We've reported on Lal bikes' Supre drivetrain several times before
. But now, for the first time, there's a production-ready bike that you can actually buy using the unique gearing system.
To recap, the Supre drivetrain is the brainchild of Canadian engineer, Cedric Eveleigh. The idea is to keep the derailleur out of harm's way by splitting the gear-selecting part and the chain-tensioning part. The gear-selector pulley sits high up, above the bottom of the cassette at all times, making it less likely to be struck by rocks, while the chain tensioner pulley sits above - and concentric to - the bottom bracket. As a bonus, this allows the tensioner arm to use a hydraulic damper hidden inside the downtube; compared to the basic friction clutch found in most derailleurs, this is claimed to reduce chain slap and make shifting smoother. It's claimed to be slightly more efficient
than a conventional drivetrain with an idler too.
Nicolai Nucleon 16 Details
• Intended use: "enduro racing, freeride and bike park"
• High pivot with Lal Bikes Supre drivetrain
• 1x12, 10-51 tooth, regular Shimano cassette, chain & shifter
• Superboost 157mm rear hub
• 165 or 178 mm rear travel, 160-180 mm fork
• 29" or mixed-wheel compatible
• 78.6° seat angle, 64° head angle
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
• Price: From €7,499
• More info
The system only works with high-pivot designs and - much like a gearbox bike - the frame has to be designed around the requirements of the drivetrain. Cedric told us he was working with several frame manufacturers who wanted to use it, but we didn't think we'd see a Supre-equipped bike this soon.
Nicolai have built bikes with unconventional drivetrains before, so it isn't surprising to see them come to market first with Supre. The Nicolai Nucleon 16 is a long-travel monster with Nicolai's signature lengthy sizing. The frame delivers either 165 mm of travel with a 60 mm stroke shock or 178 mm of travel with a 65mm shock. Nicolai say it works with 160 to 180 mm forks, but given the rear travel, I suspect most will opt for the higher end of that range. It can be run with a pair of 29" wheels or mixed sizes.
It's interesting to see how Nicolai have designed the bike around the drivetrain. The swingarm encloses the gear selector, giving it extra protection, while the thin upper part of the swingarm fits between the upper and lower chain spans, which are much closer together than with a conventional derailleur.
The gear selector bolts onto the swingarm with two bolts, so you can't hack up a conventional derailleur to fit; but the cassette, chain and shifter are off-the-shelf Shimano units. The 92mm T47 bottom bracket and Superboost 157 mm rear axle are "standard" too, if not the most common options.
The Nucleon 16 is a single-pivot bike. The shock is driven by a rocker link at the rear, which is connected to the swingarm by a pair of tie rods. The front shock mount is connected directly to the mainframe.
The idler pulley is connected to the swingarm and so moves with the suspension. This positioning gives a generous amount of anti-squat, especially in the climbing gears. Unusually for an idler bike, there is also a substantial amount of pedal-kickback in the larger sprockets as well.
The Nucleon 16 is offered in 5 frame sizes, designed to fit riders between 1.55 and 2.10 meters (5′ 1″ to 6′ 11″). The larger frames get more reinforced tubes to cope with the extra weight and stresses they're likely to see.
Being Nicolai, the geometry is pretty lengthy (up to 555 mm reach in the XXL size!) and the seat angle is steep, but the 64-degree head angle is more conventional than Nicolai's Geometron bikes.
Nicolai's website says the bike can be ordered now and will be delivered from December 2022. The price for the frame without gears and without damper is €3,099. Complete bikes are available from €7499.