Crafted by hand on a farm in Northern Germany, the NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX sports a radical concept that questions everything ever known about geometry. So what exactly is the potential stacked within this E-MTB penned by visionary e-bike pioneer Kalle Nicolai?
It doesn’t take an expert to notice that this bike flaunts many attributes of high-quality engineering, a testament to NICOLAI’s unmatched position as a bike brand representing German engineering and edgy industrial design. This brand came to the fore as e-bike pioneers way back in 2009, and the NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX is their youngest creation, lovingly manufactured in a small run and at 100% on the farm.
Spec of the NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX
The NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX has been launched in three build specs, and we’ve had the mid-range model on test – albeit with a few changes from the original spec. It retails at € 5,999, equipped with a Bosch CX Performance motor with a Purion display, a SRAM GX drivetrain, and RockShox suspension consisting of a PIKE RCT3 fork and a Monarch Plus RC3 at the rear. This burly stealth bomber tips the scales at a pretty substantial 24.8 kg. In terms of geometry, a glance at the figures are enough to raise an eyebrow: yep, it’s pretty damn radical. But does radical mean better?
Motor Bosch Performance CX
Battery Bosch Powerpack 500
Fork RockShox PIKE RCT3 160 mm
Rear shock RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 DB 160 mm
Drivetrain: SRAM GX
Brakes SRAM Guide R
Handlebar Renthal FatBar 780 mm
Stem Hope AM 35
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth 170 mm
Tires WTB Trail Boss 3,00“
Wheelset Hope Tech W35
The NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX in detail
GeoMetron – the new Geometry benchmark?
Based on their GeoMetron approach to geometry used on their conventional mountain bikes, the NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX takes the same geo cues, going for a longer, lower, and slacker set-up: the super-long reach, slack head angle, and long chainstay lengths result in an ultra-long wheelbase. According to NICOLAI, this lends itself to masses of smoothness and stability, a low centre of gravity, and increased stability at high speeds and while cornering. It’s a geometry style they’ve honed in downhill World Cup events, so how will it score on an E-MTB?
|Sattelrohr||420 mm||450 mm||470 mm||500 mm||520 mm|
|Oberrohr||621 mm||643 mm||662 mm||681 mm||705 mm|
|Steuerrohr||110 mm||120 mm||130 mm||150 mm||170 mm|
|Kettenstrebe||461 – 474 mm||461 – 474 mm||461 – 474 mm||461 – 474 mm||461 – 474 mm|
|Tretlagerabsenkung||0 mm||0 mm||0 mm||0 mm||0 mm|
|Radstand||1312 mm||1333 mm||1354 mm||1376 mm||1404 mm|
|Reach||485 mm||502 mm||520 mm||535 mm||555 mm|
|Stack||598 mm||598 mm||607 mm||625 mm||643 mm|
Our first impression was a little dubious – this bike’s 520 mm reach and 1,354 mm wheelbase made it look like a tanker that’d struggle to steer around anything that isn’t as broad as a football pitch. Take the Haibike XDURO Dwnhll (size L) for comparison, which has a 426 mm reach and 1,262 mm wheelbase. However, these concerns were almost immediately eliminated once we’d got used to the NICOLAI’s ride.
The NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX on the trail
Five test riders–made up of a 60-year-old quasi-pensioner, an e-bike newbie, plus competitive enduro riders and ex-downhill World Cup racer – took to the NICOLAI and came to a unanimous conclusion: this bike isn’t just breath-catchingly quick, it’s also super-stable. There’s as much smoothness and confidence delivered on flowing singletrack as there is over burly technical trails. The great riding position lends itself to a safe, certain ride; even faced with the steepest downhill sections, all the test riders could keep it perfectly poised.
There’s a ton of room on the bike to play with your body position without unsettling the stability. This makes it much easier to keep balanced over technical terrain, as the super-long geometry makes the sweet spot much wider than that of a more conventionally-sized bike. However, on the flip side, the NICOLAI demands muscle while cornering, and you’ll have to adopt a more active steering style to guide it. Dial in those tweaks to your riding style and you’ll agree that it’d be tough to find a more stable and secure corner-killer than the ION-G16! Also, forget worrying about boredom from its ‘strong and stable’ predisposition, as the NICOLAI is a worthy bike primed for tearing down trails at super-high speeds without any worries about crashing. Trust us, you’ll be amazed by this big-throw-bike’s composure!
However, we’ve also got some constructive criticism. While the geometry can tackle almost anything, the spec on the ION-G16 EBOXX isn’t able to match the performance, and we were left wanting for more bike: grippier tires, more potent suspension, and better brakes.
So what’s the NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX like on the climbs?
You’re probably thinking that such descending prowess has to come at the cost of the ascents. Wrong! Before testing we’d never have reckoned on the NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX outshining every single E-MTB we’ve ever tested on the steepest gradient we could find. Those long chainstays counter the super-slack head angle to keep the front of the bike firmly planted. The only limiting factor we could conjure up was the Continental Trail King tires, but these were also a weakness on the downhills. At 2.4″ and with a low profile tread, these tires just couldn’t generate sufficient traction.
The uninterrupted seat tube design allowed NICOLAI to fit a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post with 170 mm of adjustment. The bike’s 788 mm standover height proved ideal for the test riders too. Teamed with the steep 75° seat angle, you’ve got yourself a mega-efficient climbing position. Drop the post and you’re met with a veritable playground to explore on the descents.
What does the NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX say about the future development of E-MTBs?
There have been major leaps in the evolution of mountain bike geometry in the past five years. Right now, E-MTB geometry poses an additional challenge for the industry. Looking at the scope of E-MTB users, the demands are vast: there needs to be a geometry approach that serves the needs of entry-level riders as well as performance-focused ones. Most manufacturers strive for a reflection of conventional mountain bike geometry or seek to design a bike with super-short chainstays. Balance is one of the key concerns – and this is where the ION-G16 shines. It propels everything that we thought we knew about geometry into question; ask us, and the ION-G16 could be the catalyst for a revolution and provide some clues as to what to expect from E-MTBs in the next five years or so.
So how do I get my hands on an NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX?
The bike can be ordered from NICOLAI’s online store right now. There’s also the option to arrange a test ride at NICOLAI’s HQ in Lübbrechtsen, Northern Germany, where you can properly get to grips with the bike and buy it in person. The bikes are all hand-welded and assembled at the HQ, so production is limited. As a result, don’t count on mass availability or rapid delivery times.
Once our initial scepticism about the NICOLAI ION-G16 EBOXX’s radical geometry proved unfounded, we could muse on just how well this bike serves the needs of newbies and experts. Exclusively hand-made in Germany, the bike offers value for money – although as mentioned, that spec could do with some tuning. Our stoke level is so high right now that we wouldn’t bet against this particular E-MTB going down as the year’s best hit!
– Super-stable handling
– Visionary geometry
– Fair price
– Made in Germany
– Inadequate spec at times
– Shifter hits top tube
For more information head to nicolai-bicycles.com
Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Valentin Rühl