When chasing lightness in a frame, the challenges are how to maintain enough stiffness and strength while removing as much material and mass as possible. When manufacturers do get it right, the results can be incredible – and Ridley have really hit the mark with the Helium Team SL 1305A.
Highs: Super light frame; floaty smooth ride is surprisingly comfortable
Lows: Deep-section wheels aren’t the Helium’s natural partners
Buy if: You want a true professional precision race bike with a smooth compliant ride
The slender dimensions of the SL’s frame hide a high level of rigidity – we couldn’t induce any flex or movement from the tight dimensions of the rear end – while the lightweight fork, with its 1 1/8in to 1 1/4inn tapered steerer, has a marked suppleness.
With a wheelbase of a metre, stock 73-degree head angle and 72.5-degree seat angle, dimensions are all pretty standard. The long top tube – effectively 58.5cm – makes for a pro-style low and long riding position.
Slim tubes and tight angles create a rigid rear triangle:Russell Burton/Future Publishing
Slim tubes and tight angles create a rigid rear triangle
Compared with Ridley’s other pro-level machines – the Noah Fast and Classics-special Fenix – the Helium feels the most comfortable. Its lack of weight is useful on extended climbs, helped by the compact 50/34 chainset even though it’s paired with a close ratio 12-25 cassette.
Sadly, its climbing prowess is slightly tempered by its wheels. We are big fans of the Fulcrum 50mm Red Wind clinchers, which work well in all conditions, but if we were building a bike to attack the climbs a 50mm rim wouldn’t be our first choice because of the extra weight.
We’d love to see the flyaway nature of the feathery chassis fully exploited with a set of shallower lightweight hoops. The Red Winds do lend stability to the Helium on descents, though.
The lively front end has the potential to become a bit of a handful under loaded cornering, but when you’re seated this isn’t the case. It’s also worth noting that out-of-the-saddle sprints, while positively encouraged with wheels like these, can result in the front feeling light rather than rapid. It just doesn’t feel quite as secure as some under hard pedalling, though its ride is aided by the excellent Continental Grand Prix 4000 tyres.
A 4za cirrus pro bar and stem match the 4za saddle and seatpost:Russell Burton/Future Publishing
A 4ZA Cirrus Pro bar and stem match the 4ZA saddle and seatpost
Mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace gives its usual flawless performance, while 4ZA provide their Cirrus Pro bar, stem, seatpost and saddle. The simple carbon seatpost is topped with a well-padded saddle – for a race seat, anyway – and both work well together.
The Team SL is most suited to the serious sportive rider. Lighter riders should be most able to exploit the Helium’s charms, but as it is – though the Helium is an extremely fine bike and one we’d be more than happy to continue riding – we just believe that a frame built to place such little burden on the scales should have a wheel package to match.