Ridley Helium X 105 review

Belgian bike to hit the heights

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
£2,399.00 RRP

Our review

Sublime ride quality hampered by mediocre spec
Buy if, You want a classic race frame and are prepared to upgrade significantly down the line
Pros: The Helium X has all the handling chops and smoothness I’d ever want
Cons: It’s just too pricey for the equipment levels
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Ridley’s Helium is the company’s take on a climber’s bike, built to be light and stiff. The range-topping SLX frame weighs just 750g, and this X version uses exactly the same design but a more modest blend of hi-mod and unidirectional carbon fibres for a 900g frame weight, which is still impressive.

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  • The Ridley Helium X 105 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.

The geometry is Ridley’s tried and tested race numbers, and it’s subtly different to some of its rivals. The steep 74-degree head and 72.5-degree seat angles combine with a 1,012mm wheelbase. It’s all just a bit taller, longer and steeper than I’d expect, but comes together in one of the most balanced handling bikes in this year’s Bike of the Year testing.

The X has a superb pick-up and accelerates with ease; the steering is sharp but never twitchy, making it easy to speed through tight turns with pinpoint accuracy.

The frame and matched straight-legged slender fork look unassuming and understated with their blend of ovalised and round tubes, and the slightly squared-off profile of the down tube.

The X has character and gives you a real sense of engagement when onboard

The seatstays are pencil thin, as I’d expect from a lightweight race bike, but aren’t detriment to the bike’s impeccable power transfer. I love the way the X carries itself over poorer road surfaces. The frame is super stiff, which is great for when you’re sprinting, but it never feels harsh or chattery over broken up, frost-scarred tarmac.

The X has character and gives you a real sense of engagement when onboard; it’s exciting without feeling nervous and hard without being harsh, everything about the chassis screams class and I couldn’t help but be impressed.

Where the Helium doesn’t measure up quite so well is in the finishing. The in-house lineup of Forza components all do their job well; the plain alu compact drop bar, stem, seatpost and actually very well shaped and very comfortable saddle.

Smooth handling from the Helium X
Smooth handling from the Helium X
Courtesy

The Forza RC23 wheels are nicely built, run smooth and have stayed straight. The Forza Cirrus brakes are fine, their dual-pivot design works and they come with decent cartridge pads, they just lack the subtlety of feel you get from their Shimano 105 equivalents.

The same goes for the FSA Gossamer chainset, it’s stiff enough and shifting between the rings is smooth too, but it doesn’t look as polished as the 105 unit it replaces here. I don’t have such an issue with 105, as in recent years the performance of 105 has been as good as its pricier stable mates, it just carries a few more grams.

A bike at £2,400 / $2,499 with a predominantly Shimano 105 finishing kit, with two noticeable cost-cutting measures doesn’t exactly scream value. I’ve already seen a significant shift in prices, so where a bike with this sort of equipment a couple of years ago would have been around £1,500, it’s now more around the £2k mark.

No matter how much grace I give Ridley for the inflation in prices, or that Ridley is a premium brand and relatively small scale manufacturer, it still comes across as a pricey proposition. It’s a real shame because the Helium X chassis is one of the stars of 2018.

Also consider…

Interested in what else is available at this price point? Have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed bikes.

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Product Specifications

Product

Name Helium X 105
Brand Ridley

Available Sizes XXS XS S M L XL
Shifters Shimano 105
All measurements for frame size tested XL
Reach (cm) 40.3
Stack (cm) 62.5
Head Tube (cm) 22.7
Frame size tested XL
Wheelbase (cm) 101.4
Top Tube (cm) 60
Seat Tube (cm) 60
Chainstays (cm) 40.8
Wheelset Forza RC23
Weight (kg) 8.1
Stem Forza Stratos
Seatpost Forza Stratos
Brakes Forza Cirrus
Seat Angle 72.5
Saddle Forza Stratos
Rear Tyre 25mm Vittoria Zaffiro
Rear Derailleur Shimano 105
Head Angle 74
Handlebar Forza Stratos
Front Tyre 25mm Vittoria Zaffiro
Front Derailleur Shimano 105
Frame Material HM UD carbon
Fork HM UD carbon
Cranks FSA Gossamer 50/34
Cassette Shimano 105 11-28
Bottom-bracket drop (cm) 6.3