Flanders-based Ridley proudly states that it ‘is cyclocross’, and as Belgium is the world’s dominant ’cross nation, who are we to argue? Of the company’s X-branded models, the Ridley X-Bow is the entry point for any aspiring Sven Nys, former cyclocross World Champ and widely considered to be one of the greatest ’cross racers of all time.
For around a grand you get Ridley’s classic horizontal top-tubed geometry formed from 7005-T6 alloy, and sporting a curved carbon fork with alloy steerer. There are mounts for mudguards and a rear rack, making it ideal if you’re looking to press your bike into all-rounder duties. Chunky plate rear dropouts provide a solid fixing for the mounts and disc brake, and everything gives the impression of being built to last.
High strength on a budget comes with a weight penalty, and the 10.69kg mass of our example makes it less race-friendly, but perfectly acceptable for everything else. It’s hard to say exactly where the weight is, as it’s probably just an agglomeration of budget-appropriate components, but the wheels would be our first performance upgrade. The front wheel complete with tyre, tube and rotor weighs a portly 1.9kg alone.
Ridley’s size guide works if you’re looking for a relaxed fit, but its trademark short head-tubes usually mean a spacer stack, unless running pro-level saddle to bar drop. If you like to stretch out, you’re faced with going for a longer head tube and top tube, but losing standover height, or lengthening the stem.
The ride quality is very smooth, and the X-Bow wants to roll over everything efficiently. Except hills. Any upward gradient, or attempted sprint, will see your power output rising rapidly — with little noticeable speed increase. Even though our brakes weren’t dragging, and we had reasonable air pressure in the tyres, riding up any minor bump felt like someone had fitted a parachute to the seatpost.
Heading off road brought another issue, the 36x28 bottom gear isn’t that low when faced with a steep climb and noticeable heft. Next year’s bikes will have an 11-32 cassette instead of our 12-28, which will help, but maybe a 36 sprocket would be more useful. The Tiagra drivetrain did perform faultlessly though, and the levers are indistinguishable from 105 in looks and hood feel.
Road disc brakes have advanced rapidly, so it’s a rarity to find Avid’s BB7 mechanical disc stoppers. Their design uses only one moving brake pad to force the disc rotor against the opposing pad. Production bikes will come with TRP’s excellent Spyre mechanical disc calipers, which operate by moving both pads evenly.
In the woods, the X-Bow handles beautifully, flicking around tree roots at speed, tracking accurately through sketchy turns, and absorbing vibrations very well. It descends with confidence too and really shines off road until the trail rises.
In-house brand 4ZA’s finishing kit is tough and serviceable, and Clément’s MXP clinchers are a cyclocross classic, using the original Grifo tread pattern — predictably grippy in the dirt and not too sluggish on the road.
Mud clearance at the back is reasonable, although a little compromised by the front mech’s cable pulley behind the seat-tube. If you can power this bike though deep mud, you’ll develop some epic strength that should see you upgrading very soon! If you can’t, well just enjoy riding it everywhere else!