We reviewed the previous Orion last summer, and praised its blend of sportive comfort and race bike poise. For 2012, Ridley have gone about subtly developing it, and have also released this flamboyant Team Edition model.
The price has risen compared to last year’s bike, but the improvements are plain to see. The drivetrain is now Shimano Ultegra rather than 105, and the Vredestein Fortezzas tyres are now the lighter Tricomp variant.
The Orion has lost a few grams, though you’d struggle to notice, but has retained its born-in-Belgium design ethos. It’s quick, in both pedal response and turn-in, and the Ultegra drivetrain is robust and smooth.
The frame isn’t riddled with the latest innovations: the bottom bracket is standard, as is the head tube, while the down tube is oversized and the chainstays burly. That means the Ridley rolls on a cradle of taut stiffness through the chassis.
The brilliant thing about the frame is how it combines this stiff feel with a plushness over broken surfaces that we simply loved. If we were to describe the characteristics we’d want from the ideal sportive-ready ride, the Orion offers it all, in spades. It seems those Belgians know a thing or two about riding over cobbles, and that’s translated into this peach of a ride.
Yet the Orion isn’t perfect: the wheels are still a little on the hefty side, even though they’re improved with lighter tyres and cassette. The 4ZA brakes are our other niggle. These are lightweight single pivot items, and while we appreciate the gram savings, the operation isn’t up to the standard of a dual pivot.
Single pivot brakes lack the out-and-out power of a dual, and this is combated with the use of a cam, which has the effect of widening the arc, adding bags of power. It comes close to a dual pivot but loses that all-important feel – a slightly deadness through the levers meant we never had full confidence on wet rides.
What we do appreciate is the finish. The Team Edition’s metal flake bright blue is an oasis of vibrancy in a world dominated by black, red and white bikes. The Ridley has been a real dilemma. It’s a definite top 10 in the Bike of the Year competition. With a wheel upgrade and time to get used to the brakes – or replace them – we’d happily ride the Orion all day, everyday. As it stands, it’s just one compromise too far.
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This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2012 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 260, on sale Friday 2 March.