach.
Yes, it is heavy, and yes, we like lightweight e-bikes, so we are ready to change our opinion as soon as something else we test makes us think otherwise. The G16 easily sits at the upper reaches of modern bike design. Some will love it, while some will just look at the numbers and complain. All we can say is, try one and be prepared to enter into a world where you question your own riding skills and how they relate to a bike.
NICOLAI ION G16 EBOXX
Price: $7499 (note: a custom price applies to custom builds)
Motor: Bosch Performance Line CX
Battery: Bosch Power Tube 500 Vertical Black
Charge time: 4–5 hours
Top speed: 25 km/h (15.5 mph)
Range: 25–45 km/h (15.5–28 mph)
Drive: SRAM GX
Brakes: Magura MT7, 203mm front, 180mm rear
Controls: Bosch Kiox
Fork: Fox Racing Shox 36 Float 170 HSC/LSC FIT Factory Boost, 29”
Rear shock: Fox Racing Float X2, Comp-Lever, Factory, e-optimized plus
Frame: Nicolai Ion-G-16 EBOXX
Tires: Continental Der Baron Projekt ProTection Apex 29 + 27.5
Weight: 55 lbs
Color Choice: Black
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