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Groupset: Ultegra 6800
Wheels: Shimano WH-RS31
Our latest review takes a look at the NeilPryde Zephyr. This is our third review in a four part series on the "endurance race" class of bikes (the Look 675 and Bianchi Infinito CV have been done previously, and the BMC GF01 review is in the works)
So how does this industry newcomer (relatively) hold up against its established competition? Click past the jump for all of the details.
First, a little company history. NeilPryde is a long time sailing company, that only recently turned their expertise towards road bikes. What does sailing have to do with biking? Not a whole lot, besides carbon fiber and aerodynamics (grin). The jump from sailing to cycling isn’t as far as you would think if you consider that they are far from the first to do it: Bob Parlee of
also got his start in sailing.
By taking their carbon fibre manufacturing experience learned from years of sailing development, and teaming with BMW DesignworksUSA to help with design, NeilPryde had created a line of bikes that perform just as good as they look. In addition, as sponsors of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, they have some race pedigree to match.
For the 2014 bike season, NeilPryde has expanded its line-up into the ever popular endurance race bike category. The new Zephyr checks all the boxes found on modern bikes in this segment: 27.2 seatpost, room for 28c tires, PF30 bb, and internal routing that works with both electronic and mechanical drivetrains. While not considered lightweight by top end race bike standards, the frame comes in at a respectable 1050g for a size Large.
The frame features many design touches said to improve vertical compliance. As the diagram below means to illustrate, the thin curved seat stays and shaped fork eat up the bumps. The function is further increased by varying the wall thickness of the tubes for compliance where it is needed and stiffness where it is not.
The bike was equipped with the venerable Shimano Ultegra 6800 drivetrain, and a serviceable WH-RS31 wheelset. While it has become industry standard to spec bikes with low end ‘training’ wheels, there should be an option to just not include wheels with bikes (most shops will let you). Most of the time they just end up collecting dust or for sale on Ebay. In this case, the RS31 wheels are quite heavy, even for their class (Fulcrum Racing 5 is ~200 grams lighter), and I would definitely prefer more spokes if I were to intend on riding these every day (you know, for things like training).
Geometry is on par with the other modern ‘endurance’ bikes of its class. Compared to the BuraSL (NeilPryde’s top, light-weight race bike) of the same size, the Zephyr has 15mm of extra head tube, and 5mm shorter effective top tube for a more comfortable upright position, giving the rider a more compliant hip angle. The ride is made more stable and predictable thanks to an elongated wheelbase that is the result of chain stays that are 10mm longer and an extra degree of slack on the head tube angle.
Comparison of the Bura SL (grey) and the Zephyr (blue)
For the 2014 model year, NeilPryde has updated their paint scheme to a classic ‘panel’ design that looks really sharp. I find that it works especially well with the modern lines of the Zephyr, blending the new and old. Overall, it is a very sharp looking bike with unique styling that will most certainly turn some heads. I especially like the use of a non-standard color, rather than the usual black/red that most bikes follow. NeilPryde calls it green, but it looks close to Ibis’ ‘Vitamin P’ color.
That being said, much of that style is lost on the white/red/grey colorway. I do not like white bikes, mostly because they are hard to keep that way, and I swore I would never get another one after my Cannondale SuperSix. Unfortunately, the NeilPryde website lists the white frame as the only option for a complete bike, while the black is for 'frame only' purchases. However, our sources tell us that this is not set in stone, and the company will "do their best" to accommodate customers.
On the road, the Zephyr was everything that we have come to expect from this class of bikes. As I have said in previous reviews, there is not much compromise with this modern crop of bikes. The frame seemed to soak up most imperfections with ease without feeling numb. The BB was fairly solid under hard efforts, however, I did feel as though some of that 'vertical compliance' was sapping a bit of my effort away while hammering. The easy fix for that would be to have a smoother pedal stroke, so it may not be an issue for most. Given that all of the stated design seemed to work as well as stated, that little bit of flex is easy to forgive.
The wheels are much harder to forgive. As mentioned above, these are heavy, without the security of feeling particularly strong or durable.They are round, they roll, and that is about all they have going for them. Handling was impressive for a 'comfort' bike. Turn in was surprisingly light for a longer wheelbase bike and it held a line well. Probably credit the lower bb height for some of that, putting the rider weight lower in the frame.
Ultimately, the Zephyr really impressed us, especially for a brand's first offering in the category. Of the bikes we tested, it is also the bargain of the bunch. It has all of the makings of a great endurance race bike, but it is not the best. This isn't a knock against the Zephyr as much as it is a compliment to the Bianchi Infinito CV, we really loved that bike. NeilPryde has a bike that has 9/10th the performance, at 8/10th the price.
Price as tested
$4100 NeilPryde has increased the price, making it less of a value buy than it was previously. Rating has been adjusted accordingly.
: 3.5/4 -
: 3 / 4 -
2.5/4 - BB was solid under input, but the heavy wheels hurt it when making quick bursts.