Minus the warplane nostalgia, the Van Nicholas (VN) brand isn?t quite as sexy as that of the Dutch firm?s original Airborne incarnation, but the bikes certainly are, and the

well-crafted titanium for which it became popular is still offered at great value.

The deals may not be as cut-price as some of the internet bargains these days, but let?s not forget we?re dealing with titanium here, and very nicely finished titanium at that.

The Amazon is made from standard grade 3AL/2.5V titanium, and ours is built up with Shimano 105, with a Shimano compact chainset to add versatility.

At £1,800 it sits somewhere mid-range in the VN line-up. If you were feeling budget conscious you could pick the sporty aluminium Vardar, built with 105 for £920; or at the other end of the scale you could dig out the plastic and go for the Aeolus, an all-out race bike made from high-grade 6AL/4V Ti and built up with Campagnolo Record for £2,880. Still pretty good value, we?d say.

The idea was to find a truly do-it-all machine, a bike for life, and if anything ever fitted the bill, the Amazon does. The wide tyre clearance and cantilever brakes mean that this is a bike you can not only go touring on, you could fit knobbly tyres and race cyclo-cross on it too if you wanted. It?s even got a disc brake mount at the back.

But it?s also light enough to cope with sportives, and I reckon at a push you could ride a road race on it. Throughout the course of this year I intend to find out how it fares at all of these disciplines.

SPECIFICATION: VAN NICHOLAS AMAZON

Distributor www.vannicholas.com

Price £1,762

Frame 3AL/2.5V titanium

Fork VN SLX carbon

Size range 50, 54, 56, 58, 60cm

Weight 19.5lb (inc. pedals)

Groupset Shimano 105

Deviations Shimano R700

compact chainset

Alterations none

Gear ratios 50/36 with 12-25

Wheels Fulcrum Racing 5 EVO

Tyres Continental GP4000

Bars VN VNT

Stem VN VNT

Seatpost VN VNT

Saddle VN VNT

Size tested 56cm

FIRST RIDE RATING: 9/10