We were impressed with the original R872 back in 2013, given its stiff frame and quality of its parts for the price. For 2017 Ribble has taken the 872 back to the drawing board, even though externally it looks pretty much the same save for the new fork which flush fits into the frame aero style (and also the cool matt silver finish).
Under the skin plenty of work has been done. Torsional stiffness (front to rear) is reportedly up over 16%, the new fork is a claimed 26.5% stiffer than the old unit, and it plugs into a stiffer head tube (+8%), BB and chainstay stiffness are also up around 15% each to boot.
Aside from claimed increases like that being the stuff of marketing bluster, it also begs the question on the ride quality (it's not like the old 872 suffered in the stiffness stakes). Worst case scenario it could become overly stiff, to the detriment of comfort.
The R872 is certainly shaped right – the low 585mm stack and long 403mm reach mark it out as a racer's rig, as does the short (just 0.3mm shy of a 1m) wheelbase. The 72.9-degree seat angle and 73.3-degree head are race ready too.
As this is a Ribble, there’s no getting away from talking about value. The Lancashire legend has built its reputation on offering levels of equipment that few others can match.
It’s no surprise then that the R872 Special Edition has kit levels that put it right at the top of its highly competitive price bracket. Factor in a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset, classy alloy Deda Zero 100 parts, a Selle Italia Flite saddle and Mavic’s impressive Kysrium Pro Wheel-Tire system and like us you’ll be hard pushed to work out how Ribble has done it, especially when you take in account the sub-kilo frame at the heart of the bike.
Out on the road, and new R872 feels – in keeping with its marketing spiel – much more robust than the previous model, even with a lighter frame. Its low 7.55kg weight and light rolling stock, in the 1,475g Kysriums, gives the bike a really swift kick. Accelerations are easy to snap into and it climbs with the best of them too.
Factor in Di2’s sublime shifts and ability to change under load without drama and you've a bike you can really attack the climbs on. Previous models came with a smaller block (11-25) and taller overall gearing (with a 52/36); this one has a much friendlier compact and 11-28 so those of us who aren’t flyweight climbers can make the most of its considerable charms when the road rises.
If you are more inclined to bigger gears then you can always use Ribble’s re-designed bike builder online to change to your preferred ratios.
The long, low riding position won’t suit everyone, but as race-shaped bikes go this has a decent level of comfort, the 25c tyres doing their best to even out rougher surfaces and quality (Deda) tape and a classy, classic Flite saddle looking out for you too.
Comfort wise there are better machines out there, as the R872 still has a certain firmness to its ride. But the solidity doesn’t become wearing – the Ribble just lets you know that vibrations, knocks and road buzz are part and parcel of riding Britain’s roads.
Also for a bike that’s this short, and this low at the front, we expected the handling to be faster than it is. In reality this is a machine that’s more suited to sweeping turns and smooth moves than darting about changing lines.
Taking the 872 as a whole it is one hell of a package – we can’t fault the spec at all, and Ultegra Di2 is a decent reminder of just how good electronic shifting has become in a relatively short space of time.
The frameset is worthy of the components, but remains in the shadow of a few more highly developed chassis’ out there (Giant’s TCR, Cannondale’s Evo, Trek’s Domane). But for a relatively small manufacturer, in that company Ribble has still done one hell of a job, and put together one hell of a bargain to boot.