Ridley Fenix SLX Disc Potenza review

Lighter than ever and just as fast

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Ridley's newest Fenix SLX looks to build upon the Fenix model's popularity by trimming a significant amount of grams from the frame. Using the same carbon mold but a new lay up of higher modulus carbon, Ridley claims a 300 gram deduction, 5 percent boost in stiffness and an improved ride quality. 

The seatstays are thin and connect low on the seat tube for added compliance. The Fenix SLX is still far from plush
The seatstays are thin and connect low on the seat tube for added compliance. The Fenix SLX is still far from plush

Ridley Fenix SLX Disc Potenza specs

  • 60/50/40T carbon frame
  • Forza R45-19 carbon wheels
  • Campagnolo Potenza 2x11-speed drivetrain
  • Campagnolo Potenza discs, 160/140mm rotors
  • Deda Elementi SuperZero kit
  • 7.85kg / 17.3lbs (60cm) actual weight

Italian componentry

I enjoyed riding on the hoods, especially with the added hook provided by the disc brake reservoir
I enjoyed riding on the hoods, especially with the added hook provided by the disc brake reservoir

What Campagnolo's Potenza group lacks in Italian pizazz it makes up for in straightforward performance.

I find the ergonomics and the shifting action superior to SRAM's DoubleTap design, and unlike the SRAM's single blade shifting, there's no punishing jump the opposite way when you're at either end of the cassette. 

Disc brakes on road bikes are good. Although the Campy logo on a disc caliper still seems a bit odd
Disc brakes on road bikes are good. Although the Campy logo on a disc caliper still seems a bit odd

Compared to Shimano, the Potenza units feel much more mechanical and less silky smooth. Personally, I like the increased tactile feel of the Campy gear change over Shimano's almost airy lever action.

Plus, hitting the little thumb lever (for a harder gear) on the Campy levers feels more natural and easier when wrenching the bars back and forth in the drops.

Along with the hydraulic disc brakes, Campagnolo Potenza gave out the shifts
Along with the hydraulic disc brakes, Campagnolo Potenza gave out the shifts

When it came time for slowing the Potenza disc brakes, which Campagnolo had fettled by German brake specialists Magura, their performance was a highlight. Power was easy to roll on with a single finger and approaching wheel lock up was easily modulated with good feedback. 

However, despite promises of rub-free rotors, the pads' tight tolerances announced a disheartening squeak when standing on the pedals, or sometimes after heavy handed braking when the caliper's pistons didn't retract completely.

Double ring set ups aren't dead quite yet, and that's perfectly fine by me
Double ring set ups aren't dead quite yet, and that's perfectly fine by me

Truthfully, the sound of the disc hitting the pad was likely more of a mental issue than a watt-sucking one, nevertheless, I didn't like it. 

If the Campy build doesn't turn your cranks, worry not as Ridley offers Shimano build kits as well. 

Stiff yet smooth ride

How can a bike be stiff yet smooth? It's a mystery that boils down to the black magic of carbon and how it's laid up. In the last few years road bike companies have really begun to uncover ways to make frames mind-bendingly responsive yet not teeth-rattlingly harsh. If it seems like magic, it's because it's not far off. 

Make no mistake, this bike goes when asked. The straight, mega-sized down tube ensured that
Make no mistake, this bike goes when asked. The straight, mega-sized down tube ensured that

Since carbon frames are built by layering sections of carbon sheets on top of one another, engineers can manipulate the frame areas that need to have a bit of give and overload areas that need to be ultra stiff. The lay up and level of carbon used are what differentiate the Fenix SL and SLX frames. 

Reiterating the stiff yet smooth ride, Ridley claims the Fenix SLX "offers a perfect balance between true race performance, proven strength and durability and all day ride comfort." It also concedes: "This is not a lounge chair." 

Like the other Fenixs in Ridley's line, the SLX retains the Belgian company's signature stiff, purposeful ride. Cranking on the pedals it's readily apparent that the bike is built for speed first and comfort second.

The classic Selle Italia Flite saddle with titanium rails was very hard. It didn't agree with my underside
The classic Selle Italia Flite saddle with titanium rails was very hard. It didn't agree with my underside

The ride is much more akin to a normal road bike than the new crop of endurance machines with built-in suspension, such as Trek's Domane SLR and Specialized's Roubaix

Like most road machines, the seatstays are thin and placed low on the seat tube for a bit of compliance. But unlike most bikes classified for endurance road riding with more upright seating, the geometry of the Fenix SLX (73.5 head angle, 59.9cm stack, 39.6cm reach) lines up more closely to standard road racing machines. 

And like the recently reviewed Fenix SL, I found the contact points much too hard for my liking. Granted, the saddle, bar and tape are relatively easy to swap, but on a bike meant for all-around riding, including huge days with big mileage numbers, it's surprising to feel such harsh touch points.

Ridley Fenix SLX Disc bottom line

#BeTough, never a bad idea, especially when riding
#BeTough, never a bad idea, especially when riding

If you've loved a Ridley or another stiff bike in the past, or have the wanton desire for speed and acceleration along with a bit of endurance forgiveness, the Fenix SLX is a fine choice, especially with the Forza wheel upgrade. 

If you want a seriously plush endurance road bike, this isn't it, that mantle falls on the suspension-wearing Domane SLR and Roubaix. However, if you subscribe to Ridley's hashtag #betough, the Fenix SLX is the answer.

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