Ridley Crossbow £699.99

Affordable aluminium cyclo-cross rig

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Ridley is the biggest bike manufacturer in Belgium and cyclo-cross racing is practically the national sport, so we expected the Crossbow to perform. It doesn’t disappoint either.

  • Frame and fork: Race proven in Belgium, and versatile too, with all the right fixing points for racks and mudguards, and a huge range of sizes
  • Handling: No-nonsense control on and off road - planted and reliable when the going gets tough
  • Equipment: Great value given the Ritchey name. The 4ZA finishing kit doesn’t disappoint and Tiagra makes up for a missing gear with mud clearance
  • Wheels: One of the many spokes came loose but, once retightened, Shimano own-brand Pro wheels were comfortable and capable, especially laced to the proven Tiagra hubs

The Crossbow is the first sub-£1,000 ’cross bike that Ridley have made – the range is bristling with serious carbon fibre racing frames for equally serious money. It’s no featherweight, but then it's an aluminium bike that's been designed to handle the knocks of off-road racing. It’s good to discover that even with Ridley’s cyclo-cross racing heritage, there have been plenty of concessions made on the Crossbow for versatility.

It comes with fairly narrow tyres that can be pumped up to a decent road pressure, and eyelets for mudguards and racks both front and rear. There are even bona fide rack eyelets near the top of the seatstays. For carry sections of a 'cross race or for climbing stiles, once the Crossbow is on your shoulder you’ll find the ovalised top tube with all three cables running along the top hardly digs into you at all.

On the road, the 32mm-section Vittoria Cross XG Pro tyres roll well when pumped up to their 90psi max, and on the trails they were only found wanting when the going got slimy. 'Cross racing regulars are likely to want wider section, more aggressively treaded rubber which can be run at a lower pressure than the Vittoria Cross’s suggested minimum of 60psi without risk of pinch punctures.

Finishing kit is good, with Ritchey’s logo appearing on the bars, seatpost and stem. These might be modest black aluminium components but there is no unwanted flex and they are beyond reproach. The same can be said for the solid-as-a-rock 4ZA  Zornyc fork with its carbon legs, alloy crown and steerer – no braking dive, no surprises from sharp corners or big hits.

Some might look down on a part alloy, part carbon fork but where light weight is not the ultimate goal the combination works well. The result is a still fairly light weight of 633g, strength and durability – not to mention eyelets and clearance for mudguards.

The Tiagra groupset is one up from Shimano’s entry-level Sora but still works admirably well in all conditions. In this ’cross bike configuration the brakes have been swapped to capable 4ZA CB1 cantilevers, and the cranks are FSA’s proven Gossamer compact crankset, neither of which has an equivalent in the Tiagra range.

Tiagra is still ‘just’ nine-speed, but we didn’t notice the missing 10th gear. The extra spacing for the cassette (fewer cogs spread across the same width) means more room for error when the drivetrain gets covered in mud.

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