The 2013 carbon X-Fire 1202C cyclocross bike features Shimano 105, an FSA chainset, 4ZA Cirrus Pro brakes, Fulcrum 7 CX wheels, Challenge tyres and in-house 4ZA finishing kit. This model is being superseded by the 1403A in 2014, which will be available in canti and mechanical disc brake versions.
- HIGHS: Handles typical cyclocross duties with assurance, and has great tyres
- LOWS: We had some problems with the brakes that reduced their effectiveness
- BUY IF… You want a sorted, race-ready 'cross bike
The Ridley stands tall – our 54cm centre-to-centre frame measured 58cm to the top – and although the head tube length is a reasonable 16.5cm, the front brake's elbowed cable hanger prevented us from lowering the stem as far as we'd have liked. Still, the position on the 4ZA drops is racy enough to overcome the relatively short top-tube.
Unusually for a 'cross bike, the X-Fire 1202C has internal cabling, with outer casing running all the way to the rear mech, and the front routed around the head tube, through the down tube, and exiting to pass around the left of the seat tube to an angled cable stop just below the mech. It keeps the lines clean, and the cables out of harm's way – but replacing them could be a bit of a challenge.
We appreciated the internal cable routing when we were shouldering the bike up a steep rise – there was less to collect mud and we had a greater purchase on the frame.
When we hit the loose stuff, the 4ZA saddle felt like an armchair. Its deep cushioning was very welcome as the bike bucked along the bone-dry track. When the route narrowed to gravelly and then dusty singletrack, we accelerated, and the bike flicked around trailside trees with absolute precision. A rough descent showed off the bike's stability and solid front-end, making line choice simple and paying short shrift to the terrain.
The 4ZA brakes felt perfectly comfortable, with our preferred wide stance keeping the pads well out from the rim, giving a smooth action and excellent feel for subtle braking. The need to anticipate braking by applying them early enough to bite and for the force to build up was second nature. On aluminium rims, the effect is similar to a road calliper, although with less need for absolute power, as both grip levels and speed are lower.
On softer ground, the Ridley's Grifo tyres had something to bite into, dispatching a muddy climb with ease and offering excellent cornering grip, despite the relatively weighty Fulcrum 7 CX wheelset (20/24 spokes), which still tipped the scales at 3,590g including the tyres and cassette. They roll well, and unflinchingly coped with weeks of abuse, but aren't the most competitive when the course goes up. That said, for the price you're getting a full carbon Ridley with a race-ready drivetrain, with the option of upgrading the wheels later.
The Ridley lapped up the mud, and seemed at home being muscled through slippery ruts. Its beefy wishbone seatstays and deep chainstays kept the rear end in check and the fork unwavering.
But soon a familiar rough grinding sound became evident whenever we slowed, as water and dirt on the braking track interfered with the brake pads, producing a black paste that filled their water-clearing grooves, retained more dirt and perpetuated the problem. With the sound and feel of sandpapering the rims whenever we braked, and much reduced effectiveness, our braking confidence waned and with it, our speed.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.