Aero road bikes are all the rage this year, with Specialized, Scott and Cervelo all launching new aero frames: the Venge, Foil and S5. Belgian company Ridley have not been napping either, recently launching the Noah Fast.
The Fast – which was originally going to be called the FB (Fast Brake) – has an almost identical frame to the original Noah, just with a new orange and black paintjob. Where it differs is in the fork and seatstays, which are split in two to house integrated brakes, improving aerodynamics even further. It's said to be slightly lighter too.
The bike won’t be available to the public until later this year, and even then the top-end Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 equipped model will have a rather immodest £9,000 pricetag. The version tested here is the SRAM Red loaded prototype Vacansoleil-DCM are riding in the Tour de France.
Ride & handling: Powerful ride, with a few niggles
As the Fast differs little from the existing Noah, it's only right we start with what's changed – the integrated brakes. Not being able to see brake callipers from the saddle is a little disconcerting at first, and we still hadn’t got used to it by the end. There was also a suggestion that the brake pads were hugging the rim during out-of-the-saddle efforts and sharp cornering.
This hints at either slight fork or wheel flex and is something we’d like to take a further look at – look out for a more in-depth review of the Fast on BikeRadar later this year. Vacansoleil-DCM will be using the same bikes on the Tour’s flatter stages (the Helium is still the bike for the mountains) so it'll be interesting to see how they get on.
The Noah Fast also has a long head tube, which seems somewhat incongruous considering its aero credentials. The 56cm frame we tested left us in a fairly upright position, more like a sportive-style bike than a race machine, and there was no way to lower the stem. In the drops of the 4ZA bar it wasn't too bad, but sitting up, we didn’t feel very aero.
On the plus side, it’s certainly a quick bike, emphasised by a brief ride beforehand on a Ridley Excalibur. But given the latter bike’s mid-pack status in the Ridley range and where the Fast falls, that should be a given. Ridley claim the Fast will save you around 20 watts at 40kph compared to a “non aero” road bike, and achieving a speed in that ballpark (we didn’t have a computer fitted) certainly felt like less of a drag than the Excalibur.
It’s a forgiving, smooth ride, and we weren’t greeted with a shuddering shock every time we hit a rough patch on the uneven and gravel-strewn roads of our test route. Braking was responsive and powerful, and the integrated seatpost did a good job of taking the sting out of some rough terrain.
The equipment on our test bike differed from that on production machines, so we won't dwell too long on the spec. Derailleurs and shifters were from SRAM's Red groupset – the DoubleTap levers take a bit of getting used to if you normally use Shimano or Campagnolo – with a Rotor chainset up front. Wheels were FFWD F4R-Cs, the comfortable Selle San Marco Regal saddle was much appreciated, and most of the rest of the kit was from 4ZA's Cirrus Pro range.
We'd have liked to have been able to throw the Noah Fast into some steep descents and sharp corners but, this being Belgium on a particularly damp afternoon, we couldn’t, and we didn’t. One thing is certain – we'd definitely like some more time on it in less atrocious conditions to form a better opinion.
The bike tested here has a team-only build that won't be available in the shops. This year, the Noah Fast will only be available as a frameset (£3,899/US$5,395/€4,499) or with a high-end spec that includes Shimano's Dura-Ace Di2 electronic groupset, for around £9,000. The full build of the production bike is as follows:
- Frame: Noah Fast
- Fork: Noah Fast 1211A
- Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
- Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
- Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900, 12-25T
- Chainset: Shimano Dura-Ace 7950, 50/34T
- Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace
- Chain: KMC X10SL Gold
- Saddle: 4ZA Cirrus Pro
- Stem: 4ZA Cirrus Pro
- Handlebar: 4ZA Cirrus Pro
- Tape: 4ZA Stratos
- Wheels: 4ZA Cirrus Pro T50
- Tyres: Vredestein Fortezza