The Neil Pryde name may not be a familiar one in the cycling world. However in wind surfing their boards are known as being some of the best engineered in the world. So how does a wind surfing company decide to start designing and creating frames?
There are some similarities, design-wise, between both of these sports. The biggest obstacle is resistance: water for windboards and air for frames. The ability to slice through both efficiently and quickly are important features for success. The material of choice in wind boarding is carbon fiber as it is for bike frames. With the design and construction methods being something they know well, it seems natural that Neil Pryde took the leap into the highly competitive field of bike manufacturing.
Neil Pryde has two models: the aerodynamic Alize model and the Diablo, a lighter weight version that the company claims is also stiffer. Carolina Cycling News was able to throw a leg over the Alize model for a couple of weeks.
As mentioned the Alize model is the more aerodynamic of the two models offered by Pryde. The shaping of the frame not only borrows from wind boarding but car design. The seat tube is shaped like a plane wing, but instead of the trailing edge coming together to a point the shape is squared off. This type of profile is called a Kamm Wing – named after German professor of fluid dynamics Wunibald Kamm. He discovered that the squared-off design eliminated unneeded surface area which ultimately adds more drag. This type of design isn’t new to the cycling world. Trek employs this design in their time trial bikes.
The rest of the Alize looks very sculptured and aerodynamic – in fact that is the one statement people made while checking out the frame. A slick feature is the paper thin seat post which looks like it can not only slice through the air but if the speeds were fast enough might enable the bike to fly. From strictly a visual standpoint there is little argument that the bike looks fast – but how is it in the real world?
The initial rides consisted of flatish bike path jaunts to get a feel of the Alize. There were no surprises. The frame geometry is standard and I was able to take my hands off the bars without the bike suddenly dipping to one side or the other. As anticipated the frame wasn’t stiff or overbearing on longer rides. While my fitness was lacking during the Winter League ride when I rode the Alize, the bike wasn’t. My first four hour ride in months didn’t cause any bike induced soreness of the back or shoulders. The frame was smooth and comfortable. That’s not to say this is a bike designed for charity rides. When it came time to hit the after-burner the bike responded. I wish the same could have been said for my legs.
Another testing area was Paris Mountain. This 2.2 mile ascent is a prominent feature in the U.S. Pro road race. Its steep pitches and curving descent are perfect to test the limits of a bike. Out of the saddle climbing the Alize again felt comfortable with the power not wasted on unnecessary bottom bracket flex. However where I felt the bike shined was when I was in the saddle and climbing with a smooth cadence. The bike just hummed along. Stiffer frames almost mock you when you can’t put the power to the pedals – the Alize was willing to let me ride at my own pace.
Overall the Alize is a great bike for someone who is training and racing hard. The Alize isn’t the stiffest frame design but it sure felt the most aerodynamic. That said I think most of us would be hard pressed to flex this bike in any significant manner. And of course I can’t quantify my aerodynamic “feeling” with empirical data but it felt fast as I chugged along on any of the Upstate’s rolling terrain. Climbing the bike felt smooth and comfortable with whatever I could do. The only frame tweak I’d like to see in the frame design is a BB30 bottom bracket. Outboard bottom brackets are so 2009.
Due to demand for Neil Pryde bikes the company decided to go dealer direct. This means you can go into a shop and kick the tires of the bike yourself. And if that authorized Neil Pryde dealer doesn’t have the customer’s frame size or model on the sales floor it can be ordered via DHL and delivered to the shop in two days at no extra cost.