Ridley Fenix C Ultegra Mix review£1,850.00

An enigmatic Ridley

BikeRadar score3.5/5

The Fenix (as in from the flames) is Ridley’s endurance bike and, at the top level, is raced over pro-cycling’s roughest courses by the Lotto team.

  • The Ridley Fenix C Ultegra Mix is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.

Ridley offers a bewildering array of Fenix models, from the rim brake Fenix A, C and SL, and disc-brake Fenix A, SL and SLX models. Unsurprisingly, the Fenix A is aluminium and all the others carbon, meaning my test bike’s frameset is Ridley’s entry into carbon-fibre Fenix ownership.

While the loftier models use 60-ton Toray high-modulus carbon fibre to be super-light and stiff, the Fenix C uses 24-ton, which is a little heavier and less stiff. But don’t let that put you off, as the added compliance and extra character that less stiff frames offer can actually create a better-riding bike, at least for those of us not chasing World Tour wins.

The best bikes, whatever their value, are usually a coherent blend of parts that complement each other. Building bikes to a budget often creates understandable compromises, sometimes less so. Now, I'm quite used to bikes using a mixture of components to cut costs, but in this case it’s a hard sell.

Ridley Fenix C Ultegra Mix frame

The Fenix C embodies the ‘Be Tough’ graphic, displayed large at the base of the chunky down tube, its wordplay referring to the online Belgian URL abbreviation, and the diamond profile top and down tubes have prominent, angular outer edges. 

Its huge asymmetric chainstays are alternately deep, flattened and rounded between the bottom bracket and dropouts. Slim, flattened seatstays aim to cushion road shocks, and even with lengthened chainstays, the wheelbase is a short 992mm, but there’s plenty of room to stretch out.

It’s up front where the bike really lives up to expectations, that burly head tube and fork are worthy opponents when trying to wrestle more speed from the Fenix and they’re ably backed up by its wide bottom bracket and beefy chainstays. Every cue from the frameset gives the intention of it being quite responsive and handling well, but there are other factors in play.

Ridley Fenix C Ultegra Mix wheels

The rims on the Forza RC31 wheels are narrow
The rims on the Forza RC31 wheels are narrow

Ridley’s in-house parts brand Forza (or 4ZA) provides the wheels, brake calipers, cockpit, seatpost and saddle. The RC31 wheels consist of 28mm tall V-shaped aluminium rims, which are just 20mm externally.

They’re built on Shimano RS400 hubs with 24 plain gauge, round J-bend spokes each, and wear Continental Ultrasport 25mm tyres, although the narrow rims mean they only measure 24mm wide.

As ever, wheels colour any bike’s ability, and the RC31s dull the Fenix C’s. On the flat or downwind they flatter with good speed, but they do catch gusty crosswinds a little and quickly lose speed when the road climbs.

Response is only average, and their narrow width seems outdated among modern rims, failing to make more of their 25mm tyres. Although the Fenix will easily take 28mm tyres, I wouldn’t recommend fitting them to these wheels.

Ridley Fenix C Ultegra Mix groupset

Shimano Ultegra shifters and mechs are always welcome, and ensure excellent shifting, but they are all the Ultegra you get here. The cassette is 105, and although the chainset looks like 105, it’s a glossy black non-series item with cranks that have weight-saving channels in their inner faces instead of being hollow.

Forza’s caliper brakes are a dual-pivot design with ample tyre clearance and cartridge pads, and they give reasonable lever feel thanks to good return springs, but they do exhibit more flex than a Shimano 105 unit for instance, and my front rim had an annoying tick from its pinned joint when braking.

The drivetrain operates faultlessly, that chainset making up in efficiency what it gives away in mass. 

Ridley Fenix C Ultegra Mix kit

The Forza alloy seatpost is less compliant than carbon, but does a reasonable job of helping seated comfort, as does the saddle, which is almost too well padded, but supportive and well shaped.

The handlebar has an ergonomic bend, my only niggle being the sharp bend between top and drops, because when out of the saddle on the drops, it hit my wrists.

Ridley Fenix C Ultegra Mix ride impression

My overriding impression of the Fenix C is of a good frameset with a great fit that can be as racy or as relaxed as you like. The handling is neutral, equally refined and aggressive when required, and it’s capable of excelling on smooth or rough surfaces with decent comfort levels. 

But so much of that is compromised by those narrow rims, which limit tyre volume, grip and ride comfort, and aren’t that quick. If you can live with the quirky spec, and are ready to switch wheels, the Fenix C has great fast endurance potential, but off the peg it’s more limited.

Also consider...

Interested in what else is available at this price point? Have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed bikes.

Robin Wilmott

Tech Writer, Tech Hub, UK,
Robin began road cycling in 1988, and with mountain bikes in their infancy, mixed experimental off-road adventures with club time trials and road races. Cyclocross soon became a winter staple, and has remained his favourite form of competition. Robin has always loved the technical aspect of building and maintaining bikes, and several years working in a good bike shop only amplified that. Ten years as a Forensic Photographer followed, honing his eye for detail in pictures and words. He has shot at the biggest pro events since the '90s, and now he's here, drawing on all those experiences to figure out what makes a bike or component tick.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 178cm / 5'10"
  • Weight: 75kg / 165lb
  • Discipline: Road, cyclocross, time trials
  • Beer of Choice: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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