Many, many years ago, before I became a ‘serious’ road cyclist and knew only vaguely of exotic bikes brands from Italy, failing British marques and companies supplying bicycles to all-American heroes with feet of EPO, I used to be amazed by the huge number of blue bikes with the legend Ribble emblazoned on the top tube swarming around late-1990s London.
The Ribble 7005 Audax was ubiquitous among commuters, couriers, wintering club cyclists and, obviously, audax riders.
I’d argue that it’s also the bike that helped build the Lancastrian bike store’s reputation as a purveyor of solid, incredible value-for-money machines. You can still buy it now for less than 500 quid!
But the 7005 isn’t the bike I’m testing long term – instead I’m going to spend the summer with the Ribble Endurance SL Ultegra Disc – I’ll just refer to it as the Endurance SL from here on in if that’s okay with you.
Things change, people change, hairstyles change and Ribble has changed. The Endurance SL is one of the fruits of a new strategy in Preston that’s seen Ribble launch a raft of new, and interesting, bikes following the recruitment of former Boardman boss Andy Smallwood as CEO.
We’ve already tested the Endurance SL for our Bike of the Year test. And we really, really liked it. To quote our main man, senior road technical editor Warren Rossiter the Endurance SL “…excels at its intended purpose: a bike you can ride all day, covering ground at a decent pace, without getting a kicking. It’s up there with Synapse, Defy, Roubaix et al and should go some way to establishing Ribble as a brand to aspire to, rather than the brand you buy because it’s the best equipped for the cash.”
Warren’s verdict makes the Endurance SL the perfect bike for BikeRadar‘s resident MAMIL, so that’s what I’m going to find out over the next few months.
Ribble Endurance SL Ultegra Disc specifications and details
Ribble pegs the Endurance SL as a “…superlight road platform designed for endurance riding and racing.” Now, obviously the weight-watchers out there are going to quibble with the first part of that description. I’m riding an XL model and at 8.69kg all in it probably doesn’t qualify as ‘superlight’. I’m fine with that as neither do I.
The carbon frame is a mix of Toray 800 and 1000 fibres. Toray carbon crops up in a lot of high-end bikes, so the Ribble’s in good company here. The numbers don’t refer to the stiffness of the carbon, although the fibre used in T1000 is stronger than in 800 so less is needed to achieve the same stiffness.
The seat tube is a truncated aerofoil apparently David Caudery / Immediate Media
While not sold as an aero bike, Ribble does say that aerodynamics were a major consideration during the design stage. So we get a truncated aerofoil down tube, aero fork blade, truncated aerofoil seat tube and seat post and internal cable routing. All of this, says Ribble, means the new Endurance is 28.5 percent more aero than the previous generation.
As I’ve not ridden that one, and am fat with hairy legs, I’ll just have to take Ribble’s word for it. I might upgrade to the optional aero bar and stem combo if I do want to go faster without dieting or shaving at some point this summer.
While Ribble has put a lot of effort into rebooting the design of most of its range, that doesn’t mean it’s neglected the consumer from a value point of view. Ribble’s online Bike Builder means that you can go pretty bespoke with your machine, although for my test bike I stayed reasonably true to stock spec.
That means a full Shimano Ultegra hydraulic groupset – 52/36, 11-28 – and own brand Level alloy bar and stem. Off the shelf you’ll get Mavic Aksium wheels and a Prologo Kappa RS saddle, and the complete bike will cost you £2,199, but I upgraded to the lighter Mavic Kysrium Elite UST wheelset and a Fizik Arione R5 saddle, which added £690 to the price.
It’s Ultegra all-round so what’s not to like? David Caudery / Immediate Media
Sizes (*tested): XS, S, M, L, XL*
Mech: Shimano Ultegra
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra
Wheelset: Mavic Kysrium Elite UST
Tyres: Mavic Yksion Pro UST 28c
Stem: Level alloy
Bar: Level alloy
Saddle: Fizik Arione R5
Seatpost: D-shaped carbon
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra
Ribble Endurance SL geometry
With a 73.3-degree seat angle and a head angle of 73, it could be argued that the Endurance is heading towards the racier end of endurance geometry, especially combined with the 582mm stack and a 401mm reach.
Stack is the vertical measurement from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the centre of the head tube, while reach is the horizontal distance between the same points, and on a bike of this size – basically a 58.5cm – that’s mildly racy, although a sensible wheelbase of just over a metre means the geometry delivers a fast feel with predictable handling.
Seat angle: 73 degrees
Head angle: 73.3 degrees
Seat tube: 55cm
Top tube: 58.5cm
Head tube: 19cm
Bottom bracket drop: 6.8cm
Why did I choose this bike?
Like many of you, I’m happy to let BikeRadar‘s expert test team put in thousands of hard miles during the wettest and coldest months of their year and then pick my next bike from our massive Bike of the Year test. Of course, I do have a slight – okay, massive – advantage over, well, all of you in that I can make a quick call to the brand whose bike most tickles my fancy and ask them if I can hang on to it for a bit.
And of course I could have picked something stupidly expensive, such as the 10 grand Trek Madone SLR9. However, I’m a true man-of-the-people, so the Endurance SL a) reflects what I could actually – just about – stretch to if I were to take advantage of interest-free finance and b) genuinely impressed me during testing.
Also, I’m inherently lazy and don’t really enjoy tinkering with bikes because tinkering inevitably equals breaking in my experience. So, the equipment levels of the Endurance SL look spot on to me. I really shouldn’t have to change anything unless I need to.
Smug looking man and his bike David Caudery/Immediate Media
Okay, I’ll likely change the Fizik Arione R5 saddle because although I’m many things, the flexible ‘snake’ this seat is designed for isn’t one of them. And even I can’t catastrophically balls up a saddle swap can I? (The answer, as a I recently discovered on a different bike, is actually yes – with style.)
I’m also going to need to get a new Mavic Yksion Pro UST tyre at some point. I’ve had my first puncture and now that I’ve cleaned the sealant from my hands my tubeless rear tyre is tubed.
Is it heresy for me to say that I’m not convinced by all of the arguments for tubeless tyres on road bikes? The hassle involved once you have to replace busted tubeless rubber is one of those #firstworldproblems I can do without.
Ribble Endurance SL initial setup
What do you need to know? Like I said, I don’t tinker, so I’ve put the saddle up to my required height and added my Shimano Ultegra pedals. Oh, and I’ve attached Cycliq Fly12 CE and FlyCE camera/lights, an Upgrade Discreet Mini Bell and an Ass Saver. Job done.
My tinkering so far amounts to adding lights and a computer. Nothing broken David Caudery/Immediate Caudery
Ribble Endurance SL ride impressions so far
As I’ve said, my first experience of the Ribble was during our Bike of the Year test. Warren had been singing its praises for a while, but being a Ribble virgin I didn’t know what to expect. My first rides were on the roads of Yorkshire and although designed over the border in Lancashire the Endurance felt right at home.
In our Bike of the Year test, Warren was impressed by a ride that he said could be “described as luxurious”. That comfort was the first thing that struck me about the Endurance – it felt like the sort of bike that I could happily sit on for long days. And that’s ideal because I’m riding really slowly at the moment so even short rides mean that I’m spending a lot of time in the saddle.
It’s got 28c tyres at the moment and these are a good comfort complement to the frame. And I can go bigger – up to 30c – if really feel the need.
I think that the reasonably benign nature of the Endurance’s handling also helps with the comfortable feel – I sound like I might be doing it a disservice by saying it’s entirely predictable but I’m not. Essentially, it goes where I point it without drama, which is exactly what I want.
The Mavic Kysrium Elite UST disc wheelset is a classy all-rounder and certainly no hindrance on climbs. The gutlord riding is and I probably would have opted for at least a 30 on the back rather than the 28 Warren specced. I can obviously change that if needed, or I can just eat fewer pies and get used to it.
So far, the Ribble has mainly been employed as a daily commuter. The pancake flat Bath to Bristol bike path is a test for neither man nor machine and the Endurance, like the 7005 Audax mentioned earlier, is proving to be an excellent ride-to-work horse.
I plan to use the Endurance for the usual 46-year-old weekend-warrior duties – Sunday rides and sportives – so I’ll report back once I’ve pushed it, and me, out of our comfort zones a little more.