Lancashire-based Ribble has earned its reputation for incredible value bikes. In the past that’s meant huge specs for the money, the downside usually being its great kit hung on an average frame.
That’s because historically Ribble has chosen frame designs from its factory suppliers (commonly called ‘open-mould’) and had very little to do with the frames' design and development. Well it seems that Ribble has stepped up its ambitions, beginning to design and develop its own creations – and the first to come to fruition is this, the all-new Sportive Racing – which scooped the Best Value gong in our sister mag Cycling Plus's recent Bike of the Year awards.
The in-house design and development has led to this classy looking angular frame design and geometry – a very northern English road man's take on a sportive/gran fondo frame. The head tube angle of 72 is slacker than a race bike, yet the seat tube's 73 is classic road stuff.
The 1017.9mm wheelbase adds stability, and paired with a 391mm reach and 596mm stack its just a little taller and a little shorter than what you’d expect of a classic road race bike, though its closer to a race bike than an out-and-out endurance machine. The frame weight of 1100g and fork at 390g isn’t especially light by cutting edge standards, but its not exactly carrying extra timber either.
When you add into the mix a full complement of mechanical Dura-Ace, Ksyrium Elite wheels and one of the lightest cockpits you can find courtesy of Deda’s brilliant Superleggera setup, you get a complete bike that tips the scales at just a little of the 7kg mark.
Out on the road you notice the classiness of the equipment, with the Dura-Ace drivetrain and brilliant 9000 series brakes giving slick, smooth, light shifts and dependable braking full of feedback. The lightweight Ksyrium wheels make speedy progress easy: get into the climbs and the low weight, great gear ratios and the chassis' nimble feel add up to a steed that positively revels in long, tough ascents.
The stocky front end can be a little unforgiving, but that cockpit simply oozes class
The handling is quick and the frame is impressively stiff, making this Ribble a very capable descender too. The inherent rigidity is countered a little by the 25c stock rubber, plus a decent saddle in the form of a Fizik Arione VS (though it's worth mentioning that the saddle's channel seems superfluous – the standard Arione feels more comfortable, because on occasions you feel the edges of the channel rather then the pressure relief its designed to give).
The front end feels light – no real surprise with the sub-200g bar and sub-100g stem. We can’t ever recall a cockpit of this quality on any bike at this price (or on substantially more expensive ones either). Even with this class setup and 25c tyres though, the front end with its deep bladed fork legs, which shape into a box section at the dropouts, is very firm. This does mean a fair bit of buzz makes it to your hands when riding on rougher surfaces. We can live with it, but it means the Sportive’s chassis doesn’t feel quite as accomplished as the likes of Trek’s Domane, or Cannondale’s Synapse.
We can forgive some of the frames shortcomings when the spec list reads as well as this does though. When you add up the cockpit, wheels, saddle, seatpost and groupset, it's like Ribble isn't just giving you the frame but a four-figure golden hello as well. The downside is that this bike is part of Ribble’s special edition range, so the numbers will be fairly limited and it won’t be around forever. Rest assured they will all sell; it’s just too much of a bargain to ignore.
The other drawback is that the frame doesn’t quite live up to the sum of the bikes parts – though it’s still far more accomplished, and far better overall, than the previous incarnation. When you consider Ribble's rivals have full-time design teams and development budgets that run into thousands and thousands of dollars, we think the Lancashire upstarts should be commended for making such a decent machine.
It certainly bodes well for Ribble's next generation range – if the firm's team keep up this level of progress, they'll certainly be giving the heads at some of the world's biggest bike brands some sleepless nights.
Ribble Bikes ships worldwide – for further info go to www.ribblecycles.co.uk.