Ridgeback Flight 04 £999.99

Sharp commuting tool

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

Ridgeback’s city range extends all the way from the Flight 01 at £499 up to the Flight Ti for an eye-watering £2,299. The 04 on test here sits neatly under the all-important psychological barrier of £1,000.

It stands out in the range for another reason: it’s the only bike with a hub gear. This strikes a blow for low maintenance simplicity because there are no mechs to require adjustment but it does limit you to eight gears.

  • Frame: Light, smart and sharp-steering. The carbon fork adds some comfort but the frame isn’t the smoothest (8/10)
  • Handling: Agile, precise and stable too, though a wider bar would improve control and feel less nervy (7/10)
  • Equipment: The single ring, eight-speed hub and chain tensioner are an odd mix. Great brakes though (7/10)
  • Wheels: Sturdy but not up to the performance of the rest of the bike. Faster wheels could transform this bike (7/10)

The Flight 04's limited gearing is less of a problem than you might expect. The gear selection in the Shimano Alfine hub is brilliantly judged, with no big gaps yet a very useful spread. You can continue to contribute to your speed on descents beyond 30mph and the lowest ratio will get a reasonably fit rider up a fair gradient of 8-10 percent.

Where the Ridgeback falls down alongside its conventionally geared peers is the absence of a climbing gear for those not wishing to work up a sweat, the truly unfit, and your granny. Shifts are a bit vague, too.

Ridgeback choose to fit a chain-tensioner instead of horizontal dropouts and a clean, singlespeed look. The vertical dropouts make for easier wheel removal in case of punctures, but seeing as you won’t have a team car with a ready mechanic and spare wheel, and a roadside repair is an operation of several minutes, the occasional time-saving seems immaterial compared to the constant annoyance of the rattly tensioner.

The carbon fork and triple-density grips are more effective at dampening vibration and road shocks than the triple-butted aluminium frame and alloy post at the back. The Flight isn’t unpleasantly harsh, though, and the own-brand Flight SLX saddle is good.

Beefy 32-hole Alex XD-Lite rims don’t seem to help smooth the ride and you couldn’t call them zippy. There isn’t the acceleration on tap that you might expect from the frame’s purposeful ride, though it builds pace well enough and whistles along at reasonable average speed thanks to the keen riding position and 28mm tyres. Disappointingly, our bike’s front wheel was out of true when it arrived, although this did underline one advantage of disc brakes on city bikes.

The steering is sharp so you’d better be wide awake before starting your commute in the morning. If you’re on the ball, it’s fun to dart through slow-moving cars and it hooks around tight corners well on the sticky Continental Duraskin+ tyres.

The skinny bar doesn’t inspire confidence initially but the Flight 04 is a lot more stable than it first makes you think, so you soon get used to the reduced arc. The payoff is threading through traffic where the 54cm bar fits between lines of cars a lot more readily than the wider controls found on some other bikes in this class.

The Ridgeback has hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano M575s, which mean less maintenance but a bigger headache when they do need servicing. Bleeding brakes is an unpleasant job that you will probably prefer to have done by a shop. The brakes don’t give a lot of initial bite, which is unnerving for a few minutes and thereafter beneficial to fine control. With a firmer squeeze they are strong stoppers and easily able to stand the Flight on its nose.

Overall, the Flight 04 is a good bike that's held back by a slightly confusing spec. To underline this reasoning, we were impressed with the conventionally-equipped Flight 05 when we tested one last year.

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