Ridley's latest X-Night flagship carbon cyclocross machine is a grand leap forward from the previous incarnation with not only a vastly reduced weight but also tremendous improvements in ride quality and efficiency.
The frame geometry is still prototypically Euro, though, which may or may not suit your style.
Ride and handling: Built for charging through the mud
The new X-Night borrows heavily from Ridley's Helium SL road frame, which in this case is a very good thing. While the previous-generation X-Night frame (and in particular, its integrated seatmast) bordered on I-Beam-like in terms of ride quality, this current version now possesses a notable resilience that takes the edge off bumpy ground and leaves you feeling far fresher after climbing off at the end of a ride.
The new shape isn't just far lighter than before, it's way more comfortable
Although it's more comfortable, it's more efficient, too, with now-excellent stiffness both down below and through the front triangle. This gives quick responses under power and accurate handling. The markedly thinner tube walls give a bit of pause in terms of impact resistance but in fairness, Ridley intends the X-Night to be a top-shelf race chassis, and crash durability comes further down the priority scale. Given the tremendous boost in performance, we're willing to live with that.
The frame design may be thoroughly modern but the geometry is still prototypically old-school Euro. The bottom bracket is very tall with just 60mm of drop, which puts your centre of gravity 5 to 12mm higher off the ground than is typical these days. The front end is also quite short in terms of cockpit reach, with a correspondingly short wheelbase. At 72 degrees, the head tube angle is relatively steep.
The classically Euro geometry is relatively short in terms of reach but yet quite tall, too
Not surprisingly, given Ridley's home market, this makes for a bike that relishes charging through deep sand and mud, on account of its greater ground clearance.
The traditional geometry also has several handling quirks. Paradoxically, the shorter wheelbase can be more apt to flip around on you in slippery conditions but the higher centre of gravity requires more conviction when flicking the bike through quick changes in direction.
Steep descents also require you to position your weight a bit further back, to stay behind the front axle. There's considerable toe overlap too.
Those quirks can yield dividends in the hands of a skilled rider who's willing to adapt though – and who has the time to do so. For example, the requisite longer stem and shorter front end tends to put more weight on the front end for a surer grip, while the taller bottom bracket allows you to pedal through corners (and maintain rear wheel traction) that you might otherwise have had to coast through.
The bottom bracket is higher off the ground than is typical for modern machines
It's quite a departure from what's fast becoming the norm for cyclocross geometry, though, and while there are benefits to be had, not everyone will be willing to invest the time to learn how to extract them.
Frame: A Helium SL for the dirt
The new X-Night is, to all intents and purposes, a Helium SL that has been adapted with 'cross-specific geometry, additional tyre clearance and, in the case of our test model, post-mount disc brake tabs front and rear. The shape is more purposeful with less geometric filigree than before, with the expected improvements in performance.
This current chassis is worlds lighter, thanks in part to the more efficient use of material, carbon fiber dropouts and a carbon fiber PF30 bottom bracket sleeve. Our 50cm test frame weighs just 993g. The matching tapered all-carbon fork adds another 468g. Combined, that's roughly 500g (1.1lb) less than the previous iteration.
Some of that difference can be accounted for by the move from the old X-Night integrated seatmast to the conventionally telescoping one, but only a small proportion. Racers will relish the telescoping post because easier to travel with, and no longer transmits every imperfection of the ground straight to the rider's back-end.
The new frame is essentially a Helium SL that's been adapted for 'cross
Cable routing is fully internal although it's convertible for both mechanical and electronic drivetrains, and no longer uses full-length housing for the derailleurs (which saves even more weight). Provided you take care not to remove the factory-installed liners, the derailleur cables are very easy to replace – and even if you do, there's a big opening at the bottom of the down tube to feed the lines through.
The same can't be said for the rear brake housing, however. It runs full-length through the down tube and chainstay. The jog through the bottom bracket unfortunately means that you'll need to remove the cups to guide it through if you need to replace it.
You also won't find dual water bottle bosses. Ridley has always intended the X-Night for racing – the previous iteration did without them altogether. This edition thankfully improves on that, but there's still only one set, on the down tube.
There's just one set of bottle mounts on the Ridley X-Night
Shorter riders interested in the 50cm or 52cm sizes should pay close attention to the stack and reach figures. While the 50cm (which we've tested here) size has an expectedly lower front end, it's 5mm longer than the 52cm so choose wisely.
We've often found Ridley's 'cross bikes to feel about a size bigger than their numerical label.
Components: Solid mix for training but needs proper wheels for racing
Ridley offers three models of complete X-Night Disc bikes in the US. We went with the least expensive X-Night Disc 30 version.
Anchoring the spec sheet is Shimano's latest 11-speed Ultegra transmission, coupled with Rotor 3DF forged aluminium cranks and Avid BB7 cable-actuated disc brakes. It's solid stuff all around and works as you'd expect, with silky smooth shifts and very good brake performance.
The gearing is appropriately 'cross-specific, with 46/36-tooth chainrings matched with an 11-28T cassette out back. Although the ancient BB7s can't quite match the all-weather performance of fully hydraulic setups, they trump cantilevers in terms of power, control, and consistency. Racers who regularly encounter mud might want to consider switching to TRP's self-adjusting HY/RD mechanical/hydraulic calipers, as they're relatively inexpensive (and generally work better in all conditions).
Disc brakes provide powerful stopping at both ends – but a fully hydraulic setup would be even better
Rounding out the spec sheet are bits from Ridley's own Forza collection, including aluminium clincher wheels, saddle, bar, and stem. Total weight as shown is 8.29kg (18.28lb) without pedals.
The saddle is firm but comfy with a surprisingly grippy (but not too grippy) synthetic cover, excellent support for longer training rides, and enough padding to take the sting out of ugly remounts.
Similarly, the aluminium bar features an agreeable semi-anatomic shape with moderately flattened tops for comfort, and while we initially thought the drops were too long, it turns out that that extra length makes for a noticeably easier grab during shouldered runups.
The long drops are actually quite useful
We do have some issues with the stem and wheels. The former was twisted straight out of the box (apparently from a manufacturing defect, not shipping damage), leaving the bars uneven and unusable. This would be covered under warranty, but it was still irritating.
The included disc-specific wheels are respectably light (around 1,650g for the set without skewers) but their anemic 16mm internal rims width doesn't lend enough casing support for 'cross tyres, especially when running at anything approaching a reasonably low pressure. We were only able to run down to about 40 psi without being in constant fear of pinch flatting, and the rims can't be reliably converted to tubeless either.
While the Challenge Grifo Pro tyres give very predictable traction, they're unfortunately mounted to very narrow rims
The included Challenge Grifo Pro tyres are bang-on their stated 32mm width, despite the skinny hoops. As usual with that classic tread pattern, they're reasonably grippy in a wide range of conditions, with good rolling speed and predictable drift characteristics.
Slap some better wheels on and the Ridley X-Night 30 Disc would be a fantastic – if polarising – bike. But as it is, the wheels have some growing to do before we can really consider them for the serious 'cross duty the chassis is all too eager to take on.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Ridley X-Night Disc
- Available sizes: 50 (tested), 52, 54, 56, 58cm
- Fork: Ridley Oryx Disc
- Headset: FSA Orbit ZS, 1 1/8 to 1 1/2in tapered
- Stem: 4ZA Cirrus
- Handlebar: 4ZA Cirrus
- Handlebar tape: 4ZA cork
- Front brake: Avid BB7 w/ 160mm G2 rotor
- Rear brake: Avid BB7 w/ 140mm G2 rotor
- Brake levers: Shimano Ultegra STI Dual Control ST-6800
- Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra FD-6800
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra RD-6800-SS
- Shift levers: Shimano Ultegra STI Dual Control ST-6800
- Cassette: Shimano 105 CS-5800, 12-28T
- Chain: KMC X11
- Crankset: Rotor 3DF, 46/36T
- Bottom bracket: Rotor PressFit 4630
- Pedals: n/a
- Wheelset: 4ZA Cirrus CD30
- Front tyre: Challenge Grifo Pro, 700x32mm
- Rear tyre: Challenge Grifo Pro, 700x32mm
- Saddle: 4ZA Cirrus Pro
- Seatpost: 4ZA Cirrus
- Total weight, as tested: 8.29kg (18.28lb) without pedals