Ridley X-Night SL Ultegra review

Modern tech mated with traditional geometry

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No other company can lay claim to a cyclocross pedigree like Ridley. This Belgian company lives for the sport and its bikes reflect its unique approach to cyclocross, and the Ridley X-Night SL Ultegra is no exception.

Despite the full carbon frame, tubeless-ready wheels and tires and hydraulic disc brakes, Ridley still relies on its traditional high and tight frame geometry.

True to form

The X-Night SL Ultegra blends modern tech with Old World geometry
The X-Night SL Ultegra blends modern tech with Old World geometry

There are some idiosyncrasies that accompany Ridley’s traditional frame geometry that make the X-Night SL a bike that riders will either embrace or shun. 

It all starts with the high bottom bracket. There’s just 62mm of drop on our size 52cm tester, as opposed to 68-70mm that is standard on many modern ’cross bikes. Across all frame sizes the high bottom bracket props up a seat tube that is taller than the top tube is long. When combined with a compact top tube and steep head angle, this fit positions the rider “on” rather than “in” the bike.

There's plenty of room in the massive front triangle for shouldering
There's plenty of room in the massive front triangle for shouldering

This makes the X-Night SL good at some things and bad at others. Low-speed handling is good, the steep geometry aids in navigating tight turns with ease, and the high bottom bracket allows the rider to pedal through turns and off camber sections that will have other riders slamming pedals. This is also a benefit when riding through deep sand or mud.

In comparison to several of the other cyclocross bikes we tested this season, the X-Night SL suffers on faster and rougher courses. The steep geometry and short wheelbase requires a more attentive hand and the ride is not as smooth either.

If it were possible to have a quiver of ’cross bikes from various brands each suited to different courses, the Ridley would be reserved for tight courses and the muddiest of days.

Not quite up to speed

One can argue that the Ridley’s high and tight geometry is a matter of personal preference, or that it’s suited to the type of races the bike was actually designed to handle — European cyclocross courses.

We'd prefer to see thru-axles at both ends
We'd prefer to see thru-axles at both ends

And it might have been asking a lot for a Belgian brand with a deep sense of tradition to embrace disc brakes, but if you’re going to do it, then go all the way with thru-axles at both ends. Their absence makes the X-Night SL dated in comparison to its peers and results in a small but noticeable amount of brake rub when mashing up climbs. 

The Ridley X-Night SL Ultegra
The Ridley X-Night SL Ultegra

Ridley’s X-Night SL is smartly equipped and if you frequently race through tight courses and need a bike that can power through muck and mire then the X-Night SL is ready to serve.

Josh Patterson

Tech Editor, US
Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998. Being stubborn, endurance racing was a natural fit. Josh bankrolled his two-wheeled addiction by wrenching at various bike shops across the US for 10 years and even tried his hand at frame building. These days Josh spends most of his time riding the trails around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Age: 34
  • Height: 170cm / 5'7"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 72cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Mountain, cyclocross, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Anywhere with rock- and root-infested technical singletrack. He also enjoys unnecessarily long gravel races.
  • Current Bikes: Trek Remedy 29 9.9, Yeti ASRc, Specialized CruX, Spot singlespeed, Trek District 9
  • Dream Bike: Evil The Following, a custom Moots 27.5+ for bikepacking adventures
  • Beer of Choice: PBR
  • Location: Fort Collins, CO, USA

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