Review: Neil Pryde Alize Road Bike – BMW Designed, Wind-Tunnel Tested
Around Thanksgiving, we had a few weeks to flog the new Neil Pryde Alize road bike.
In a nutshell, it’s designed by BMW North America, wind tunnel tested at A2 in North Carolina and offered direct from the manufacturer. And by direct, we mean it ships directly from the factory in China anywhere in the world. For the full scoop on the brand and company, check this post out.
The Alize is one of two road bikes offered and is the lighter model. The Diablo is the (very slightly) heavier, beefier frame, which Evan rode briefly and has a few comments on at the bottom of this review.
To say that the Diablo is stiffer shouldn’t for a second imply that this bike is a lightweight noodle. In fact, it’s extremely stiff, extremely stable and very fast. Every bit of power you put into it seems to translate directly into forward motion…there’s absolutely no sense of wasted effort. Aerodynamics play a large part in the frame design, too, which makes it seem pretty quick and effortless to pedal, even seeming to make headwinds minutely less miserable. They also give it a rather striking appearance. It also handles debris-covered overpass embankment half pipes really well.
Check out the full review after the break…
The Neil Pryde road bikes are designed using FEA analysis and an exoskeleton design that’s translated into a monocoque carbon frame with external stiffness ribs. These are visible as some of the sharp edges on both frame and fork. Lastly, there are continuous carbon fibers running through tubes and joints. The result is an incredibly stiff frame.
Some of the hard edges and shaping do more than stiffen the frame, they create a pretty slippery shape in the wind. At first glance, you wouldn’t think this is an aero frame. The front end is blunt, presenting a wide, almost flat surface across the front of the headtube and fork legs. Thanks to computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnel testing, appearances can be deceiving. The entire downtube and seat tube is shaped as an extended Kammtail, which is essentially a tear drop shape with part of the tail cut off. To the air, it mimics closely enough the effect of having the full tail and minimized turbulence behind it.
When I was there to check out Hincapie’s wind tunnel clothing test, I asked them about the Alize, to A2′s bike program director, Mike Giraud, replied: “For a company that put this much effort into their first bike’s design, they did really well.”
On our first ride, U.S. rep Clive de Sousa brought along a Diablo (center) for Evan to ride and his own bike (right). Personally, we liked the stealthy matte black carbon of our test bikes, but the paint jobs are pretty sharp, too. My XL Alize weighed in around 16.5lbs with full Ultegra and 2011 Mavic Ksyrium Elites and Hutchinson Atom Comps, plus two plastic Elite bottle cages. Evan’s Small Diablo was spec’d almost identically and only weighed a few ounces more. (Both were weighed before we put pedals on them, and both were brand spankin’ new.
Claimed frame weight is 1040g (56cm) for the frame and 350g for the fork. 1390g total.
The blunt flatness of the headtube proved to be rather difficult to represent well in a photograph, but trust me, it’s big and it’s flat. It doesn’t look aero at all, but it definitely looks cool. It has a tapered 1-1/8″ to 1-1/2″ headtube, and the fork crown is perfectly matched to the shape of the headtube. From there, the fork rakes slightly forward in a straight line, with the rear of the legs getting “cut” in to form a stiffening rib.
Moving rearward, the top tube uses a changing diamond shape, getting rounder on the top as it moves toward the seat tube.
The downtube is fairly large, has the rib edges and flows quite nicely into the bottom bracket area.
The lower part of the seat tube curves around the rear tire, but there’s enough room to run a fairly fat road tire if you wanted. The chainstays are tall, providing a massive connection to the BB junction, then curve slightly upward and outward with a rib to keep it stiff.
The shift cables run inside the downtube and pop out just before the BB. Two cable holes for the front derailleur are provided, and you can mount the guide in different positions to accommodate different brands and styles of front derailleurs. Your choices are limited to braze-on style front derailleurs, there’s no way a clamp band will work on this frame.
The seatstays are straight, triangular and stiff.
The rear brake mount looks like an airplane wing.
The seat post height is adjusted via a single bolt on the front of the aero “clamp”, and it has a light gray rubber cap that slides down to keep any moisture from getting down in there…and presumably makes it slightly more aero. It definitely looks good.
At first, the saddle adjustment threw me for a loop. The rear bolt is accessible from the bottom. The front one has an allen hole on the top of it, but there’s no way to access it with the saddle on. Hmmm….then I realized you could put a wrench on the bottom to loosen it. Then, even better, I realized that once you loosed the rear bolt, you could hand adjust the front one to set the proper tilt, then just dial down the rear to lock everything in place. It looked complicated, but it turned out to be great.
I had my saddle bag on here for most rides, which uses Velcro straps to secure to the post and around the saddle rails. The part that wrapped around the post started to rub into the carbon a bit, which is barely visible about 1/2″ below the NeilPryde words on the front of the saddle. I’d recommend putting one of the various frame-saver appliques on this part of the post if you run that type of seat bag.
The first thing you notice is how stiff the bike is. Literally, it feels like everything you put into it is given back in the form of forward movement. Get in the drops and hammer, stand up and crank, sprint and crush…doesn’t matter, it all goes into forward motion. Only when in the extremes of cross chaining do you hear the tell-tale signs of flex when the chain rubs the front derailleur cage a bit, but it’s minimal, and that’s always some combination of the frame, bottom bracket, crankset and chainrings. Between the quite excellent 2011 Ultegra crankset and the frame, I was unable to feel any wasted effort.
In fact, I was even able to outsprint Evan a couple times on this, which virtually never happens. These sprint contests tend to be all out, leg sapping affairs, too, and I noticed that the back end always felt planted. Some race bikes can jump around a bit when you’re pulling up hard on the cranks, too, but the Alize stayed put, which meant all the power went to the ground.
On this particular ride when I was (perhaps not smartly) taking action shots of me riding, I hit a personal-pan-pizza sized hole about 3″ deep … unexpectedly … while cornering … with one hand loosely on one hood. Nothing happened. The Alize tracked true right on through the turn. This could have very easily resulted in my sides looking like a personal-pan-pizza, but it didn’t faze the bike in the slightest.
Later, when actually trying to dive hard into high speed, off camber, downhill-to-uphill corners, the bike continued it’s admirable performance. Lastly, it passed the ol’ pedaling fast “look ma, no hands” riding test pretty well, but it did want to wander a little bit on occasion. Basically, the bike handles great. Sharp and responsive without being twitchy and tracks extremely well when you hands are on the bar and pretty well when they’re not.
Sometimes, on rough roads, you can peer over your handlebars such that front axle is just in front and watch as it shudders in and out of view behind the bar. Not so here. In fact, I rode over reflectors, rumble strips and any crappy road edge I could find and this damn thing didn’t budge. It’s freakin’ stiff.
The upside is that it handles well. The downside is that I would want to quickly swap out the alloy FSA bar and stem that came on the bike for a carbon one to soften things up a bit before they hit my hands. Road vibration wasn’t bad, but it was slightly more noticeable than on some other bikes I’ve ridden, and likely just putting a carbon handlebar on it would help quite a bit.
The rear end is equally stiff. The Alize was fine for 2-3 hour rides, but I’d probably call that the limit of comfortable riding. If you’re a crit racer or just like to crush the local weeknight group rides, this could be your ticket. If you’re a long distance rider that heads out all day on the weekends, you may want something with a bit more forgiveness. I’d stop short of calling the ride harsh, but you do tend to know when you’re on a rough road. For me, personally, comfort weighs pretty high, and the geometry and layout fit well (I’m 6’2″ and rode the XL), and if this bike were in my quiver, I’d grab it for sub-3 hour rides any day.
EVAN’S COMMENTS ON THE DIABLO
Going into my first ride on a Neil Pryde knowing almost nothing about the brand was a treat. It is fairly rare that I don’t know at least a little bit about a bike brand and its offerings. I had the pleasure of riding their Diablo equipped with Shimano Ultegra. The bike is designed to be stiff, responsive, and fast. It does not have as many of the aero attributes as the softer riding Alize. The paint job is smooth and catchy; the bike looks the part of being a road missile.
I only got one (~63 mile) ride in on the bike and had a good time exploring its personality. Acceleration was a noticeable area in which this bike excelled; when I hammered my foot down it was like pounding my right foot on the accelerator of a Ferrari. I also felt pretty suave pedaling a bike with such a catchy paint scheme. Being that I was on a group ride, I kept noticing people looking at the bike so I just nodded my head and kept smiling, thinking, “yeah, I know you’re checking out my bike.” All and all, I would say this bike ranks high among other race machines of its like. It is quick and snappy and a lightweight rig. It is a joy to ride though I would probably prefer something a little more comfort oriented on a long haul. I would take this bike any day though in a 100 mi or less race. I think Neil Pryde has got a quality bike here and I look forward to seeing how they evolve their cycling brand in the future.
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
Well, if you ask a shop owner, everything. Neil Pryde’s sales model excludes the retailer and goes direct to consumer.
The upside is you can get a BMW-designed, wind tunnel-tested, full carbon bike with Ultegra for $3,950. And it’s delivered free anywhere in the world and warrantied for 10 years.
The downside is, if you don’t know how to fix something, replace a part or tune it up, you’ll have to pony up for the local bike shop to do the work at full price. And if you’re good buddies with the local shop folks, you’ll have to put up with jibes and jokes about your “mail order” bike for a while.
If you know how to work on your own rig and have a decent set of standard tools, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. And if you judge the bike solely on its merits as a performance road bike, there’s really nothing not to like.
For the price, and given the R&D that went into the frame, it’s a pretty good deal. The stiffness and efficiency says it’s a race bike, but it’s still “streetable” for group rides. The handling inspires confidence, it’s light, fast and it’s got a solid warranty. For me, knowing how to fix or replace most things, the potential service costs are a moot point…adjust the following 4.5 Thumbs Up downward based on your own technical skill.
- The Alize frame is available with full Dura-Ace ($5,150) or as a frameset ($2,250).
- We can’t comment on long-term durability. Most of our test bikes are in the stable for four to eight months and put under at least two different riders. I only had this one for about 3 weeks and put just shy of 300 miles on it.
- They have a fit calculator on their website that uses your inseam and height to determine the right size bike, which is how I chose the size to test, and it worked out perfect. Full dimensions and geometries are also listed if you wanna geek out.
- Website is www.neilprydebikes.com