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Thorn Nomad long term review

2010 / Steel frame size L / Rohloff spededhub 14 speeds / V-brake Shimano Deore XT

Panos is an expat living in Brussels just like me. We met a couple of years ago in the classic Brussels Tour: an amateur 40 kms race held each year in June. At the time I was racing with a heavy 15kg touring bike and Panos was racing with the very same bike we are reviewing today (14,5kg). We improvised a two person peloton… we didn’t win, but we’ve been cycling together since. Here is his long term review of the legendary Thorn Nomad.

At the time you bought this bike, what were you looking for ?

I bought this bike in 2011 when I was living in London. I was looking for a touring expedition bike capable of handling different terrains. I knew I would mainly ride on paved roads but I wanted a bike that would survive forest roads and non-technical single track so generous clearance for MTB tires was a must. I was also looking for something comfortable that would require low maintenance which comes in handy when riding in muddy conditions or remote places. This inevitably brought me to a selection of a few specific bike brands that combined a strong steel frame and Rohloff’s internal gearing hub. Due to their long experience building steel bikes specifically for Rohloff, Thorn Cycles was (and still is) the leader among them.

Is this an early bikepacking bike ?

Yeah, a protobikepacking bike if I can say so. It has a suspension corrected geometry to fit a 100mm sus-fork ! Robin Thorn (the main man behind Thorn Cycles) was somehow a pioneer on this front. Thorn Cycles has been an established English bicycle manufacturer that has been specializing in expedition - touring bikes for several decades now. When I bought the Thorn Nomad, this was still a very niche market. Today, as you know, it is a whole different story with a new bikepacking or gravel bike released almost every other week.

What are the riding qualities of this bike ?

Stability is probably the most noticeable one of them. The Nomad rides best in difficult terrain, and especially when loaded, I think the main aspect behind this feature is its exceptionally long wheelbaseI could easily fit the bike with 29 inches wheels if there was some additional clearance. On the other hand, when it's unloaded and with stiff touring tires it does feel stiff.

Thankfully its tire clearance for 26” wheels compensates for this drawback. I can fit 2.4” at the back and 2.3” at the front so with a couple of good supple tires the ride feels comfortable and steady on gravel or off road.

How do you like the Jones H bars ?

In my view, after drop bars they are the bars that offer the most varied and comfortable hand positions. It took me some time to get used to them but I came to really appreciate their feel. They also provide ample space to attach front bikepacking bags. I had to replace the original handlebar, a slightly bended backwards flat bar, as it was bringing my torso way too much off the front of the bike to a racy position. I also swapped its original stem for a shorter one and with the Jones H bars pushing me back with their 45° of sweep I reached my ideal riding position on this bike. My weight is now placed right in the middle of its wheelbase which makes for the stable feel it has every time I ride it.

What are your top likes and dislikes ?

Its fit: after a few years of trying out different riding positions I finally dialled in the perfect fit. Its long wheel base: It makes the bike feel very stable and comfortable.

The Rohloff: the fact that is low maintenance and extremely durable, I don’t have to worry about frequent adjustments. I also like the way gears change with Rohloff You can jump from low to heavy gears instantly or even when you are stopped. The tire clearance: It allows me to fit different tire combos and always be sure that there is enough space for fenders.

The Schwalbe Rocket Ron and the Maxxis Ikon: both are very cushy and grippy off road tires.

The pedals: The Japanese MKS have resurrected this retro looking bear-trap pedal design from the 90s. That’s a nod to my first MTB days from that time in Greece.

Dislike: the frame could be a bit lighter to add some more nimbleness.

Many thanks to Panos for sharing his insights and don’t forget to check the Surly Disc Trucker review.


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