Make faster bikes. That's the main thrust of Belgian manufacturers Ridley's future plans.
That said, we won't see too many changes to the company's top aero machines, the Noah (road) and Dean (time trial), in 2011 (click here for a preview of the 2011 line-up). But on a visit to their new factory in Paal-Beringen we did get a sneak preview of a fork that looks to be even slipperier than the current R-Flow.
The new fork will keep the two-legged Jetfoil design that Ridley have licensed from Oval Concepts, which reduces turbulence around the spokes of the front wheel. But the brake will be fully integrated into the rear of the fork.
By fully, we mean that the calipers will be part of the fork, rather than bolted on separately. And although Ridley wouldn't say in so many words, the same design could be applied to the rear brake, which is currently mounted under the chainstays on the Dean. In addition to the aerodynamic benefits, the minimalist carbon fibre construction should save a substantial chunk of weight relative to a standard bolt-on calliper, too.
Ridley's new faster-than-ever fork is under wraps for the moment
In-house wind tunnel
At the official opening of their new 12,000m² factory, Ridley were adamant that aero road bikes are the next big thing. It's now relatively easy to build a light, stiff bike that falls within UCI (International Cycling Union) regulations. The biggest potential for improvement, therefore, has to come through better aerodynamics.
To that end, the company will invest heavily in that area over the next few years, including building a wind tunnel on site. Even the largest bike manufacturers don't have this luxury, which shows how ambitious Ridley are.
Ridley's wind tunnel is just a poster on the wall at the moment
Ridley will not only test frames in the tunnel, they'll also be putting their own-brand 4ZA wheels, forks, handlebars and stems in it for aerodynamic scrutiny. They already use 3D computational fluid dynamics software to aid design and develop prototypes. For them, a wind tunnel is the next logical step.
It's an expensive one though, which is why other bike companies visit external tunnels. Aside from the building costs, which will be well into six figures, there's also the cost of running it. The electricity to power the turbines isn't cheap, neither is employing staff with the necessary expertise to operate it.
So far, the Ridley wind tunnel is just a large poster on the wall of their spacious warehouse. But marketing manager Eric Wallace expects it to be up and running by July next year. Wallace told BikeRadar that they don't intend to rent it to anyone else to offset the running costs, which left us wondering what else it will be used for. Buy an aero bike and get your position tuned in the tunnel? Could happen.
New team sponsorship
Ridley will no longer sponsor the Katusha team in 2011, instead choosing to switch to the Belgium-based Vacansoleil squad. It's a Pro Continental team with ProTour ambitions and fits better with Ridley's 'We Are Belgium' slogan. That said, two of the team's key signings are foreigners: Italian Riccardo Ricco and Spaniard Ezequiel Mosquera, who just finished second overall in the Tour of Spain. Ridley will also continue to sponsor the Fidea cyclo-cross team in 2011.
The Fidea cyclo-cross team
'Design your own Ridley' competition winners announced
During our day with Ridley, five competition winners were awarded complete Noah bikes, with the frame decorated in their own design and kitted out with Campagnolo Athena 11-speed. Ridley received thousands of entries via the internet, with a huge proportion of those coming via Cyclingnews.
Alistair Brown won the UK competition with a spectacular red design. Alistair's day job involves managing a team of designers at Newsquest Media Group and he was more than happy to put his skills into action to win a bike. He was delighted when Ridley told him the good news.
Alistair Brown was delighted with his new bike, as you can see from the smile on his face!
Now back home, Alistair told us that he's had one outing on it: "It already seems great in a straight line and accelerates well too. That does come at a price though as the ride is incredibly stiff, but I'm okay with that. I'm pretty sure I'll keep it for competition only once I've tweaked a few things. I have a selection of other machines I can train and ride to work on. I can't risk dents and scratches!"
Alistair is planning to use his Ridley for racing only
The other winners of the compeition were: Niels Groeneveld (Belgium), Bart Limburger (Netherlands), Diane Vialon-Doring (Germany) and Xavier Rotreau (France).