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From the Forum: Phil’s Neo Exile Ultimate

August 11th, 2010

By Emiliano Jordan


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It’s time for “stealth and minimal” and what better bike to do it with than the example from my first customer’s custom bicycles post.  You can find a lot of minimal components on our forums and you can find just as many matching color, or lack of it, themes.  I did write a brief personal observation on this bike but when I told Phil I was posting his bike he was kind enough to offer his personal take on it.  So I’ll stop meddling in this bicycle’s affairs and let the owner speak!

Personal Background: I’ve been riding for 30 years, starting off with club races and time trials in Western Australia. Moved to Santa Barbara to get a PhD and rode with the UCSB club. Nowdays I just ride for the sheer enjoyment of it!

Bicycle Background: I began with very ordinary steel bikes, then worked with a custom frame builder in Perth. Made many frames from Reynolds and Columbus CrMo tubing with hand-cut lug work. Have ridden steel, aluminum (Cannondale), early CF (Specialized Allez Epic), Titanium (Merlin Extralight) and early CF monocoque (Giant TCR). Started going weight-weenie with the Giant and got it down to about 12.8lbs by the end. But it was getting long in the tooth, almost 7 years old and during that time CF frame design and fabrication has really changed. “Shaped” tubes, tapered headtubes and BB30 have made lighter, yet more robust, frames possible. The Neo Ultimate, made in the Chinese Carbotec factory, is the basis for the new bike. Every component is new from those that made up the Giant, although I started off hoping not to have to buy everything new.

Neo Ultimate: Regarding the FSA Plasma bars, I tried a much lighter Schmolke/F99 setup, but the ergonomics of the integrated bar/stem just won out in the end.  There was a potential saving of nearly 150g, but in the end, being a weight weenie is about compromise.  My bike is *nearly* a no-compromise ultralight build, but the bars and tires are both chosen for comfort and reliability rather than weight saving.

All components on the bike can be bought from a dealer, although some have been “shaved” to remove decals. What makes the bike unique is the selection of components, plus the frame, which although an “open mold” frame from one of the largest manufacturers of CF frames in the world, doesn’t appear to be widely available or distributed.

Ride Experience: The best word to describe the ride is “taut.” It is solid but not unforgiving. It tracks very well in corners, stays firmly underneath you when climbing out of the saddle, and lunges ahead when the watts get applied. The new AX Lightness 42mm wheels are wonderfully strong, yet under 900g. The Veloflex tires are my favorite, and have proven to be supple, fast and reliable (what more could you ask for from a tire?)

I do like the touch of red on the seat post clamp and headset, yet was just a little bit disappointed to see that Phil had sanded the shifters down so the effect wasn’t matched on the Sram Red components. To this he responded:

As for the two red highlights—perhaps I should remove them, as I didn’t like the red on the SRAM levers and derailleur. I’m looking forward to a black SRAM rear derailleur also!

One thing I’d like to say is that as the “rediculously light” weight for bikes keeps dropping the weight that I would consider an everyday rider for myself is also diving. There’s really nothing on the Neo Exile Ultimate that I would consider too fragile or too much maintenance. In fact with EE Cycle Works’ brakes I’d even feel comfortable turning this bike around a crit corner or two.  Of course here I’d chose Phil’s alternate wheels set, taking advantage of the deeper profile on the AX Lightness SRT42.

Well, while Madcow tinkers in his mad scientist laboratory, above all the daily operations, with new and exciting Interbike projects I’d say that with the quality of custom builds our customers are producing we could stock an impressive booth with nothing more than these. For those of you who are curious Phil has very meticulously put together a list of components and weights for this bike, totaling 5280 grams with the AX Lightness / Tune / Extralite wheel build. Thanks, Phil!


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  1. 2 BMC's #
    August 19, 2010

    the only thing wrong with this bike is those bars. The stem angle looks better suited to a mountain bike. The drops look like they have been cut off as well. If you wanted to stay with integrated bars FSA’s are just a cheap looking copy of Cinelli Rams.

    But other than that everything else is bang on. Love the wheels.

  2. August 19, 2010

    I have a set of Cinelli RAM bar/stem, and the FSA is substantially lighter with only a degree or two more rise--so I chose the slightly less aesthetically appealing combo over the boat-anchor combo.
    I guess that’s one of the compromises.
    I am also an old guy with some back issues, so a slightly smaller drop from seat to bar has helped me to deal with my aging process.
    I know this isn’t WW, but this bike is ultra light and ridden 4 times a week. I don’t like bike computers, I only need one water bottle, and I rarely ride in the drops so I don’t miss 2″ of bar that I never use.
    The wheels are nice.

  3. Eric Garcia #
    August 23, 2010

    Phil, your bike is incredible. I was completely amazed when I noticed the weight. I also like the stealth look. It was great riding with you this weekend.

  4. excremanwu #
    September 16, 2010

    Phil, it is awesome.
    eebrake is really a good choice.
    The bar look pretty good after being sanded, notwithstanding it would be ligher if you choose stem and bar separately.
    At last, my biggest concern is the FD.
    Why chose FD-7900 to work with SRAM lever?
    It is my understanding that the leverage ratio is a bit different, and RED FD is lighter.
    And could you tell us what have you done with your FD-7900?
    Thank you.

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