Windsurfing powerhouse NeilPryde have decided to dip their toes into the hotly contested cycling waters with two new road models for 2011, the Diablo and Alize. Both are crafted in carbon fibre and were developed in conjunction with the Singapore branch of BMW subsidiary DesignWorks USA.
The Diablo is the more conventional of the pair, with most of the design focus placed on the usual merits of lightweight and stiffness. In keeping with those goals, structural ribs run along the sides and interior edge of the top tube, head tube, and seat tube (not unlike the previous generation Orbea Orca).
There's a squared-off and tapered 1-1/8 to 1-1/2in front end with matching carbon fork, and a relatively well-bolstered bottom bracket area. Cable routing is a mix of internal (rear brake) and external (both derailleur lines), and the frame is topped with a conventional 27.2mm round seatpost.
The Alize, on the other hand, boasts a more original shape that places more emphasis on reducing aerodynamic drag. Key features include an hourglass-shaped tapered head tube, a deep-section seat tube that includes a modest rear wheel cutout, and a diamond-shaped down tube that transitions to a truncated Kammtail shape down near the bottom bracket. Other details include internal cable routing throughout plus a matching carbon fibre aero seatpost up top.
The Alize is NeilPryde's rendition of the 'breakaway' aero road bike
According to NeilPryde, wind tunnel testing at the A2 facility in North Carolina has demonstrated the Alize to be a legitimately aero machine – especially at higher yaw angles – and that the progressive Kammtail design works as advertised. In effect, incoming air is split by the lower end of the down tube but doesn't rejoin immediately behind, instead flowing cleanly all the way past the seat tube before trailing off behind.
Interestingly – and admirably – NeilPryde didn't litter their product launch with the usual marketing superlatives, and in fact were surprisingly candid in their technical claims. The 970g and 1,040g respective claimed frame weights (56cm) for the Diablo and Alize aren't awe-inspiringly light, and while the company say they have objective drag data to back up the Alize's aero billing they don't pretend to peg an 'X seconds per Y kilometers' savings to the description.
NeilPryde say the down tube's Kammtail profile and slight 'kicks' on the outer edges divert air right around the seat tube for lower drag
In addition, NeilPryde openly admit that they didn't intend for either frame to be the absolute stiffest out there and even publish the test bench figures on their website: 90Nm/° for the head tube and 60N/mm at the bottom bracket, both of which are fairly modest. Contrary to current industry trends, both the chainstays and seat tube are fully asymmetrical (with the exception of the cutout for the braze-on front derailleur) and the aluminium bottom bracket sleeves take standard threaded cups.
So why should anyone buy one? As always, the proof is in the pudding, and the Diablo is actually a rather nice-riding machine based on our two-hour jaunt around Hamburg, Germany. True, it doesn't possess the lightning-quick pedalling reactions of some carbon superbikes we've tested but as the numbers suggest, the front triangle torsional rigidity is quite good so it's also no noodle out of the saddle.
Top tubes are slightly sloping on both of the new NeilPryde road bikes
More importantly, it feels good, with an admirably smooth ride quality over smaller chatter like manhole covers and medium-sized road surface imperfections – with the exception of bigger impacts when it tends to crash through like most oversized carbon bikes – and pleasantly middle-of-the-road handling characteristics that should suit a wide range of rider types.
Save for some annoying rattle from the internally routed rear brake cable, NeilPryde look to have made very few mistakes – which is admirable considering neither design is a cookie-cutter open-mould product.
Both bikes will be available with either Shimano Dura-Ace or Ultegra build kits – or bare framesets – with high-quality finishing kit coming from Mavic, FSA, Selle Italia and Hutchinson. Each bike will be offered in three colours and five sizes, and a handy – though simple – interface helps users select the proper frame size for their build.
NeilPryde are also making it pretty easy for people to buy their new bikes, offering them up exclusively direct-to-consumer via the company's own website at reasonable no-surprises pricing, with free delivery to 32 countries including the UK and US. As a guide, the Diablo Dura-Ace is being sold for €4334 (€2055 for the frameset), while the Alize is slightly cheaper at €4099 (€1820 for the frameset).
NeilPryde have chosen to stick with well-known Shimano componentry for their initial foray into road bikes
This direct-to-consumer model does come with some drawbacks, though. Since NeilPryde have no bicycle dealer network in place, service and warranty concerns will all have to handled remotely, and at least for now, the simplified inventory scheme leaves no room for customisation such as component sizing or make and model. What you see is what you get, whether it's exactly what you want or not.
Will the trade winds blow this season?
NeilPryde contend that many of their bike buyers will come from their expansive windsurfing customer base. According to bicycle division manager Mike Pryde (and yes, there's a relation – he's the founder's son), the company's market research suggests up to 60 percent of those current customers are also avid cyclists and fiercely loyal to the brand – to the point where some of them said they'd buy a NeilPryde tennis racket if the company decided to make one.
The rear dropouts offer lots of contact area for the stays
Crossover from the other side is likely to be more tepid given NeilPryde's lack of brand recognition in the often narrowly focused world of cycling, but no matter – in keeping with the company's refreshingly frank discussions on the bike's merits, they've also applied some very modest sales goals. Provided those figures are met, there's a third model that will go into development later this year that sales and marketing manager Mike Rice says should be far more groundbreaking.
The company don't rule out the possibility of mountain bikes or full-blown time trial/triathlon bikes further down the road. Either way, the new NeilPryde bikes are an intriguing new entry to the market. Bikes will begin shipping in mid-September, with full inventory coming just a few weeks later. For more information, visit www.neilprydebikes.com.