Ridley Helium SL review

Mountain-climbing special from Belgium

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
£8,999.99 RRP

Our review

The Ridley was born to climb, but is no slouch between the peaks either
Skip to view product specifications

At the heart of this bike is Ridley’s Helium SL frameset, a daily choice for the Lotto-Belisol team riders. Helium is a much-used name in cycling, with its lighter than air connotations, and this sub-800g superlight SL frame sheds 150g from the previous Helium, weighing just 1050g with its fork.

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  • • Highs: Efficiently rapid, superlight and with floaty comfort
  • • Lows: From the saddle you can’t see that glorious groupset…
  • • Buy If: You have deep pockets and want something very special

The Helium SL doesn’t trade strength and stiffness for lightness – its monocoque front triangle, slimmer head tube, specifically placed high modulus carbon and nano resin ensures less material, less weight and greater rigidity. Ridley claims 20 percent more lateral fork rigidity, plus 4 percent and 8 percent greater stiffness at the head tube and bottom bracket respectively.

Impressive as all that sounds, the frame is overshadowed by its Campagnolo 80th Anniversary groupset. Campagnolo treated Super Record’s carbon components to a micro-sanded finish and the alloy parts to a new opaque finish, with a new process ensuring that the special anniversary logo doesn’t wear off.

…brakes and wheels
…brakes and wheels:
Robert Smith

Campagnolo 80th Anniversary brakes and wheels

It looks stunning, though functionally it’s unchanged from any other Super Record groupset – which is, of course, unlike any other groupset. Incorporating more carbon than the competition, Super Record is virtually in an artistic league of its own, with ergonomics and performance to match. The matching wheelset is a similarly finished, astronomically priced pair of Bora Ultra Two 50mm tubulars that weigh 1310g.

So, is the gulf in price between the Helium and your ‘average’ high-end road machine reflected in performance? In short, yes. As a financial consideration, this bike purely for the deep of pocket, but when day-long performance really counts, the Helium’s reactivity and comfort are invaluable.

With its longer head-tube there’s no need for spacers – meaning maximum steering accuracy – and allied to the stiff fork, the front end tracks superbly. The rigid PF30 bottom bracket and rear wheel are braced by asymmetric chainstays for instant power transfer, and the slim seatstays and 27.2mm carbon seatpost provide cosseting comfort.

As you might expect, the Helium excels at climbing, but its all-round abilities are what makes it truly memorable
As you might expect, the helium excels at climbing, but its all-round abilities are what makes it truly memorable:
Robert Smith

As you might expect, the Helium excels at climbing, but its all-round abilities are what makes it truly memorable

For a 50mm wheelset, the Bora Ultra Twos are incredibly accelerative, surpassing the response of many shallower rims. Shod with Continental Competition tubular rubber – a frequent choice of the pros – they have superb feel and grip in all conditions. The tubulars contribute to the floaty ride quality too, and over rough surfaces the Ridley feels like a suspension bike, absorbing vibration – which in turn enhances control. The 4ZA finishing kit differs from the pros’ Deda and San Marco spec, but it’s all light and effective, the slim seatpost in particular.

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It would be wrong to pigeonhole the Helium SL as a climber’s bike at the expense of all other aspects of racing. It’s as efficiently stiff when sprinting and as confident handling as almost any other equivalent top flight machine, but boasts impressive comfort levels and, of course, climbs like a goat. Its docile character makes its extensive performance envelope very accessible, with refined manners that seemingly allow you more time to think, however fast you’re travelling.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Helium SL (14)
Brand Ridley Bikes

Brakes Campag Record 80th Anniversary
Shifters Campagnolo Record 80th Anniversary
Wheelbase (cm) 99
Top Tube (cm) 56.5
Seat Tube (cm) 54
Weight (lb) 13.8
Year 2014
Wheelset Campag Bora Ultra Two
Weight (kg) 6.26
Stem 4ZA Cirrus Pro
Seatpost 4ZA Cirrus Pro
Cassette 11-29
Seat Angle 73
Saddle 4ZA Cirrus Pro
Rear Tyre 22mm Conti Competition
Head Angle 73.5
Handlebar 4ZA Cirrus Pro
Front Tyre 22mm Conti Competition
Frame Material Carbon
Fork Carbon
Cranks 53/39
Frame size tested 56cm