Ribble Nero Corsa£1,325.00

Ribble's hot-pot/pasta combo is more than a bit tasty

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Ribble's full carbon framed Nero Corsa is built around a Dedacciai frame of the same name, so this is a bike which can claim to a Latin-Lancastrian heritage.

However it competes against pure-bred Italian machines from the likes of Bianchi, Cinelli and Wilier at the same £1300 price point so it needs to do something a bit special to get noticed.

Frame: light, stiff and lively

Ribble has 18 different frames in its range, from an alloy audax model to the ultra-light carbon Scuro HCR. You can spec any of them the way you want from a wide selection of kit using the BikeBuilder system. Just go online, choose the model and alter anything according to your taste and budget.

We were sent the Nero Corsa in a 'special edition' build (no altering the spec) and, to be honest, we feared that a £1325 bike dripping with Dura-Ace components must have a dull, low-end frame, but we couldn't have been more wrong. This chassis is lightweight, impressively stiff and full of life.

Dedacciai's monocoque design, built using Toray T600 carbon fibre with high 12K modulus in a distinctive broad weave, might not have the eye-catching touches of, say, the Bianchi, but it's certainly tidy enough. The head-tube and the seat-tube are simple round profile but the top-tube, though it starts out circular at the front end, is vertically ovalised over the course of its length.

The same is true of the down-tube which also widens to hold the bottom bracket shell firmly, even when you're jumping on the cranks during out-of-the-saddle climbs.

The low profile wishbone seatstays are snaky enough to take the sting out of road irregularities, while forged dropouts and a replaceable hanger handle the business end.

Although the fork isn't quite up there with some of the competition, the blades and steerer are carbon and give a decent ride that's marked by good shock absorption and a lack of buzz.

Wheels: mid-range troopers

The Ribble's mid-range Shimano RS20 wheelset doesn't offer anything like the level of performance of its groupset components, but they're light, reasonably compliant, and stayed true throughout testing despite our best efforts, so we really have no gripes.

The angular contact bearings in the hubs spin relatively smoothly and when the time does come for servicing, regreasing and precise adjustment is simple enough for even the least skilled mechanic. The butted and flat-bladed stainless steel spokes (16 up front, 20 at the rear) are straight-pull and we've certainly found these to fail less often than those with an elbow, so we're hopeful that durability won't be a problem.

Red anodised nipples add a classy finishing touch - they even impressed the dispatch driver who delivered the bike.

Equipment: the dizzy heights of Dura-Ace

As we mentioned, you can choose the spec of a Ribble bike yourself and our Nero Corsa came with a Dura-Ace groupset... which is just mad. We love Shimano's flagship gruppo and really can't work out how Ribble is able to spec a carbon bike at this price with such high-end kit, but hey, we're not complaining.

And we're not just talking about an eye-catching rear mech and crankset with downgrades snuck in under the radar elsewhere; you get Dura-Ace levers, brakes, front mech and even cassette and bottom bracket too. It's all extremely lightweight and performs as faultlessly as you'd expect for a groupset used by many of the world's top racers - slick shifting, powerful and well-modulated braking, excellent reliability all round... we could go on, but you get the picture.

It really is brilliant.

The rest of the kit might not quite hit the same heady heights but it's all solid stuff; the only non-branded item on the bike is the seatpost and even that is a decent quality carbon option.

Handling: hill of a performer

The Ribble hits the scales at just 17.5lb and that's for our whopping XL size. This is impressive when its considered against the next lightest direct competitor bike we've tested which came in at 19lb.

Now, 1.5lb might not sound much but it's a saving of - where's that calculator - just under 8 per cent, and you do feel that difference from the off, your effort rewarded with lightning-quick acceleration. Increasing the pace out of corners is equally effortless but it's when you hit the hills that the Nero Corsa really shines.

Stomp on the pedals and it heads for the summit like a bike costing two grand or more, thanks to the combination of the light weight and the fact that there's virtually no discernible lateral flex in the frame. Spec yourself some higher quality wheels and it'll be even quicker.

Down the other side of the hills and the Ribble behaves just fine. You point and shoot and end up exactly where you intended and you're never left nervously feathering the brakes through tight bends.

All in all, it's a fantastic ride.

Verdict

We're not saying that alloy frames with carbon seatstays have had their day but, as we've seen, the bar has been raised at the £1300 price point and any bike of this genre needs to come up with something special to compete.

The Ribble Nero Corsa does just that. It offers a complete Dura-Ace groupset on a carbon frame with a ride quality that's much higher than its modest price tag would lead you to expect - this is an incredible standard to set for other bikes to follow.

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