The biggest bike manufacturer from the world’s premier cyclocross nation has become a highly visible and well-respected force among racers, with a vast range of X-prefixed bikes to suit all rider levels. The X-Night though is the zenith of Ridley’s range, with our test model wearing a component specification that seeks to gain every advantage.
In disc-specific form, the front brake hose passes through the fork crown to the calliper, with the rear running internally from down tube to chainstay, and the clean lines of the high modulus carbon frame are maintained by the use of Di2. Ridley believes in horizontal top tubes for its 'cross bikes, which certainly makes the most of shouldering room, but with their characteristically short head tubes the result can be quite an aggressive position with less standover height, so make sure you check sizing charts.
A horizontal top tube ensures generous shouldering room
The X-Night is designed to channel energy into outright off-road speed, and its burly frame and fork do that unapologetically, wasting nothing, and powering through the terrain to the line. It’s a firm ride, and even with supple tubulars kicks off bumps rather than absorbing them. Ridden with precision, this bike is like a rocket ship, but it's still as stable as a fat bike when things get squiffy.
Key to its absolute performance are the 25mm wide carbon rims and Challenge tubulars, which hugely reduce rotational mass and accelerate for fun – essential in a cornering-laden sport. Corner grip and feel is far superior, with the potential to run air pressures below 20psi and a reduced puncture risk, but they aren’t an everyday option.
Providing the stop and go, Shimano Ultegra Di2 has very neat levers, barely distinguishable from the mechanical versions – and this is part of their problem for 'cross. While the rear shifting is slick and efficient, there are times on rough ground when it’s easy to miss a shift button, even without long gloves.
Handled correctly, the X-Night is a whip-smart ride
Our main issue though was with the front. Rotor’s 3DF crank is light and stiff, yet the front derailleur seemed to take far longer than we expected to shift rings, always missing the sweet spot in each revolution. Worse still, on short run-ups or hurdles, holding the left shifter as usual meant frequent shifts in mid air, often leading to dropped chains on remounting, which can’t be ridden back on. Even consciously trying to avoid it was no good, because the shift buttons are so easily touched.
Braking is a little more successful, with Shimano’s hydraulic calipers offering consistent feel and modulation and hauling us to a stop quietly. The Avid rotors, however, while necessary for the six-bolt hubs, actually reduced performance to a level little better than cantilevers.
Despite such spec shortcomings though, the X-Night is an incisive race-ready machine. Just ensure you fit better rotors – and save yourself some weight and cash with good old mechanical shifting.