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Neilpryde jumped into the high-end road bike market last year with two models; the Diablo (see review here) and the Alize. In addition to utilizing their experience accrued from years of working with carbon fibre (mainly building windsurf masts), Neilpryde also enlisted the design expertise of BMW Group subsidiary DesignWorks USA, an indication that they weren't going to be satisfied with putting out any old cookie-cutter bike. The results are stunning. The Alize's sharp edges and morphing tube shapes are certainly eye-catching and just scream performance; an impression soon backed up when you swing a leg over it.
The Alize slots into the increasingly popular category of aero road bike; that is, a bike designed with aerodynamics in mind without compromising on stiffness and weight. In contrast to some other models out there, the Alize's tube shapes are surprisingly chunky with nary a teardrop profile in sight. Whereas traditional aero bikes feature aerofoil shaped seat and downtubes which are prone to flex and can perform poorly in cross winds, the tubes on the Alize have been designed to act as a complete package enabling wider, and therefore stiffer and lighter, tubes to be used. The result is a claimed frame weight of only 1040g (56cm) - very impressive indeed.
Of particular interest is the lower third of the downtube which features what Neilpryde call an 'Extended Kammtail'. The kammtail is the latest buzzword in the cycling world with Trek trumpeting its use on its Speed Concept time-trial bike, for example. In effect it's just an aerofoil with the tail sawn-off, and has been used on cars since the 50s. What Neilpryde have done however, is extend this concept so that both the downtube and seat tube act as a single kammtail aerofoil enabling Neilpryde to increase the size of the downtube without damaging aerodynamic performance.
The design would certainly seem to be doing something because the combination of the unorthodox tube shaping and Neilpryde would say, their specially developed C6.7 carbon fibre, yields a bike quick to jump forwards under any hint of power. Bottom bracket stiffness is right up there with the best of them, making out of the saddle efforts a joy. Up front, the Alize is maybe a touch flexier than its stable mate the Diablo, but still very solid nonetheless, no doubt in small part due to the massive lower headset bearing. A recent hill reps session ended up turning into a late braking contest coming down the hill- the bike seems to egg you on, encouraging you to push the limits.
For a bike designed with aerodynamics in mind, the Alize is also surprisingly light (heped in part by the plush build) and helped me reduce my time up the aforementioned hill by 6%. As for its aerodynamic performance; it's difficult to state conclusively that it was faster than any other bike, especially when using two bidons negates most of the aero benefits anyway. However, what Neilpryde have shown is that you don't have to choose between aero performance, stiffness and light weight; it is possible to have all three.
Riding along typically rough country lanes, the lack of rattling is very noticeable and does take a while to get used to. The Alize sucks up road buzz very efficiently, delivering a damped ride which can make it feel as though you a going slower than you are - a quick glance at the computer soon corrects this impression though.
Our test bike came with Neilpryde's top build a full Shimano Dura-Ace groupset. Much has already been written about Dura-Ace but it's fair to say that it still remains the benchmark for top end groupos. The rear downshifts can be fiddly at times, especially with thick winter gloves on, but you soon adapt to this until shifting becomes second nature. For me the standout performers of the group are without a doubt the brakes and the crankset.
The brakes are some of the most powerful and controllable on the market today and mate well with the oversized front end to produce confidence inspiring descending. In fact, the rear brake was almost too powerful making it very easy to lock the rear wheel when un-weighted. The standard crankset proves that aluminium still has a place in high end bicycle componentry being both very stiff and light, and, in my personal opinion, much better looking than carbon offerings.
Rolling stock consists of Mavic's perennial Krysium SLs shod with Hutchinson Atom rubber. The Krysiums are a real workhorse set of hoops in that they just do the job without any great fanfare. Their stiffness is excellent (I couldn't get the brakes to rub no matter how hard I tried) which, when combined with the frame, provide a really direct ride where line changes mid corner were easily dealt with. The Atom tyres also performed well provided cornering grip aplenty and no punctures for the test duration.
Personally, I feel that an aero bike at this price should come with aero wheels too; something like Mavic's Cosmic Carbone. Others may disagree, perhaps they already have a set of race day wheels. Ultimately though, the Krysium SLs are an awfully nice set of wheels to be used just as 'training' wheels.
Bars and stem come courtesy of FSA's mid-range SLK series and perform their intended function well, if not spectacularly. I found the short-reach, low-drop shape of the carbon bars to be comfortable and made riding in the drops a much more pleasant experience than usual. The seatpost is of NeilPryde's own design and features a deep section carbon shaft mated to a tidy looking two bolt aluminium clamp. It comes fitted with a small rubber boot which is presumably there to stop water ingress into the frame - a neat touch. It's also pleasing to see that the Alize comes with a genuine Selle Italia SLR (and not a cheaper imitation) which is a popular shape among the racing fraternity, and a nice addition to the spec.
The question of value is a difficult one to address for any bike costing over £4000. Neilpryde sell direct to the customer which allows them to offer a good spec for the money, but it also means that you can't just take it back to the shop if things go wrong (they do have a UK representative though). Given this fact, the best comparison would be with the Canyon Aeroad 9.0sl which offers a nearly identical build kit plus Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL wheels and choice of gear ratios, for £800 less. Neilpryde also offer the Alize frame built up with Ultegra and Krysium Elites for £1000 less - money which could be spent on some race-only wheels.
(UPDATE: Neilpryde will be offering consumers two extra options when buying the Alize - a set of Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLs and/or a 76 degree TT post. The wheelset option resolves one of the issues I had with the build although we have yet to see how this affects pricing - although Neilpryde tell us the Dura Ace build won't be massively more exensive with the Cosmic Carbones. The TT post will be useful for those intending to run aero bars putting you in a much better position to lay down the power.)
To my mind with the Alize, Neilpryde have succeeded in establishing themselves as one of the big players in the high-end road market. The frame itself is aggressive in its stiffness and weight, but also very controlled and comfortable due to its road smoothing abilities. Combined with the top-of-the-range build kit, the result is a bike worthy of any privateer racer's attention.
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Make and model: NeilPryde Alize
Size tested: L
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
SIZE: S, M, L, XL, XXL
FRAME: NEILPRYDE ALIZE, High-mod monocoque
FORK: NEILPRYDE ALIZE, Full Carbon monocoque
SEAT CLAMP: NEILPRYDE ALIZE
SEAT POST: NEILPRYDE ALIZE AERO SL
HEADSET: FSA ORBIT CF40, Integrated 1 1/8" - 1 1/2"
FRONT DERAILLEUR: SHIMANO DURA ACE 7900
REAR DERAILLEUR: SHIMANO DURA ACE 7900
FRONT AND REAR BRAKE: SHIMANO DURA ACE 7900
SHIFTER LEVER: SHIMANO DURA ACE 7900
CRANKSET: SHIMANO DURA ACE 7900, 53/39
BOTTOM BRACKET: SHIMANO DURA ACE 7900
CASSETTE: SHIMANO DURA ACE 7900, 12-25
CHAIN: SHIMANO DURA ACE 7900
WHEELS: MAVIC KSYRIUM SL
TYRES: HUTCHINSON ATOM COMP, 700x23c
STEM: FSA SLK, 6 31.8mm
HANDLEBARS: FSA SLK Compact, 31.8mm
SADDLE: SELLE ITALIA SLR XP
WEIGHT (Complete): 6.8 KG
HEAD TUBE STIFFNESS (FRAME): 90 Nm/
BB STIFFNESS (FRAME): 60 N/mm
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Neilpryde describe the Alize as:
"The perfect breakaway bike or the bike to cut through the miles of training and Sunday morning centuries. The aerodynamic Alize when combined with our race proven spec will make light work of it all.
An aerodynamically designed road bike, which when combined with the race proven Shimano Dura Ace 7900 groupset, premium FSA SLK components, and the 2011 Ksyrium SL wheelset from Mavic means that the complete bike weighs-in just over the 6.8 kg minimum weight limit imposed by the UCI. The result: the perfect lightweight companion for every epic ride.
The complex progressions in tube profiles found in the Alize frame and forks were developed to achieve the fine balance between achieving an aerodynamic design and realising the required performance characteristics of a high-performance road bike.
The NeilPryde Alize is the archetype of aerodynamics in motion."
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both full carbon fibre items
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Pretty standard racing bike geometry
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Again, standard for a race bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bike did an excellent job of damping high frequency road buzz although you'll still feel larger hits. The lack of rattling over rough roads is especially noticeable.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Both bottom bracket and head tube were more than stiff enough for this tester.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The bike responds instantly to any increase in power with a reassuring jump forwards. Once up to speed, the bike made it easy to keep it there.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
None. This can be a problem for me given my large feet so props to Neilpryde for getting it right.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral in race bike terms
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very direct and stable at speed but can also be flicked around easily for dodging ever present potholes. I was particularly impressed with its descending prowess.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Credit here has to go to the frame itself and the handlebars since the Krysium are known to be quite a harsh wheel. A well shaped saddle also helps, and the SLR ticks all the right boxes, for me at least.
The Alize inspired confidence and sure footed around even the most technical bends
There are lighter bikes out there more suited towards going uphill
Rear shifting can take a while to get dialled but once there, performance is top notch
Its held up well so far, but the test duration wasn't really long enough to investigate this fully
There are lighter groupsets out there
For a negligable increase in performance, Dura Ace is a big step up from Ultegra in terms of price
Sturdy, reliable and reasonably light - not much more you could ask of them really
No punctures, even having taken the bike on some pretty rough roads
There are lighter wheels out there although that may come at the expense of stiffness
While the wheels themselves are quite harsh, the tyres are supple and conform well to the road surface
Bars did a good job of damping road buzz and were plenty stiff enough when sprinting
I found the compact bars to be really comfortable
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, very much
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, although I think I would end up going for the Ultegra build and spend the difference on some race tubs (if I had the money of course)
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
My performance mark is almost shading towards 10 - it's that good but a £300 price hike while we had it in on test drops a point for valuu. Even so, my feeling is that most of the people attracted to the Alize won't be looking at the price tag. They won't be disappointed either.
Age: 20 Height: 190cm Weight: 70kg
I usually ride: Giant TCR Advanced 2 My best bike is: Canyon Ultimate CF7
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, sportives, mtb,
For 5 years, racing was my life and I went all the way from a newbie bonking after 40 miles, to a full-timer plying my trade on the Belgian kermesse scene. Unfortunately, the pro dream wasn't meant to be and these days, you're more likely to find me bimbling about country lanes and sleeping in a bush on the side of the road.