Aimed at sportive riders, the Gran Fondo delivers a superb value, speedy but surefooted ride that’s made it Ribble’s biggest-selling carbon road bike.
Ride & handling: Impressive all-rounder that gets the miles in comfortably
The tall head tube and raised cockpit of the Gran Fondo make an immediate impression when you ﬁrst get on board. The low bottom bracket means you’re not noticeably higher than more conventional bikes when riding in a group though. That means extra drag is only obvious when you’re ploughing into a proper headwind and you can always duck into the shallow drop bars if things get too blowy.
What the height of the tapered head tube also gives – besides a more upright, spine- and shoulder-friendly position – is a lot of front-end stiffness. Combined with relaxed and steady handling manners this makes the Ribble one of the safest-feeling bikes we’ve ever ridden.
Even on the fastest test descents we rode with roadside gates and farmhouses creating unpredictable side gusts, a slight squeeze of the top tube with the knees was all it ever needed to stabilise it. A big contrast with more aero or race-orientated bikes where we’d have been praying under our breath and panic braking in similar situations.
The precise, stable steering also means a lot less mental fatigue at the end of longer bike legs and makes it easier to grab snacks and refuel while you’re in the saddle. The obvious ﬂipside is that it doesn’t like to duck and weave through trafﬁc, potholes or drafting packs, but if you fancy more twitch then a shorter stem will sharpen things up immediately.
Where the Gran Fondo really surprised us though was under power and on the climbs. Unlike a lot of low-cost lightweights, it’s not fainthearted when it comes to putting down the power either. Whatever power you can push through the pedals is applied directly and largely undiluted to the road, with what softness there is helping to keep the tyre stuck rather than skipping on the steep stuff.
The low overall weight of the bike and generous breathing space afforded by the more upright position means it shines on shallow, extended climbs too, sitting on tempo and spinning the compact ratio gears with an easy enthusiasm. The sporty ride doesn’t come without a cost though and the Gran Fondo isn’t the smoothest sportive machine we’ve ridden.
It’s certainly not an arse-kicking race ride but you’ll still need to put up with some buzz on frost-knackered surfaces. Looking ahead to pilot the steady steering through more pothole-ridden roads is also a shrewd move if you want to avoid getting jarred and jolted – there’s more rattle than you’d expect.
Frame & equipment: Striking looking chassis, and you can customise the component spec
The frame is from the Italian Dedacciai design house, with a striking curved and kinked tubeset that ﬂows and ﬂares through all sorts of shapes along its length. The tall head tube won’t please wind-cheaters looking for the ultimate aero position, but if you’re more worried about your back lasting than losing a few seconds then it’s a godsend.
While the long, alloy necked fork might be heavy, the frameset is impressively light for its price. That’s despite the frame sizing coming up big if you go by their cm measurements rather than the more accurate medium, large etc. descriptions.
As one of the largest mail order/internet suppliers in the UK, Ribble know how to get super-low prices on parts. Full Shimano Ultegra is certainly a coup and the Deda Zero kit is a great colour-match too. The badger stripe Vredestein tyres and Fulcrum wheels create a perfectly workable wheelpack. Ribble’s bike-builder facility also lets you mix and match from a huge component menu for a truly custom-ﬁnal bike spec.
The obvious downside is that your bike arrives in a box, not with a friendly handshake and potential long-term favours and advice from your local shop staff, but the value of that is something you’ll have to decide for yourself.