When I heard about the Diablo my interest peaked. My riding style is preferential to the hills and I also like a bike that is ‘close hauled’ and performs well in tight, twisty terrain. So, I was pretty excited when Neil Pryde offered me a chance to take one out on a full day test ride. We had a perfect ride in mind which was a pre-scheduled TCC club ride on a fairly technical course featuring decent transit sections plus a couple of Category 1 climbs through beautiful gorge areas.
Mike(s) and crew hand delivered the bike to my house after spending all day doing dealer rounds. Wow, these guys are committed! The bike I chose was a spanking new Diablo with top end Dura-Ace group and Mavic Krysirium wheelset. As an FYI this is one of their standard builds – so everything was well in place and perfectly in tune. I settled for the ‘S’ size as I knew some other riders in the group would like to try this bike and it would be more easy to accommodate with a smaller frame. I swapped the stem for a longer one to fit my reach.
Setting off in the morning the first thing I noticed was just how quick this bike was. My regular ride is a Titanium custom fixed gear and while a great riding bike overall, not particularly known for ‘quickness’ under roadlike conditions. I might mention, that the Diablo was also the first derailler equipped bike I had seriously ridden in more than 20yrs. So, it stands as a pretty significant event to gt yours truly off a fixed gear and onto a roadbike. I did not want to give this experience to just any bike that came along.
We met up with everyone and proceeded to transit out to the hills. I was feeling pretty good and noticed my average pace kept inching up higher and higher. The Diablo was so smooth on the road I just couldn’t help riding it hard. I rally wanted to go 100% on this bike all the time!
Reaching the first set of hills I prepared myself for the real test. I wanted to see how the bike handled in a combination of climbing and riding techniques that included in saddle, bar-top standing and hard drop bar standing. Most road bikes don’t satisfy me in the handling as they skip around too much under hard standing climbs. It takes a very well tuned geometry to get a bike that will stick perfectly to the road and at the same time provide a stiff climbing platform. My own custom bikes tend to have a tucked in rear geometry with a little more relaxed front end. And I try to get get chainstays as nearly parallel to the drive as possible. Imagine a track bike that is not so twitchy and you know what I mean. I also like to be positioned more over the pedals, so the steeper seat tube angle helps with that as well the longer stem. In essence, the Diablo is very much how I would design a frameset for the type of riding I like best – technical hills and dales.
The Diablo responded very well to any kind of action I threw at it. Slow grinding mashing up the hill, spinning, hard standing, etc. It stuck like glue on the road and every pedal stroke counted! The only negative thing I noticed was that it did have a significant amount of toe overlap which under normal conditions would be perfectly acceptable for a race bred frame, however in the technical hill portions that required traversing or hard flat steering, it was a bit disconcerting, but easily accommodated once I got used to it.
This particular road is known as one of the stomping grounds for serious climber training and on any weekend you can throw your dice in with some of Japan’s top riders for King of the Hills. One of these riders whipped past our small group and several of us took pace. I raised my effort to max and was soon catching a few riders, then nearing the top of the hill I pulled out all the stops, clicked down 3 gears and took on a serious standing uphill sprint for the last 200m. The Diablo jumped to the fray and I was pleasantly surprised by catching the group! WOW! This was getting fun! I even started to feel a little bad for the other riders in our group who were on less sprightly steeds. Though, at 53yo, I deserve a little handicap now and then – and for sure the Diablo was giving it to me.
After another short transit around the reservoir, we regrouped and refueld in preparation for the ‘mac daddy’ climb up Arima Toge. A very technical climb with variety of road surfaces and no slack points until about 3kn from the end. The Neil Pryde guys met up with us at this point, and we were joined by their Japanese rep and team rider, Michael Rice, as well as their VP of Sales, also named Michael Rice. They had a professional service van with a real pro mechanic, Jerry, and with this, we set out on the next leg.
The bunch quickly spread out and I took on after Fumiki san who is, in my opinion, one of the best natural riders I’ve seen. He is a tough nut to crack under any condition and today would be no different. Since Fumiki had taken most of the pre-season ‘off’, he was just coming back into form and I knew that this would probably be the last time I’d have the slightest chance of hanging with him. Today would prove that to be true! As we battled up the hill I kept him solidly in sights and was hoping that by just applying mental pressure I could get him to over work and wear down a bit. Fumiki san is also smart as well as strong – and he played the game in reverse as well. I could see him glance back, then quickly change up to standing to break my spirit. HA! But I had a new secret devil on my shoulder who kept pushing me.
On the one section of the road where I knew changed to some small ups and downs I decided to mount a final attack. This is where I demanded full effort and maximum performance. Any weakness in the bike would clearly be shown here. The road was a mix of nasty hairpins – fast and steep, up and down, strewn with rocks, sticks and even sections of gravel. Not for the timid. It was exactly this type of road that I felt I could succeed my attack. I gained ground steadily on Fumiki san and pushed pace even harder. Most of the hairpins were taken ‘en drift’ and I was really enjoying the spirit of this chase. I passed Fumiki san and kept as hard as I could. But somehow the fighting spirit overtook him as well and he counter attacked on the next set of steep switchbacks.
We rounded the final set of curves and mini-sprinted to the end. Fumiko san took the line and I followed just a few seconds after. As I was finishing, Michael Rice, the NPB Pro rider had made his challenge and the three of us finished climb at a very fast pace. (Thanks , Michael, for letting an old man have his day!).
The top three bikes on the hill were a Trek (Fumiki san) and two NPB Diablos. Without this bike I could have never kept such a solid pace on this climb. Aside from the small twitchiness and toe overlap, the solid performance on the hill and amazing responsiveness off the pedal made this one of the best days of climbing I’ve had in a long time. And it was great to lose my ‘fixie virginity’ on this bike.
I guess you could say, ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’!