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Ridgeback Speed review

Frugal and fully equipped British-designed workhorse

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £500.00 RRP
Pack shot of the Ridgeback Speed commuting bike

Our review

Value-packed urban bike that’s fun to ride and good looking with it
Pros: Huge spec for not much money; fun and engaging handling
Cons: Occasional mudguard rubbing; drivetrain noise
Skip to view product specifications

Ridgeback made the fast flat-bar commuter popular with its original Genesis Day 01 model in 2001. So popular was it, in fact, that it led to Genesis becoming a spin-off brand.

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The Speed hits all of Ridgeback’s core values, the first being that of value: you won’t find many bikes under £500 equipped with full mudguards, a rear rack and full Shimano drivetrain. It’s also fun, thanks to the Speed’s geometry and design.

Ridgeback Speed geometry

The medium sized Ridgeback Speed has a 18cm head tube
A slacker head angle means that this ride is forward and upright.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The aluminium frame is well proportioned with multi-shaped tubes and sloping top tube – perfect for riding in civilian clothes, and it makes this bike an agile handler.

The head angle is slightly slacker than a road bike, but the seat angle is steep. This means a fairly forward, upright ride position that adds comfort. Reassuringly, it still feels at ease zig-zagging through traffic and pushed hard into corners.

 S M L XL XXL
Seat angle (degrees) 73 73 73 73 73
Head angle (degrees) 70 71 71 71 71
Chainstay (cm) 45.5 45.5 45.5 45.5 45.5
Seat tube (cm) 38.3 43.3 48.3 53.3 58.3
Top tube (cm) 55.7 57.2 58.7 60.3 62
Head tube (cm) 17 18 20 22 24.5
Fork offset (cm) 5 5 5 5 5
Bottom bracket drop (cm) 7.2 7.2 7.2 7.2 7.2
Wheelbase (mm) 1,068 1,073 1,089 1,106 1,124
Standover (cm) 77.2 80.1 83.1 86.4 89.9
Stack (cm) 59.7 61 62.9 64.8 67.2
Reach (cm) 37.5 38.5 39.5 40.5 41.5
Crank length (cm) 17 17 17 17.5 17.5

Ridgeback Speed kit

The big-volume 42c Vee Zilent tyres roll better than they have any right to. A fairly firm central strip makes the Speed quick enough in a straight line and the siped treaded shoulders (siping is the process of cutting thin slits across a tyre to improve traction) are soft enough to boost cornering grip.

When you’re riding uphill, you notice the extra mass in the rolling stock, compounded by heavyweight Schrader valve inner tubes. The 42c tyres are about as large as you’ll fit under the mudguards, meaning occasional tyre rub.

The drivetrain on the Ridgeback Speed is made up of Shimano components
Shimano: a decent offering but the drivetrain noise is unnerving.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The wheels attach via threaded axles with 15mm bolts, so you must add a 15mm spanner to your puncture-repair set-up.

The Speed doesn’t deviate from Shimano Tourney, aside from a 7-speed KMC chain. The EZ-Fire bar-mounted shifters feature display windows and shift arrows on the levers to help new cyclists.

The shift quality is smooth and accurate, and while the shifts across the triple chainring (48/38/28) are decidedly slow, it hits the right gear every time. Sadly, no amount of fettling could tone down the drivetrain noise that stems from its wide-changing shifts.

Unlike other square-taper chainsets, Shimano’s offering is stiff enough with little crank arm flex. The chainset with its chunky crank arms and integrated chainguard sitting on a 122.5mm bottom-bracket axle, gives a much wider stance than a road bike.

With the Ridgeback Speed commuter Ridgeback has opted for V-brakes
A blast from the past to discover V-brakes.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

As for stopping, Ridgeback has opted for V-brakes. In its time, the mountain bike V-brake was revolutionary, offering strong brake power, high tyre clearance and simple maintenance. The V-brakes are now obsolete in the world of performance bikes, but still perform well.

The budget ProMax brake units deliver ample power and a nice feel at the lever, though understandably don’t match the Giant Escape 1 Disc or Orbea Carpe 40’s hydraulic alternatives, which were also on test.

The Ridgeback Speed commuter bike has Single Density Lock On grips
Ergonomically-shaped grips with lock-on collars to avoid slip.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The low-slung frame means plenty of exposed seatpost adding comfort-inducing flex. The post is topped with a Ridgeback-branded saddle that’s well shaped for non-padded short-clad backsides without being overly wide.

Upfront, a 640mm-wide flat riser bar is capped with ergonomically-shaped grips with lock-on collars, so they don’t slip or shift. They also contain sufficient material to take the sting out of rough roads, which is welcome when the front end of the Speed’s chassis is a stiff, high-tensile chromoly fork.

Ridgeback Speed impressions

The Ridgeback Speed commuter bike come with front and rear mudguards and a rear rack
Fully loaded: this Ridgeback comes with mudguards and a rear rack.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

When I left it outside, there were some tell-tale signs of corrosion on the exposed cables and bolts, though nothing a proper clean wouldn’t sort.

The Ridgeback Speed has far more plus points than negatives. It’s well priced, fun to ride and comes with the extras that its rivals would look on with envy. But there are downsides. Very loud ones.

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The drivetrain’s wide-ranging gears mean a fair bit of noise, while its 21-speed triple-equipped composition feels like overkill for a bike that’ll mostly be ridden in urban environments. Throw in the extra noise from the mudguard-rubbing and, if persistent sounds wind you up, you might want to look elsewhere.

How we tested

We tested four bargain-priced flat-bar hybrid commuter bikes on typical commuter routes in towns and cities, up and down hills and along bike paths and towpaths.

We also locked them up outside in all weathers to see if any tell-tale browning occurred to fixtures and fittings with the onset of rust.

Also on test

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £500.00
Weight 12.6kg (M)
Brand Ridgeback bicycles

Features

Available sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL
Handlebar Ridgeback alloy, 20mm rise, 6-degree backsweep
Tyres Vee Zilent 700 x 42c
Stem Ridgeback 70mm
Shifter Shimano ST-EF41 EZ-Fire 3 X 7-speed
Seatpost Alloy 27.2mm
Saddle Ridgeback custom
Rear derailleur Shimano Tourney
Headset Neco H-148
Grips/Tape Single Density Lock On
Bottom bracket Shimano BB-UN100 BSA 68mm
Front derailleur Shimano Tourney
Frame Aluminium
Fork CroMo steel
Cranks Shimano FC-TY301 48-38-28t
Chain Shimano 7-speed
Cassette Shimano CS-HG200-7 12-32
Brakes Promax TX-117 V-brake
Wheels AJ rims on KT A16F/AY1R