The Storm is one of the few rigid forked mountain bikes left on the mainstream market. Its semi-slick tyres hint at its intended users, riders who spend most of their time on blacktop or easy trails, but with a range of gearing and hydraulic disc brakes it wouldn’t take much to swap the tyres and upgrade it to full trail status.
If you’re just looking for an urban mountain bike, check out the other bike in Ridgeback’s Switch range, the £400 Cyclone, which is similar but has rim brakes. As it stands, the Storm is a great urban mountain bike that’s fast on blacktop, is easily ﬁtted with a rack and mudguards and can handle trail rides as long as you’re aware of the low bottom bracket and limited tyre traction. And for the price of a set of bigger proﬁle grippier tyres it becomes a remarkably competent trail bike on which you’ll only rarely feel the need for a suspension fork. When you do, it’s probably time to look at a more costly bike with a better drivetrain too.
Ride & handling: Easy to ride thanks to lively handling and low weight
Apart from the low bottom bracket and the obvious limited traction of the tyres in the mud, the Storm handles itself extremely well on all but the toughest trail rides. We spent part of the test period with 2.25in knobbly tyres ﬁtted, and the obvious boosts to pedal clearance and wet trail traction was complimented by enough extra comfort to add speed and handling conﬁdence on rough terrain.
For gentler trails, the steel rigid fork is ﬁne, to the point where we appreciated the improved handling precision compared to the poorly controlled low budget suspension that comes on similarly priced rivals. It’s the combination of lively handling and low weight that makes the Storm easy to ride, especially on the climbs, in comparison to heavier suspension forked bikes on all but the most rock and root infested trails.
If you really feel a need to add some plush to the front end, try ﬁtting big proﬁle tyres before you commit to the much bigger expense of a new fork. Detail wise, all credit to Ridgeback for a superb saddle and grips, items that are often overlooked on low budget bikes but make a big difference to the way you feel about a bike when you climb on.
Frame: Lightweight workhorse frame and fork
Ridgeback bikes are designed in the UK, although the only thing that hints at this is the under-down tube mudguard eyelets. The frame is light but tough with masses of standover clearance, room to ﬁt fat proﬁle off-road tyres, luggage rack and bottle bosses and a gusset behind the head tube to help deﬂect frontal impacts. The rigid fork could be swapped for suspension but geometry dictates that anything but a very short travel fork would slacken the head angle to a point of creating lazy handling.
Equipment: Some excellent finishing kit
Continental’s Double Fighter 1.9in low proﬁle semi-slick tyres are capable on dry trails and ideal for road use, wet or dry, as well as being ideal as commuter tyres because they’re fast. Don’t expect them to grip properly on a muddy trail though. With so many bigger profile fast rolling treads available, we’d suggest an instant upgrade for off-road use. The tyres draw attention to another aspect of the frame that limits off-road enjoyment – the bottom bracket (BB) is low enough to cause pedal strikes on rough or twisty terrain. Bigger treads would add half an inch or more to pedal height without losing the stability of a low gravity centre.
Finishing kit is generally excellent. Tough 36-spoked wheels and hydraulic disc brakes can take a lot of trail abuse and we like the classy touches of a faux-leather Kevlar-edged saddle and bolt-on grips. The crankset favours road riders more than off road, with 48, 38, 28-toothed rings instead of the smaller rings favoured by most mountain bikers. Crankset gearing, as in the number of chainrings and the number of teeth on them, is always a tough one for manufacturers to get right. With smaller rings that are more typical on mountain bikes you might run out of gears at higher speeds on the road. With big rings like these, you end up rarely using the 48-tooth outer and occasionally wishing you had a smaller inner than the 28 tooth.
Shifting is efﬁcient but we were irritated by the rear gear knocking on the underside of the chainstay when freewheeling over bumpy terrain. Hydraulic disc brakes may seem like overkill if you ride mainly on the road or gentle trails. But the extra braking power, ease of use and durability in the wet is a major bonus over the extra maintenance of cable pull disc brakes and the relative inefficiency of rim brakes.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike