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Bike Test: NeilPryde Bura SL

May 23, 2015
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Back when the first carbon bikes started rolling out in the early ’90s, NeilPryde was still over two decades away from rolling out their first bike. But, that doesn’t mean that NeilPryde’s carbon expertise doesn’t date back to that same era, though; it just happened to be in the sport of windsurfing. Already possessing market-leading carbon design and material savvy has given the brand a running start in the bicycle market, and they’ve wasted no time in developing a complete bike line, which includes the Bura SL.

THE FRAME
Only a couple of years ago there was just a mere handful of brands that had achieved a frame weight of sub- 800 grams. The Bura SL easily trumps that and nearly reaches the realm of the Cannondale EVO and Trek Emonda with a claimed weight of just 710 grams (for a size small). With an endurance bike and aero-road bike already in the line, NeilPryde didn’t have to make the Bura SL a jack-of-all-trades bikes and could instead put a bullseye on making it light and stiff first and foremost, with compliance and aerodynamics further down on the list of priorities.

Even though the Bura SL’s design looks to have been inspired from the previous iteration of Cervelo’s R5 that uses a combination of square tube profiles to maximize torsional rigidity, along with minuscule seatstays to help dissipate road vibrations, it takes its own unique design direction in many ways. External gussets, called Exoskeleton, are used behind the head tube, in addition to the junction point of the top tube and seat tube. Since both of these are such high-stress areas, the external ribs are designed to both strengthen and stiffen the areas without having to increase the tube thickness.

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External bracing added for stiffness, while lowering weight.

Other features that allow the Bura SL to achieve such a low weight include the external cable routing for mechanical shifting (there is internal routing for electronic), a PressFit30 bottom bracket, full-carbon fork and frame dropouts, and carbon fiber headset cups. The carbon dropouts and headset cups aren’t going to increase the lifespan of the bike, but nevertheless, they are the going design for frames in this weight range. Geometry errs on the racy side, with a wheelbase of 98.5cm, nearly a full 1.5cm shorter than NeilPryde’s Zephyr endurance bike. The Bura SL also has a head tube angle of 73 degrees, which is 1 degree steeper than the Zephyr.

THE PARTS
NeilPryde sells the Bura SL as a frameset for $3995, in a Dura- Ace 9000 build for $7495, and with the Ultegra 6800 that we tested for $5095. The build we had consisted of a complete 11-speed Ultegra group, along with Shimano’s RS31 30mm deep aluminum wheels. For 2015, NeilPryde has changed the wheel spec to Fulcrum’s Racing 5. The rest of the build is an in-house affair, with a NeilPryde-branded aluminum handlebar, stem, seatpost and saddle. Considering its price tag, the overall build is a little underwhelming. Although, taking into account it’s only an $1100 up-charge from the frameset, it’s clear that NeilPryde is betting that people will place more value in getting a high-end frame over name-brand parts.

THE RIDE
The Bura SL was a bike that divided riders straight away; you’re either going to love it or not—it’s as simple as that. The Bura SL was an enjoyable ride for the testers that define enjoyment as any ride where your legs go rubbery from blasting uphill at every opportunity and prefer to “feel the road” underneath them. NeilPryde succeeded in making it impressively stiff, which seems to only heighten the performance experience the harder you go. A stout front end makes out-of-the-saddle efforts feel powerful and efficient when pumping the bike from side to side in symmetry with each pedal stroke. If these traits are paramount to anything else for you, then you’re going to be in the love-it camp.

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The downside comes in the form of compliance, and the Bura SL has little of it besides what is gleaned from the 27.2 diameter seatpost. Road vibrations make their way up to the rider and are especially noticeable at the handlebar. After a wheel swap with a pair of Reynolds Attack 29mm-deep carbon clinchers, we realized the frame wasn’t solely responsible for the lack of compliance. The stock wheels couldn’t quite match the performance of what they were attached to, and the upgraded wheels seemed to better deaden vibrations.

THE VERDICT
For those who prefer to hear your friends talking rather than your own breathing, or if feeling all of the road’s impurities isn’t a novelty to you, NeilPryde’s Zephyr (RBA, June 2014) is going to be a better fit than the Bura SL. The Bura SL definitely delivers upon its design emphasis of giving it fast acceleration through a stiff design at a minimal amount of weight, and the Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset that will come on the 2015 model are an upgrade over the Shimano RS31 wheels on our test bike.

PUNCH LINES
• Stiff through and through
• Unique Exoskeleton design
• Not for everyone, but definitely for some

STATS
Price: $5095; $3995 (frameset)
Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL
Weight: 15.8 pounds

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