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Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure Fully Loaded Edition review

BikeRadar's sub-editor is looking for a commuter bike that can also fulfil his burgeoning gravel and bikepacking ambitions. Is this urbane Ribble hybrid the answer?

Gary Walker riding Ribble Hybrid Leisure AL bike in Bristol
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Ribble’s Hybrid AL Leisure is touted by the British manufacturer as a “superb all-rounder”, a versatile companion both for navigating the dizzying whirl of metropolitan life and embarking on more challenging off-road escapades.

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Targeted primarily at urban commuters, the Hybrid AL has a range of practical features and a timeless British Racing Green finish that should ensure you stand out from the crowd.

However, this is not a bike that’s ready to be neatly pigeonholed. A 650b wheelset and hefty tyres open up the tantalising prospect of gravel riding and mixed-terrain bikepacking adventures.

This handsome Ribble’s build combines features from mountain bikes, road bikes and zeitgeisty gravel bikes, resulting in a dextrous steed that should be as happy slaloming through rush-hour traffic as barrelling along rugged coastal paths.

A 1×11 SRAM gearing system and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes provide competent shifting and stopping power, plus there’s a small handful of useful mounts to make life easier on and off-road.

Allied to a manageable claimed 11.4kg weight, the build quality and parts package suggest the Hybrid AL Leisure could be the perfect solution for those looking to dip their toes into multiple cycling disciplines, but without the means to assemble a stable of horses for those disparate courses. That’s the theory, anyway…

Why did I choose the Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure?

The Ribble is intended as a versatile bike for your on- and off-road adventures.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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.

Gary’s Viking Giro D’Italia has run its race.
Gary Walker / Our Media

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

The parts package is full of practical commuting-friendly components.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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.

The Ribble name adorns the bike’s integrated Urban flat handlebar and stem.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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

The 71-degree head angle keeps things suitably relaxed.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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.

SlZESMLXL
Rider height (cm)163-170170-178178-185185-193
Stack (mm)530571591630
Reach (mm)390405415430
Seat tube (mm)410450490540
Top tube (mm)552585600634
Head tube (mm)122165190230
Seat angle (degrees)7372.572.5720
Head angle (degrees)71717171
Rear centre (mm)436436436436
Front centre (mm)608637654682
Wheelbase (mm)1,0391,0681,0851,113
Bottom bracket drop (mm)50505050

Ribble Hybrid AL Leisure initial setup

A stylish-looking Ribble Classic saddle sits atop the Level 1 6061 alloy seatpost.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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.

The faux leather grips exude timeless sophistication, but they’re not ideal in the wet.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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

An upright, but relatively sporty ride position makes commuting on the Ribble a joy.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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

SRAM NX provided an ample wide gearing range.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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

Thanks to its 650b wheels and high-volume tyres, the Hybrid AL Leisure feels confident on light gravel, towpaths, bridleways and dry forest trails.

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

Ribble without a cause: straddling road, gravel and mountain bike design, the Hybrid AL Leisure defies easy categorisation.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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

An alternative to the high-volume 47mm WTB Horizon tyres could be the first change.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

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.

The essentials

The Ribble is a handsome bike. A good-quality lock is an essential for inner-city use.
Gary Walker / Our Media

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.

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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.

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Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $1948.42EUR €1278.47GBP £1199.00USD $1351.66
Weight 11.4kg (Large) – Medium (claimed)
Year 2022
Brand Ribble

Features

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