You know it’s time to start weeding your tower of cycling magazines when the council comes round checking whether you have planning permission for it.
I’m sure my wife struggles to understand why I buy so many and keep them so long. I don’t even do sportives any more so yet another rehash of ’10 ways to make this your best sportive season ever’ is about as much use to me as a trapdoor on a canoe; meanwhile the technical tips could be handy but of course I can never find the issue that had the relevant ones in whenever I have some fettling to do in the workshop.
I just can’t resist, though – principally, I must confess, because I like looking at photos of amazing bikes costing amazing amounts of money. Otherwise known as bike porn.
The pages of the UK cycling press are stuffed with bike porn. The reason? Road cyclists love lusting after high end bikes in the same way that Mr Smith buys Autocar to drool over the latest Ferrari even though he drives a Ford Mondeo.
As with supercars there’s big money to be made in high end bikes, as long as you can persuade Mr Smith’s well-heeled cousin that your product is the one they simply must have. But aye, there’s the rub. How do you pull that off? History, glory at the highest levels of competition, instant name recognition (Merckx and Cipollini are among the legends who’ve put their names on pricey bikes)… these are surely the secrets of success, aren’t they? Why else would manufacturers fork out seven-figure sums to stick their bikes in the pro peloton?
Already the go-to name in windsurfing, NeilPryde is having a crack at making bikes, launching two models last year, the Alize and Diablo.
I should declare that I have a little bit of history with NeilPryde Bikes. In fact it’s fair to say that they are indirectly responsible for the existence of this blog. You see, as the company was making its first tentative marketing steps it hit upon the wheeze of getting real riders from around the world to act as advocates, by giving them a bike to use for a year with the quid pro quo that they helped with the publicity efforts.
I’d been following the company’s progress since an Alize caught my eye in a Cycling Plus photo teaser. And since I was about to start bike racing I thought it a splendid idea to nab a shiny new bike to take a bullet or two for my beloved Colnago during what I knew was bound to be an incident-packed debut season.
I wrote in, promising to blog, film, tweet…anything basically to make a good case for myself. My initial pleading was enough to get through to a final round where I had to submit a short movie (at short notice) introducing myself. Great! Except the invitation fell at the precise moment my video camera was off at the menders. Stuck for time and options, I resorted to my mobile phone camera and put the following little skit together in the hope that humour would overcome the very obvious shortcomings in the production values:
Some good came from the process, though. The blogging idea was firmly lodged in my head and the result is the parade of random musings that presumably you enjoy otherwise you wouldn’t be here right now…
That might easily have been the last I heard of NeilPryde, but thanks to a chance meeting and the power of Twitter the various strands of this story have magically become interwoven and I’m finally getting to blog about a NeilPryde bike, the range-topping Diablo. The chance came courtesy of the company’s UK representative and all round good egg Scott Purchas, who brought one along for me to try out on my team’s regular Sunday run to Badgers in Alfriston.
I’m not expected to write a review, good or otherwise, in return for the favour. Indeed having ridden precisely four different road bikes in my life I hardly qualify as an expert in these things. But here are a few things I noticed from my 60 miles in the company of the Diablo:
1) It was very, very light. No, make that very, very, very light. Certainly not flimsy with it, though. I’m a big old unit and our Sunday club run roads are not the smoothest, but I never felt I was putting the frame under duress, even when I hit a decent-sized pothole.
2) Whatever they’ve done with the front end of that bike should be copied by every other manufacturer, purely in the interests of rider safety. The precision of the steering was so impossibly good it left me slack-jawed in amazement. My ’nago handles well but this was a league above, seriously.
3) I’m a sit ‘n’ spinner when it comes to climbing, usually reserving out of the saddle efforts for a last throw of the dice shortly before drowning in a sea of lactic acid. Scott said the Diablo was particularly appreciative of a bit of out of the saddle uphill charging so I tried it on a few inclines and, by God he was right, I flew. By my standards anyway. I still got whipped by the other boys on the ‘sprint hills’, but that’s down to my recent indolence rather than any shortcomings of the bike…
4) Even in my current poor condition I still managed to hold a decent speed during what was the fastest club run I’ve personally done this year. Part of that can be put down to the thrill of the new, but I’ve no doubt that the ease of getting the Diablo going at a good clip played a big part too. At times it was almost as if it wasn’t there and I was floating along suspended in mid-air. Very impressive.
On the flipside, I’m not completely sold on the test bike’s matt back paintjob. I know it’s all the rage but it seems to mark up a little easily and it’s not particularly pretty when allied to the sharp lines of the frame. To my eyes some of the other standard colour ways are nicer and help to soften the overall package. In any case, Scott tells me that NeilPryde offers custom paint jobs. Now there’s a thought…
All in all there’s no doubt in my mind that the Diablo is a bloody excellent bike, as you’d expect for a package that in this Dura-Ace equipped spec will set you back a whisker under €5,000. A rarefied price point by anyone’s standards, and that’s before you tackle the seriously snobby folk who tend to inhabit it. I joked with Scott that NeilPryde’s job would be ten times easier at a stroke if it was called Nicola Pridilo and operated out of Italy…
And so Scott departed with the Diablo and I screwed my pedals back onto the Ribble racer, taking care to avert my eyes from the scornful gaze of my cuckolded Colnago up on the wall. As I was doing so I reflected once more on the crazy passions this sport/hobby/lifestyle seems to instil in people. Passions that drive companies like NeilPryde to risk millions on building a bike brand from scratch with the basic premise that the sheer quality of its products will overcome all the myriad obstacles to success. Best of luck guys – you’re going to need a bit of good fortune along the way, but I think you probably know that already.