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Tech feature: 2011 NeilPryde bicycle launch

Windsurfing powerhouse NeilPryde has decided to dip its toes into the hotly contested cycling waters with two new road models for 2011, the Diablo and the Alize, both of which are crafted in carbon fiber and were developed in conjunction with the Singapore branch of BMW subsidiary DesignWorks USA.

The Diablo is the more conventional structure of the pair with most of the design focus placed on the usual merits of lightweight and stiffness. In keeping with those goals, the Diablo frame features structural ribs that run along the sides and interior edge of the top tube, head tube, and seat tube (not unlike the previous generation Orbea Orca), a squared-off and tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" front end with matching carbon fork, and a relatively well-bolstered bottom bracket area.

Likewise, 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 profile to the tapered head tube, a deep-section seat tube 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 fiber aero seatpost up top.

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 perhaps admirably – NeilPryde didn't litter its product launch with the usual marketing superlatives, though, and in fact was surprisingly candid in its 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 says it has objective drag data to back up the Alize's aero billing it doesn't pretend to peg an 'X seconds per Y kilometers' savings to the description.

In addition, NeilPryde openly admits that it didn't intend for either frame to be the absolute stiffest out there and even publishes the test bench figures right on the web site: 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 chain stays and the seat tube are fully asymmetrical (with the exception of the cut-out for the braze-on front derailleur) and the aluminum bottom bracket sleeves take standard threaded cups.

So why should anyone buy one? Good question.

As always, the proof is in the pudding and to our surprise, 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 pedaling reactions of some carbon superbikes we've tested in the past but as the numbers suggest, the front triangle torsional rigidity is quite good so it's also no noodle out of the saddle.

More importantly, it also feels good with an admirably smooth ride quality over smaller chatter like manhole covers and medium-sized pavement 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, it's at least worth mentioning that NeilPryde looks to have made very few mistakes – which is pretty admirable considering neither design is a cookie-cutter open-mold product.

Another reason is that NeilPryde is making it pretty easy for people to buy one of its new bikes, offering them up exclusively direct-to-consumer via the company's own web site at reasonable no-surprises pricing with fairly quick drop shipments coming ready to ride directly from the production site in Asia via DHL Express. 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.

NeilPryde's 'Q-Fit' system is essentially a tight-fitting rubber seal (in grey) up top that helps record the saddle height in case the bike is packed for shipping.

Each bike will be offered in three colors and five sizes, and a handy – though simple – interface helps users select the proper frame size for their build.

That direct-to-consumer model also comes with some caveats, though. Since NeilPryde currently has 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 customization such as component sizing or make and model – so what you see is what you get, whether it's exactly what you want or not.

Will the trade winds blow this season?

NeilPryde contends that many of its bike buyers will come from its 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 stated they'd buy a NeilPryde tennis racket if the company decided to make one.

That being said, the 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 and the company doesn'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 at the absolute very least are an intriguing new entry to the market. Bikes will begin shipping in mid-September with full inventory coming just a few weeks later.

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