Ridley Helium SLX eTap review£7,400.00

Lighter, rarefied Helium

BikeRadar score4.5/5

The Helium SLX is the most successful combination of a Ridley frame with in-house brand 4ZA finishing kit and wheels so far. It not only looks like a bike designed to romp through rolling countryside and soak up abuse, it rides like one too, only faster, and with more ease.

The 4ZA Cirrus Pro 30 wheelset is a £500 option, replacing the Fulcrum Racing 5s listed, and feature carbon rims spinning on DT Swiss 240s hubs. The internal width is conservative compared to current trends, but does expand the Vittoria Corsa G+ 25mm clinchers to a useful 26mm, creating greater volume, more usable grip and comfort.

Their shallow, blunt profile is agile and aerodynamically efficient, and the accelerative difference light wheels can make to a bike can never be overstated. Fitted to the Helium SLX’s sub-1kg frameset and premium componentry, the result is impressive.

Increasing pace needs a mere thought and increase of pressure on the pedals, but it’s the way this Ridley coaxes you to greater performance with seemingly minor inputs that becomes addictive.

The 4ZA Cirrus Pro 30 wheelset is an additional extra
The 4ZA Cirrus Pro 30 wheelset is an additional extra

Long, steep climbs that are usually a grind became gradients to be attacked. On a local rollercoaster stretch of road, sustaining speed over every switchback is nigh on impossible except for the days when everything clicks. On the Ridley, that was every day.

Since what goes up must plummet down, the Helium SLX is a stable descender, a little active at the front on rough sections, but nothing to be concerned about.

Flatland velocity is even easier to generate, and simple to maintain. But all this speed would be less accessible without fine ride quality, and here the SLX builds on the cosseting characteristics of the old Helium SL. With pressure at 90psi, the tyres suck up potholed roads like 35mm ones at 40psi.

One-piece bar and stem combos can be a recipe for harshness, but 4ZA has created a buzz-killing setup, with a comfortable anatomic drop, ideal hand positions, and aero tops that are grippy enough when climbing.

Increasing pace needs a mere thought and increase of pressure on the pedals
Increasing pace needs a mere thought and increase of pressure on the pedals

Fitting a screw-in BSA bottom bracket shell to a press-fit 30 shell and choosing SRAM’s 24mm GXP axle is unusual, but doesn’t unduly affect the Ridley’s performance. It should ease maintenance though, and wider spaced bearings are always a good thing.

SRAM’s eTap groupset excels again, creating clean lines and ensuring slick, fuss-free shifting, and with the 52/36 and 11-28 combinations fitted here, perfect race-ready gearing.

The hoods are beautifully ergonomic, and the Red rim calipers are still some of the best available, with great power and modulation.

Zipp carbon brake pads handle stopping duties well, with decent initial bite and progressive power, although under hard braking, I did find the rims a little grabby with some squeaking. Vittoria’s Corsa tyres seem to roll fast, and handle predictably, save for the noise they make when cornering.

There are no real aero considerations here, the fork legs have truncated profiles, but the frame tubes are otherwise shaped to be laterally rigid, efficient and compliant, which is a fairly all-encompassing range of qualities, but ones the Helium SLX owns.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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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