We run the rule over a time trial machine that promises durability and strength while keeping the weight down to a PB-friendly minimum
The staff at the small bike brand of SwiftCarbon is, reassuringly, made up of keen bike racers, starting from the very top. CEO Mark Blewett was a professional in the 90s (and is still in good shape today), head of SwiftCarbon Australia Jonathan Cantwell raced for Saxo Bank in 2013 and SwiftCarbon South Africa’s GM Charles Keey was once ranked No.1 on the UCI World Cup marathon circuit. This love of the sport and genuine affinity for the needs of riders feeds into the way they have designed their bikes over the years. And the Neurogen is no exception.
This is a pro-level race machine made for competitive triathletes and time-triallists, with a few interesting twists on the fast-in-a-straight-line category of bike. It’s a triathlon-specific counterpart to their popular UVox road offering – a high-end carbon chassised, UCI-legal wind cheater that weighs a remarkable sub-8kg, with SRAM Red and Zipp 303s.
The 2015 model sees a refined layup schedule, resulting in a frame that’s a reported 8% lighter and 12% stiffer than its predecessor, and boosts the new full carbon integrated and fully adjustable handlebar system. SwiftCarbon’s composite engineers have combined the high-tensile T1000 and MR46 materials with modulus fibres to help absorb the road buzz.
The 160mm head tube maximises the aerodynamic advantage of a frame of this shape. The integrated head tube/fork design decreases frontal area and the tubes are profiled to be effective at greater angles of wind direction. Both front and rear calipers are neatly hidden from the airflow and the full carbon PF30 bottom bracket shell is compatible with BB86, Campagnolo Ultra-Torque and BSA systems. Specced on the standard issue Neurogen is Rotor’s FLOW aero chainset, which is compatible with elliptical chainrings and the spider can be swapped for a smaller BCD if needed for those hillier races where a compact crank is essential.
SwiftCarbon’s proprietary handlebar system was developed by composite engineer and industry veteran Boris Sirmanoff and Mark Blewett himself, a trained industrial designer who knows his stuff. Fully adjustable and customisable, it’s pretty easy to get your arms positioned in that all-important 90-degree bend for optimal power transfer, aerodynamics and minimal fatigue.
In short, it’s a machine designed and built with the real-world rider in mind, not just for wind-tunnel number crunching. Taking a bike from A to B and back again in the most efficient manner in controlled scientific environments is one thing, but as anyone who has taken on 180km of road racing as part of their A-race will tell you, controlled environments are a designer’s plaything, not an age-grouper’s reality. There are crosswinds, bumpy roads and, yes, even corners! Grafting some of the DNA off their Ultravox, the Neurogen frame and handlebar system promise to help you tackle the bends predictably and absorb fatigue-inducing road buzz. Kyle Buckingham won Ironman Lake Placid in 2014 on one and claimed the fastest bike split while saving enough steam to blitz the run course.
That wasn’t all about the bike, of course, but as testimonies to how the Neurogen performs go, it’s not to be sniffed at.
After some relatively intuitive adjustment of the bars, on test we were able to quickly find our usual aero position, and with the wide range of fore-and-aft movement on the seat post, got comfortably set up on the first spin out.
What immediately strikes you is that this is a machine designed to race (we’ve yet to find a dedicated TT/triathlon bike that isn’t, of course, but the set-up here is one that sets you in an aggressive mode from first pedal).
The process of accelerating confirms what the makers promise in terms of reduced weight when measured against its price-point peers. That can come at a cost to stiffness, of course, but there was no major issue in that respect. Stability at speed was impressive, hotting the 50kmh mark with a steady comfort.
And soon it was time to take some corners with a bit of decent momentum. The Neurogen tracked cleanly and without drama when taking some sweeping corners at a decent lick; an off-camber, bumpy, 110-degree corner offered little concern. Even leaning in harder on the next few bends offered no white knuckles and wide eyes, which isn’t always true of purpose-built, against-the-clock-type machines.
There is no one-size-fits-all bike out there for the different body shapes that make up a starting line at an iron-distance event, but there is a uniform need to be able to get off the ride without having compromised your run. Four hours pushing it at race pace offers some insight into a bike’s usefulness in our sport.
Your reviewer is not Crowie nor Rinny, and so to say the transition from two wheels to two feet was seamless would be flirting with exaggeration. However, the flexibility in set-up (and a bit of time spent getting that right) meant we were able to hit the road without any ill effects from the ride.
The Neurogen frame’s tube shapes have been honed to go fast, sure. But that’s not the only factor to consider when buying a bike for a triathlete’s demands. It must behave well in crosswinds, corner without fuss and take up some of the fatigue-inducing road vibrations. The Neurogen does that. Its bar system is superbly stiff, light and easy to adjust for the perfect position. Also, if you’re thinking of mixing up your training with a few time trials events, the Neurogen is fully UCI legal.
For more info head to Swift Carbon.