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 specialize 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 aluminum fenders.
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.