Ribble Crono TT Gavia Carbon£1,782.45

Bargain aero ride

BikeRadar score4/5

Lancashire-based Ribble Cycles have been a legendary source of high-value, high-performance bikes since we were bairns. The blisteringly fast Crono TT aero bike they put together for us proves that missing out the local bike shop is sometimes worth it.

Ride & handling: Aggressive aerodynamic profiling, positioning and power delivery

Once you’ve unboxed your fully built bike and set up the cockpit, you won’t find much to complain about. The deep section carbon wheels not only have the potential to carve minutes off your race times, they also spin up to speed as quickly as most conventional wheels.

Ceramic braking tracks keep them predictable on descents, and the Crono's handling is assured enough to keep you rubber-side down until you learn to handle them in sidewinds. Continental tyres and a bit of lateral wheel flex are welcome to take some of the sting out of rough sections and potholes too.

There’s no doubting this is a seriously stiff frame with a real rigidity underfoot that transfers all the way through the hollow chainring, down the oversized tubes, along the straight pull spokes and into the road.

Once you’re locked into the dead-straight extensions and on top of the gear, the Crono just flies. Cruising speed is high, whatever the wind conditions, and it’s certainly not afraid of climbs either.

The sharpness of the frame becomes more evident in comfort levels the further you go, but the forks and wheels do a good job of managing the worst of asphalt-related abuse.

It doesn’t suffer from the same speed-sapping shake and staccato stutter as some other stiff race bikes when smooth tarmac runs out, and we never lost our enthusiasm for its direct efficiency, wherever we rode it.

It’s not the most cultured chassis, but there’s no doubting the Crono TT’s ability to make an aero shape while transferring your power with as little dilution as possible. Add a kit list that would shame many £2,500 bikes and you’re looking at a clock-beating bargain.

Four different-size frame options tick most fit boxes, so it’s worth a look as an upgrade from a conventional frame: four different-size frame options tick most fit boxes, so it’s worth a look as an upgrade from a conventional frame

Chassis: Not the most subtle and smooth riding frameset

Ribble’s range evolves regularly, but the Crono TT is one of three current alloy aero frames, with carbon options on the menu too. Decades of designing time trial bikes show in the short convex head tube that makes it easy to get a very low front end if you swap the spacers out.

Both top and down tubes use a deep teardrop profile with a shared seam behind the head tube to create a drag-reducing headbox. Deep aero seatstays smooth airflow between legs and wheel before tapering towards the tips, while tapered chainstays join them at short horizontally slotted dropouts.

These help you to adjust clearance against the curved wheel-hugger cutout in the seat tube, although they do complicate wheel removal for puncture fixing or packing, and detailing throughout is neat and tidy.

Four different size options tick most fit boxes and at £255.75 on its own, it’s well worth a look as an upgrade from a conventional frame. Full-carbon forks with aero blade legs (£103.25 separately) are an impressive feature for the price, even if they’re not very light.

Equipment: Outstanding, custom-tuned component value

Where the Ribble really stands out is in the kit it’s wearing. A slight mix-up during the bike prep meant we got full-carbon Pro Lite Gavia clincher wheels rather than the alloy-rimmed version, which pushed price up from the original £1,599 target. With an RRP of £1,300 on their own, there’s no doubt you’re still getting a bargain and a performance boost.

Full Shimano Ultegra stop-and-go kit, including the extra-stiff hollow outer ring chainset and powerful brakes, is another performance bonus, and the Continental tri tyres are some of our favourites. The dead-straight Deda bars are an acquired taste, and the small oversized centre section means the tucked position is narrow, even at maximum span.

The stem is also longer than we’d prefer, but like everything else ordered through Ribble’s online ‘bikebuilder’ you can choose from a broad range of variables (14 of each component in this case). There’s even a choice of 39 saddles, and Ribble are happy to help over the phone.

We have to say that the ability to spec the Crono anywhere from sub-£1,000 to £2,000-plus and reap big discounts along the way is a massive attraction to you as a buyer.

Deep aero seatstays smooth airflow between legs and wheels to help make a more speed-friendly ride: deep aero seatstays smooth airflow between legs and wheels to help make a more speed-friendly ride

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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