Ribble’s Hybrid AL Leisure is designed to be a “versatile all-rounder”. Its 650b wheels, 47mm-wide gravel tyres and a range of commuter-friendly accessories should make it an ideal partner for the rigours of metropolitan life as well as forays into gravel riding and bikepacking.
The 1×11 SRAM NX gearing and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes provide reliable shifting and stopping power, while the Hybrid AL Leisure’s design and geometry combine aspects of the best gravel bikes, road bikes and mountain bikes.
The timeless sophistication of its British Racing Green finish, faux leather saddle and handlebar grips suggest this is an elegant horse for many disparate courses.
Accordingly, over the next 12 months, I plan to use the Ribble as my daily commuter bike, navigating Bristol’s traffic-choked streets and ready supply of steep hills. I’ll also see how far I can push it into the realms of longer tarmac excursions and more challenging off-road fun and games – with the help of a few carefully chosen upgrades.
Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure long-term review update one
This month, the question I’d posed myself was ‘can a novice cyclist ride a flat-bar commuter bike over 60 murderously undulant miles from Bristol to Dorset?’ The answer, to my enormous surprise, was yes.
My first three months aboard the Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure had already confirmed its status as a stylish, sensibly priced ‘do-it-all’ hybrid bike. However, I wanted to nudge it slightly further along the spectrum from commuting duties and light gravel escapades towards big days out on the road.
The most obvious swap in search of more pace up hills and a lighter bike overall was finding some slimmer tyres with lower rolling resistance.
After a fair amount of research, I waved a hesitant farewell to the 47mm tan-wall WTB Horizon and its ability to mollify the most hostile terrain. Incoming was a pair of 35mm-wide Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres, weighing 400g apiece on my scales (115g less than the Horizon).
Coaxing the slimmer Schwalbes, promising “unique versatility and balanced riding characteristics”, onto 650b Mavic Allroad Disc wheels wasn’t easy. In fact, workshop manager Will described it as one of the most difficult combinations he’s encountered.
Once installed and inflated to 65psi, however, first impressions were promising. The new tyres rolled smoothly and the bike felt instinctively quicker, more lithe and reactive to handlebar movements. The speed on my Garmin cycling watch seemed to confirm this entirely unscientific opinion.
On the flipside, the Schwalbes are less supportive over potholes and cobbles, transferring more vibrations through my wrists. Yet it felt a worthwhile sacrifice for increased speed and less weight.
Leave the city behind
In order to test these anecdotal findings, though, I needed to get out of the city. So, on a sweltering July afternoon, my news feed ablaze with stories of heat domes and wildfires, I embarked on the longest ride of my life to date.
I planned to carve nearly 100km south through England’s scorched cider belt to Dorset’s Jurassic Coast – an unrelentingly hilly route mixing tarmac and a handful of gravel. Lacking any cycling-specific fitness, I fully expected to bow out around the halfway mark. Therefore, my partner Becky had agreed to set off a few hours behind me in our van in case I needed rescuing.
Along for the ride were a Tailfin V-Mount frame pack filled with energy gels, a Crankbrothers F15 multi-tool and Lezyne Grip Drive HV mini pump, plus the biggest bottle I could squeeze into a new Elite Ciussi Gel bottle cage. I’d also fitted the supplied Ribble bell (which pings cheerfully in the key of A, musical readers).
With potentially six hours of hard graft ahead of me, I had some misgivings about the long-distance comfort of my urban commuter’s upright position and faux leather saddle. However, those doubts were silenced as the Ribble coolly added endurance road rides to gravel and commuting on its impressively flexible CV.
The shifting from SRAM NX was immediate and smooth as I endured 4,000 feet of precipitous torture. The Tektro disc brakes provided reassurance as I hurtled down hills, while the Schwalbe tyres zipped silently across the asphalt, never succumbing to a puncture and justifying the switch.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the new tyres are better than the supplied WTBs, merely better suited to the riding I want to do right now.
A dependable companion
By the time I rolled into Castle Cary, adrift between the Mendip Hills and Somerset Levels, I was in a deep well of discomfort.
Inhumane climbs queued up to punish me like waves crashing against one of Dorset’s crumbling chalk cliffs. Yet with the dependable Ribble eating up the miles, I began to believe I could complete a route Komoot describes as ‘difficult’ for expert cyclists. I am not an expert; two years ago, I wasn’t even a cyclist.
On we pushed through an inviting babbling ford and a procession of bucolic villages, fields of sheep our only spectators as Somerset became Dorset.
After refuelling in the picturesque market town of Sherborne, we emerged onto the sizzling tarmac of the A352, the final, torturous straight. Out of the saddle for one last push, Dorchester appeared mirage-like on the horizon.
As parched fields in hues of mustard and umber plunged away beneath the infinite azure, an intoxicating cocktail of emotions overcame me. I’d hurdled innumerable psychological and physical barriers, conquered seemingly unassailable hills and completed a cycling rite of passage.
The Ribble hadn’t missed a beat, at some indeterminate point ceasing to be a mere amalgam of tubes, cranks and spokes. It was now my companion, our bond unshakable. Propped against the wall of the pub as I inhaled a crisp, frosty lager, my British Racing Green friend looked the picture of composed urbanity.
It may have been the calorie deficit or beer talking, but as I watched the sun set in Dorset there wasn’t a bike on Earth I’d have swapped it for.
Why did I choose the Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure?
Let’s rip the plaster off: I’m a novice cyclist. Like many people, my long-dormant passion for life on two wheels was rekindled during lockdown when my soon-to-be brother in law, Dan, kindly gifted me a humble 15-year-old Viking Giro D’Italia road bike.
It was a transformative moment. However, while this veteran entry-level bike enabled me to happily buzz about my home city of Bristol in the south west of England, and was the catalyst for nascent excursions into the idyllic surrounding countryside, before lockdown was over I’d outgrown it.
The Viking’s lack of versatility was holding me back and the drop bars and paper-thin wheels left me feeling unstable on busy roads or anything but the most forgiving terrain.
Hire-bike adventures across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and through Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge left me yearning for the adaptability of a do-it-all hybrid. I also had a growing curiosity over whether an electric bike might be the answer to Bristol’s seemingly endless supply of punishing hills.
Planning to use the Cycle to Work scheme to fund my first ‘proper’ bike purchase, I’d set a budget of £1,000. In order to narrow down the myriad options, I called upon the expertise of BikeRadar sages Jack Luke, Tom Marvin and Alex Evans, and we recorded a podcast on how to choose a commuting bike.
My new bike would need to be a sleek and stylish super-commuter with flat bars, and as light in weight as possible – yet with wheels and tyres robust enough to handle occasional diversions onto gravel and maybe even the odd touring or bikepacking trip. Yes – I do want to have my cake and eat it.
After establishing my budget was unlikely to stretch to one of the best electric hybrid bikes and that I was put off by the added weight and utilitarian appearance that accompanies many ebikes, I settled on a non-assisted hybrid.
Following some further deliberation and no small amount of merciless flaming of my maligned Viking, the Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure Fully Loaded Edition was the unanimous choice.
Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure specification and details
Leaping out from the Hybrid AL Leisure’s impressively versatile spec list is the pairing of 650b Mavic Allroad Disc multi-terrain wheels and high-volume 47mm tan-wall WTB Horizon Road Plus gravel tyres.
The latter sport an all-weather herringbone pattern with parallel grooves that WTB claims should “improve cornering traction on crumbling tarmac and increase comfort on hardpack”.
It certainly appears a formidable combination designed to make the Ribble a bulletproof commuter bike that’s ready and able to take you beyond the city limits.
The bike’s frame is manufactured from 6061-T6 alloy, with a D-shaped top tube and a huge hydroformed down tube that’s shared with the brand’s electric Hybrid AL e bike.
The integrated, colour-matched Ribble Urban flat handlebar and stem are coupled with light brown faux leather grips, matched seamlessly to the vintage-style Ribble Classic saddle and similarly hued tyre walls. All in, there’s more tan than a month-long SAGA cruise around the Mediterranean.
Gearing is delivered by SRAM’s NX 1×11 system with a single shifter, while Tektro Flat Mount hydraulic disc brakes are provided, with Tektro HD280 R levers.
Boosting the bike’s practicality, the Fully Loaded version I have on test comes with 46mm reinforced plastic mudguards, a colour-matched alloy pannier rack, a pair of bottle cage mounts, a discreet Ribble bell and a set of lights.
There is also a Commuter version of the Hybrid AL, which features larger 700c wheels and Schwalbe G-One Speed tyres.
While the default British Racing Green finish is delectable, other colourways can be chosen via Ribble’s Custom Colour service. Ribble also offers a 48-hour dispatch on the Hybrid AL and says the bike is available on most Cycle To Work schemes. The brand’s bikes all come with 30 days’ free cycling insurance.
Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure full specification
- Sizes (*tested): S, M, L*, XL
- Weight: 11.4kg (M, claimed approximate)
- Frame: 6061-T6 alloy, heat-treated, seamless welds
- Fork: Hybrid AL Disc, full-carbon, tapered steerer
- Headset: Level 52, 42-52mm, tapered
- Shifter: SRAM NX 11-speed trigger shifter
- Rear derailleur: SRAM NX 11-speed long cage
- Chainset: SRAM S350 GXP 42t
- Cassette: SRAM PC1130 with Powerlock
- Wheelset: Mavic Allroad Disc 650b, 12×100 (f) / 12×142 (r) thru-axles
- Tyres: WTB Horizon Road Plus TCS, 650b x 47mm, tan wall
- Brakes: Tektro HD-R280 Hydraulic Disc
- Bar/stem: Ribble Urban integrated alloy
- Seatpost: Level 1 6061 alloy 27.2mm, 350mm
- Saddle: Ribble Classic, brown
Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure geometry
Ribble offers the Hybrid AL Leisure in four sizes, from small to extra-large. It suggests a size large bike for riders between 5ft 8in and 6ft. As I sit squarely in the middle of that range at around 5ft 10in (177cm), I found the fit ideal.
According to Ribble: “The bike utilises an urban geometry – quite upright but similar wheelbase and angles to a CGR (Cross Gravel Road), as we know this works well as an all-rounder. This makes it ideal for both inner-city, towpaths and light off-road.”
The Hybrid AL Leisure’s geometry figures are almost identical to those on the AL e electric bike we reviewed back in November 2020. The reach comes in at 415mm and the seat angle 72.5 degrees.
Seat tube length on the size large is 490mm. The 610mm one-piece bar and 65mm stem should make the Hybrid AL Leisure nimble and responsive when navigating gridlocked urban roads.
Our senior technical editor Warren Rossiter described the electric Ribble’s ride position as “undeniably sporty”, and the 71-degree head angle “nice and relaxed”, contributing to a stable ride feel and handling, especially over more bumpy terrain.
My initial experience of the Ribble’s confidence-inspiring, yet not conservative seated position and reliably smooth ride suggest I’m unlikely to contradict Warren’s verdict. However, I’ll report back after more miles in the saddle.
|Rider height (cm)||163-170||170-178||178-185||185-193|
|Seat tube (mm)||410||450||490||540|
|Top tube (mm)||552||585||600||634|
|Head tube (mm)||122||165||190||230|
|Seat angle (degrees)||73||72.5||72.5||720|
|Head angle (degrees)||71||71||71||71|
|Rear centre (mm)||436||436||436||436|
|Front centre (mm)||608||637||654||682|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||50||50||50||50|
Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure initial setup
Sound the cliché klaxon: although it doesn’t have a name to quicken the pulse, from first glance I was hopelessly smitten with the Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure.
The British Racing Green colourway with coruscating sparkle finish is an absolute knockout, offset by the faux leather grips and saddle, and those formidable tan-wall tyres.
It was all I could do to stop myself carrying my new companion up the stairs of my house and resting it safely at the end of the bed while I slept.
BikeRadar’s workshop manager, Will, set up the bike for me and the size large Hybrid AL Leisure proved the perfect fit with no adjustments. The saddle height was set at 71cm (measured from the centre of the bottom bracket), contributing to a comfortable, upright riding position that I haven’t yet felt the need to alter.
Because my review bike arrived without the advertised Avenir pedals, Will fitted a set of flat pedals. I’m resisting the call of clipless pedals and cleats, for now at least.
I have fairly small hands, and the diminutive Tektro brake levers felt comfortable nestled in my grip, my little fingers resting over their tips. Riders with particularly large paws may find them on the small side, though.
The WTB tyres were inflated to 45psi, at the upper limit of WTB’s recommended range of 25-45psi. This is something I plan to experiment with as I seek the optimum balance between comfort over more lumpy terrain and minimised rolling resistance.
Some initial noise from the disc brakes on my first ride was rectified by tightening the rotors a smidgeon. This was a good reminder to always carry out a basic bike safety check before riding a new bike. Otherwise, I’ve made no changes to setup.
Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure ride impressions
The morning of my first ride arrived, and I set out on my three-mile commute – a mix of a dusty river towpath, congested inner-city roads and shared pavements.
The Ribble’s upright position and flat bars immediately seemed more natural than my frail old drop-bar Viking, enabling me to thread my way through traffic without becoming unstable.
Once the Ribble gets into its stride, it’s no slouch and I was soon scattering bleary eyed pedestrians out of the cycle lane like a juvenile Spaniel hurtling into a field of startled lambs.
The huge tyres took cobbles, potholes and a hazardous carpet of urban detritus in their stride, while dropping off a particularly high kerb at speed elicited a gleeful whoop.
Suddenly, bumps in my path were no longer obstacles to be feared, but adventures to be relished. Was it normal to be having this much fun on the way to work? I cared not a jot.
Here comes the rain again
On the way home after a day at the content coalface, the rain arrived, and the Tektro disc brakes performed impeccably in the wet, confining my rim-brake nightmares to history.
My first experience of a bike with mudguards also proved revelatory. However, their black plastic finish doesn’t quite live up to the Ribble’s otherwise premium aesthetic.
The final nagging ascent to my house in south-east Bristol used to have me out of the saddle pedalling furiously, but the SRAM NX drivetrain provides an ample gearing range to tackle it seated, spinning away in relative comfort. Shifting has been flawless, even under duress or when rapidly skipping through two or three gears.
Those fetching faux leather grips soak up vibrations adequately, although after longer off-road sections I’ve felt some wrist fatigue. They’re certainly easy on the eye, but as the downpour intensified I got up out of the saddle to put in some extra effort and my hand slipped off their smooth surface.
I’d be loathe to swap the grips for something more utilitarian, so perhaps I need some cycling gloves for wet-weather riding.
Down to the woods
The fun really escalated on day two, as I extended my ride home via a sun-dappled woodland trail.
Within seconds, the traffic fumes and rush-hour rage were distant memories. I was transported back to teenage mountain-biking expeditions as the Ribble and I joyously ramped over rocks and roots, bludgeoned our way down an undulating rocky path and indulged in a smattering of back-brake related frivolity.
Barely 20 minutes later, I was back in suburbia, the smile still etched on my face and the intoxicating aroma of wild garlic fresh in my nostrils as bemused motorists wondered what I was so happy about.
Jagged little Pill
My first big ride on the Ribble was a trip out to the village of Pill on a gravel path parallel to the River Avon. This feels like the bike’s natural habitat, and the WTBs gobbled up every lump and bump with aplomb.
Where the Ribble felt less comfortable was hauling up steep tarmac climbs. It took a substantial effort to reach the top, Lycra-clad speedsters on lightweight road bikes leaving me trailing in their wake as an inferno raged in my quads. This was due partly to my lack of fitness, but those hulking tyres, weighing a claimed 515g each, must share some responsibility.
The slick WTBs are also not cut out for mountain biking, and an over-confident diversion into wet mud at Leigh Woods highlighted their, and my own, limitations.
However, it would be churlish to criticise this super-commuter with gravel leanings for not excelling at disciplines it’s not designed to tackle.
It’s easy to forget, if you’re a seasoned cyclist, the vast spectrum that exists between mountain bikes and road bikes, and how bewildering the decision of where to pitch your tent can feel.
The Ribble occupies a compelling position, with the right tools to handle commuting in all weathers, as well as some moderate gravel.
Early impressions suggest this urbane green machine and I are going to have a lot of fun together.
Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure upgrades
My mind is already buzzing as I ponder potential upgrades to improve my life with the Hybrid AL Leisure.
The most immediate priority is a tyre change. Over their first 250 miles, the WTB Horizons have cleared every on- and off-road hurdle they’ve faced. However, I’ve found myself struggling to keep up with road-bike equipped friends over longer distances.
The question is, can I find a faster-rolling, lighter-weight alternative to close the gap without sacrificing too much of the confidence-inspiring stability the high-volume Horizons provide?
A brief trip down the rubber rabbit hole suggested that suitable options to fit my 650b wheels are thin on the ground, and I might be better served by bigger 700c wheels, as specced with the Commuter version of the bike. More research is required here.
While 11-speed SRAM NX has served me more than adequately when it comes to shifting, if I’m being ambitious an upgrade to 12-speed SRAM Eagle AXS with its accompanying wider range of gears and electronic shifting is not out of the question.
Next on my list are some panniers or bikepacking bags and a tool keg to carry a puncture repair kit, mini pump, inner tube and multi-tool as my horizons expand away from the comforting embrace of the city.
I’ve also quickly tired of having to stop and fish my phone out of my pocket to check Google Maps on longer rides. Either a mount for my smartphone or a dedicated bike computer may well be added to my wishlist.
Finally, the Ribble is unquestionably a looker, and I’m unwilling to let it out of my watchful gaze while I quaff a hazy pale ale at my favourite taproom for fear it will be stolen. The best bike lock my budget can stretch to is going to be essential.
BikeRadar‘s long-term test bikes
BikeRadar’s long-term test bikes give our team the opportunity to truly get to grips with these machines, so we can tell you how they perform through different seasons and on ever-changing terrain, through a year of riding.
Some choose a bike from their favoured discipline and ride it hard for a year, others opt for a bike that takes them outside of their comfort zone.
We also use our long-term bikes as test beds for the latest kit, chopping and changing parts to see what really makes the difference – and help you decide which upgrades are worth spending your money on.
These bikes also provide an insight into the team’s riding through the year – how they like to ride and where life on two wheels takes them, from group rides on local lanes and trails, to adventures further afield.
To see all of the BikeRadar team’s long-term test bikes – and to stay up-to-date with the latest updates – visit our long-term review hub.
|Price||AUD $1948.42EUR €1278.47GBP £1199.00USD $1351.66|
|Weight||11.4kg (Large) – Medium (claimed)|
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Brakes||Tektro HD-R280 Hydraulic Disc|
|Cassette||SRAM PC1130 with Powerlock|
|Chain||SRAM S350 GXP 42t|
|Fork||Hybrid AL Disc, full-carbon, tapered steerer|
|Frame||6061-T6 alloy, heat-treated, seamless welds|
|Grips/Tape||Ribble Urban faux leather|
|Handlebar||Ribble Urban integrated alloy|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM NX 11-speed long cage|
|Saddle||Ribble Classic, brown|
|Seatpost||Level 1 6061 alloy 27.2mm, 350mm|
|Tyres||WTB Horizon Road Plus TCS, 650b x 47mm, tan wall|
|Wheels||Mavic Allroad Disc 650b, 12x100 (f) / 12x142 (r) thru-axles|