Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Bikes: Neil Pryde Alize































Around 3 years ago, when Hong Kong cycling stalwart Mike Pryde (son of Neil) announced the launch of the company's bike range, I was happy to wish him luck with his venture to break into the high end cycling world with a pair of bikes, the Alize and Diablo. Both of these bikes were developed in conjunction with BMW design works and a fair amount of wind tunnel R&D. 
















A few years on, and Mike has got involved at the top level of road racing, sponsoring the United Healthcare team, and continued the brand's development, launching the super light BuraSL and Bayamo TT bikes. The Alize and Diablo are both still going, but have moved to BB30 bottom brackets. This meant a few of last year's frames were on close out, and I used the opportunity to pick up an aero Alize frameset in stealth black to replace my recently cracked Ridley. 















Having had a small feedback role in some graphic development feedback back when this bike was being developed, it's a nice full circle to see an Alize join my collection. Luckily for me, the Pryde Medium has an identical top tube length, head / seat angles and a wheelbase within 1mm of my full custom Colossi XCR. Result!


















Given I recently also acquired a Super Record 11 groupset, I figured I had just about enough parts to build up 2 in service road bikes. I could now keep the Colossi XCR with 10 speed Record and Ambrosio wheels as my slightly tougher go anywhere any weather road bikes, whilst the Neil Pryde could be built up as a slightly more delicate good weather / speed machine. The build reflects this:



















First up is the frameset. The most striking thing out the box is the 3D nature of all the joints. It's very much the product of computer aided design, rather than the 'artisan' approach of a custom builder. But don't think that means it is short on details- the 3D nature is born out fully in the seat tube junction that pays homage to the wind surf heritage with a rather natty rubber collar over the proprietary aero post. The typical tube profiles are like my Ridley on steroids, with twisting triangulations flaring into oversized aero junctions.

































The finish is all top quality and every last detail speaks of a minimalist race aesthetic. Cabling is all integrated and neatly hidden. The integrated headset bearings sit straight in the frame and the afore mentioned seat post clamp is all hidden. This doesn't make for a fast assembly time, but I'm happy to take time to get things right. Once locked in everything has sat pretty tight!
































Groupset wise, the Super Record is a great visual match for the frame in stealth carbon with the odd red highlight. I still don't think I've put enough miles on this groupset to really evaluate the durability (something Record 10 is going to be hard to beat on), but it certainly ticks all the boxes performance wise. Again, set up is quite time consuming, but rewarding once correct. The nett effect at the BB is extreme stiffness, and all the shifts over the excellent range have that nice Campagnolo feel. My only criticism is that it could be quieter in certain ratios, but the noise does seem to be receding as it passes the first 1000km.



















Wheels wise it could only be deep section on an aero frame like this, and given I have the Ambrosios for the XCR and a small 4 spoke collection to satisfy my TT / track needs, I think my somewhat vintage Corima 45mms can stay on here full time- always nice not to faff around with brake pads. This is probably the main reason I don't want to ride this too much in the rain- cork pads and typhoons are not ideal bed-fellows. In an ideal world I'd fit a set of stealth Boras, or King Enves, but then again it's good to ride what you can afford to replace...

























The finishing component touches are a trusty SLR carbonio saddle, the ubiquitous (for me) Thomson stem, some nice shallow drop Deda Newtons, Zipp carbon cages and carbon Dura Ace pedals. All good quality stuff that doesn't disappoint. The one part worthy of mention here is the Deda Newtons- the shallow drop lets me spend more time in the drops and gives a great hood position also to complement the new Campy lever shape. Again, an almost identical cockpit and contact points to my XCR eases the transition between the two.

All in, this works out at a build weight around 6.5kg- certainly a respectable weight for an aero bike built without any crazy 'weight weenie' components, and, more importantly, without facing a credit card bill worthy of a small car. Everything feels super stiff, solid and reassuringly reliable beneath me. Which brings me to the most important quality in any bike- the ride.


















Given how the frame geo. numbers looked on paper I had high hopes for this feeling like a familiar ride from the off- I was not disappointed! A few tweaks of the saddle angle was all I needed to settle in and feel immediately at home. Having done a few 100 kms now it all feels quite neutral and 'planted' in the curves. I wouldn't say it descends the twisty stuff with quite the aplomb that my XCR does, but it's certainly still very confidence inspiring. In a straight line the aeroness does feel like it's kicking in above 40kph, and there is an appreciable benefit to all the carbon bling shapes- it'll be your balls that slow things down... Equally, on the flat, once you're motoring, there is a sense that energy in is equal to energy out- once again, it's the engine that'll be the limit!




















Up the other side, think scolded banshee. The frame stiffness, race wheels and aggressive position combine to inspire you to put in as much as possible to get the speed out- be that getting out the saddle or trying to stay on the next sprocket down the block. This is not a bike that feels at home taking it steady! Just how scolded that banshee is going to feel is subject to what you're coming off, but certainly if you're getting dropped, you can't blame the bike.



















Negatives wise, you could argue that some more compliance would be nice for longer rides on rougher roads. But let's be straight here- this is an aero race bike built for speed, not comfort. To use an analogy, if you buy a 911RS don't criticise it for not being as comfy as your Range Rover... For reference, I would say its ever so slightly more compliant than my Ridley, it's a lot more compliant than any Alu. frame out there and it's actually smoother than I was expecting. Certainly there are harder riding carbon frames out there, especially when you compare other aero machines. Historically, the main criticism I have levelled at some of the carbon frames I've ridden is that they can feel a bit 'wooden' and lifeless (especially with clinchers)- very much the opposite of high end steel. I can't say the Alize compares to Colombus's ferro finest to this regard, but it certainly still feels very much alive, responsive and dialled in to engaging with the pavement below, rather than simply battering you!




















In conclusion, I'm super happy with this build- its faster, stiffer and more comfortable than my Ridley. All the frame numbers are exactly how I want, negating the need for custom, and to top it off the aesthetic is a nice stealth bling. Having this built up also allows my XCR to fit into a slightly different 'ride suitability matrix'. Ah yes, can hear me trying to justify a 5th bike in the bike room? Well, if I have to get rid of one, it won't be this. All hail N+1.