Ridgeback Flight 03 review£899.99

Traffic-darting commuter

BikeRadar score3/5

Ridgeback were one of the first brands to develop a flat bar road bike/high performance hybrid. Their very popular Flight range now extends from the £2,299 Flight Ti to the 01 at £529.99, with the quick-witted 03 in the centre. It’s definitely better-suited to confident riders on smoother roads than nervous novices and regular cycle path users.

Ride & handling: Sharp steering gives snappy responsiveness but may worry inexperienced riders

A firm ride is the immediate – and lasting – impression of the Flight. The full size (rather than compact) frame is surprisingly stiff despite relatively slim tubes. That means a sharp, clean feel on smooth roads, but a fair mount of rattle on rougher surfaces. The firm saddle and grip contact points don’t take prisoners either and you’ll certainly want to steer clear of any significant potholes or kerb edges if you want to avoid a serious stinging.

The handling character set up by the long top tube, quick angles and the narrow, dead-straight bar is certainly an acquired taste too. If you’re a confident rider the lack of width is great for diving between gaps in traffic or going straight through anti-moped gates on cycle paths. It makes the steering very snappy and nervous until you’re used to it though, which isn’t ideal for novice commuters or slippery winter roads.

The powerful disc brakes might catch you out the first few times too, but offer clear advantages once you’re used to them. The long top tube and narrow saddle are welcome features on longer, faster rides, giving plenty of breathing space and a rub-free rump. Once the you’ve got the weighty wheels rolling, the Flight 03 holds speed well over smooth surfaces, with the quick steering enhancing the feeling of speed and spark.

The race rather than recreational ratio rear cassette means you’re not likely to run out of gears, even if you add some maximum effort sessions – although the steepest streets will definitely be a struggle. Acceleration is definitely not as rapid as the best of the Ridgeback's rivals. Despite an extended alloy dropout to support it we also had to adjust the front brake carefully to stop it rubbing on the rotor when we were out of the saddle.

Ridgeback flight 03: ridgeback flight 03
Ridgeback flight 03: ridgeback flight 03

Frame: Surprisingly stiff, despite relatively slim tubes; carbon fork is a bonus at this price

The full-size (rather than compact) steel-grey frame looks understated, but it ticks all the SUV boxes. The tall conventional head tube gets a strengthening gusset just in case you stick the front wheel into a big pothole. Main tubes are triple-butted to save weight without losing strength too. The seatpost slot faces forward to stop salty winter wheel spray seeping into the frame and seizing everything solid, with a neat bolted clamp collar up top.

Twin bottle cage and rear rack mounts mean the Ridgeback is ready for longer rides with commuting or exploring cargo on the back. There are bosses for conventional mudguards or a Crud Catcher style mountain bike 'guard and the disc-specific frame means no ugly redundant brake studs either.

Despite ‘same as the frame’ appearances that’s a multi-profile carbon-legged fork hiding underneath the paint (not an alloy one) too. While the conventional rather than sloped top tube means taller straddle heights, no fewer than five frame sizes mean everyone can find a fit.

Equipment: Road bike kit and tight gears translate well to training; narrow bar won't suit everyone

There are some parts of the kit fit that won’t agree with everyone. The most obvious one is the narrow, totally straight ‘courier’ style handlebar. The mixed central mound and rough diamond grips are best handled with gloves too on rougher or longer rides. While they’re heavy, the Shimano hubs run for years with regular bearing maintenance and the Duraskin tyres are fast for reinforced rubber.

The Shimano disc brakes need a careful hand not to lock the wheels up, although the consistently high control in all weathers is a major bonus on busy roads. Disc brakes are legal for all cyclo-cross races now too, so you won’t get grumbles if you switch tyres and show up at your local park grand prix this winter.

Otherwise, the Flight is running on a mix of proven Shimano road kit, with a narrow ratio cassette and compact chainset giving plenty of top-end speed, if limited lower gears. The narrow saddle also lets you know you’re on a performance-oriented machine.

Some parts of the kit won’t agree with everyone – most obviously the narrow, straight courier-style handlebar: some parts of the kit won’t agree with everyone – most obviously the narrow, straight courier-style handlebar
Some parts of the kit won’t agree with everyone – most obviously the narrow, straight courier-style handlebar: some parts of the kit won’t agree with everyone – most obviously the narrow, straight courier-style handlebar

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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