The Ridley Orion is the Belgian firm's lowest priced all-carbon bike, but still has the ride of Ridley's costlier machines. Only indifferent brakes let down an otherwise excellent rig.
A square section down-tube, bearing some resemblance to the über-exotic Cervélo R3, and a T section top-tube give the Ridley a distinctive look. Elsewhere, tube profiles change from round at the smaller diameter ends to oval where the tubes increase in size and converge with the bottom bracket. Ridley use the popular T700 unidirectional carbon fibre for the frame, and T600 for the fork. Paint and decals are neatly applied at Ridley's workshops in Belgium. The Orion comes in five sizes ranging from 43cm for the XS to 56cm for the XL, based on the standard measurement from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat-tube.
Ridley spec the Orion with a greater assortment of component brands than others in this price range, including an FSA Gossamer aluminium chainset and their own branded 4ZA ('Forza') saddle and brakeset. The brake calipers fall short of expectations at this price point and are modelled on older-style Shimano dual pivot brake calipers. We improved matters by discarding the cartridge brake blocks in favour of Shimano compatible Swiss Stop cartridge pads. The Shimano Ultegra gear train works flawlessly and the Ritchey Pro finishing kit is in keeping with what you would expect to see on a bike at this price and includes a neat-looking setback carbon seatpost.
The Ridley has Italian company Fulcrum's lowest price R7 wheels, that look far more expensive than they are. The R7 costs about the same as Mavic's popular Ksyrium Elite and Shimano's WH-R560. Fulcrum is essentially an independent arm of Campagnolo, which enables the Italian giant to capitalise on the strong demand for wheels by including models that are compatible with its rival Shimano's gear system. The hubs are updated versions of the Campagnolo Mirage and use very long lasting cartridge bearings.
Although heavier by some 400g, the Orion's frame has a fun factor more usually associated with very expensive frames, such as the Scott Addict and Cervélo R3. With its light wheels, the Orion was able to show its true colours with a great balance of stiffness and resilience. The steering has exemplary precision and while not ultimately as stiff as the Isaac, the fork blades keep the wheels almost perfectly stable in blustery conditions.
The name Ridley is more normally associated with high end bikes so it was refreshing to discover that the company’s lowest price Orion rides every bit as well as the more expensive models from the Belgian firm. The Orion feels lighter than it really is and has an excitement factor that comes out to play on the steep gradients. A compact chainset would be desirable, and with better brakes it would have been a compelling five-star winner.