Although it’s never rivalled more specialist machines on weight, the Ridley X-Bow has been an evergreen choice for riders wanting a cheerfully versatile ’crosser at a decent price. It’s a practical everyday commuter – but one that you could realistically tackle a cyclocross race on.
New for 2015, the X-Bow 20 Disc Allroad takes the existing disc version and prettifies it for the urban ’cross market. The ‘Allroad’ designation is a slightly odd one, conjuring for us images of dusty gravel roads or remote muddy epics. While you certainly could use it for that kind of thing, the styling and spec lean more towards the chic and urbane: brown leather-effect bar tape matches a brown leather-effect saddle, which matches the brown cable outers, and tasteful metal mudguards complement the stylishly muted matt grey finish of the frameset – more on those later. It’s certainly a departure from the unapologetically Euro paint jobs more characteristic of Ridley, a company that’s more Belgian than mayonnaise on frites.
Cables complement the colour of the saddle and bar tape
The X-Bow’s modest alloy frame has a conventional straight head tube and comes fitted with a carbon-legged fork. Groupset components are dependable Shimano Sora nine-speed, and while Avid’s BB7 disc brakes are not top of the class any more, they’re as effective as ever if you keep them adjusted. Chunky 4ZA wheels roll on Shimano’s cup and cone hubs which, with no brake track to wear out, should run forever if you treat them to a lick of fresh grease from time to time.
The Ridley is a pleasant, comfortable ride, thanks in no small part to the generous volume of its 35mm tyres, which give up little speed to a proper slick and offer confidence on leaf-strewn cycle paths and gravelly backroads. At sensibly low pressures, they also smooth out the worst lanes effectively. The bike’s heft and its shortish top tube (523mm on our small) make for a comparatively sedate and upright experience on the road, one that doesn’t particularly encourage excessive efforts, but handling is without vice, ideal for the daily commute.
They look good, but we couldn’t stop the mudguards rattling
Less pleasing is that the lovely-looking mudguards, surely the bike’s principal selling point, are regrettably flawed. The rear rattled terribly from new, a problem we traced to the plastic stay fastener. Wrapping a rubber band around it went some way to quietening it, but regardless, the single stay design doesn’t do a good job of inhibiting movement, and there’s some play at the bridge between the seatstays as well. To make matters worse, the front ’guard gave rise to significant toe-overlap on our small test bike, causing some unwelcome excitement in slow traffic manoeuvres, although this is less likely to be an issue on larger sizes, or if you don’t have comically huge feet. As we go to press we were waiting on a set of replacement guards from Ridley, but in our opinion the problem is inherent to the design, not our specific set.
While we’re being picky, we’d also have liked a lower bottom gear than the 34x27 on offer. Fit roadies won’t mind on tarmac, but if you want to explore the bike’s off-road abilities or haul shopping up hills, it’s not overly generous.
Mudguards and gearing aside, it’s hard not to be charmed by the Ridley. Its looks invariably attract compliments and it has retained the can-do attitude of its predecessors. For this sort of money though, it needs some attention to detail on the spec to justify its price.