rumour has it that, to have any pretence at being serious about your cycling, be it road, offroad or cyclocross, there is no substitute for carbon as the preferred frame material. youÕd probably struggle to find anyone to disagree with that statement, but itÕs one that is genuinely applicable to a very small proportion of the cycling public. itÕs also a statement or notion that has connotations accepted under false premise. while i can fling myself here, there and everywhere on a cyclocross bicycle, thereÕs not a chance in christendom that i could ever be considered for even a part-time competitive career. heck, even my training schedule, laughable though that concept might appear, can be seriously undermined if there are no small caramel biscuits to accompany my soya cappuccino.
in that respect, nice though it is, i have no real need of carbon fibre (want, however, is whole Õnuther basket of hurdles). therefore, the fact that ridleyÕs x-ride 20 disc bicycle features a smoothly crafted aluminium frame entertains more of an esoteric objection rather than a practical one. the only apparent concession to carbon fibre is by way of the oryx fork and even that has a tapered alloy steerer.
the front portion of the ridley frame follows the tried and tested method prevalent in Ôcross for many a long year, featuring more or less roundish tubing with a traditionally level top tube. in contradiction to that statement, the top tube is a bit flat. thankfully, the rigours of cyclocross mitigate against the adoption of sloping tubes, in order to accommodate the all-important shoulder. cable routing is intermal. where the ridley displays its modernity is at the rear stays; the seatstays pretend to adhere to normality until midway to the dropouts at which point a subtle kink interrupts the flow southwards. the chunkier chainstays exhibit a quite pronounced outward flair midway along their length, seamlessly curving to become one with the seatstays.
in these days of confusing bottom bracket standards and colossal bb frame joints, that on the x-ride is conservatively small, holding onto a more or less standard fsa bottom bracket with outboard cups. componentry is a bit of a mix and match, but one judiciously chosen to offer the best of compromises. the fsa chainset sports an inner 36 ring matched to an outer 46, combining with shimanoÕs 105 front and rear derailleurs for changing duties. the levers, however, are sourced from shimanoÕs ultegra range with enlarged top sections to take care of the hydraulic pots for the discs. the latter are 160mm diameter rotors attached to a set of fulcrum racing sport cx wheels. rubber is taken care of by challengeÕs excellent 32c grifo clinchers.
the functional items such as stem. bars, seatpost and saddle are all forza branded, but itÕs worth noting that the seatpost is of a most practical 27.2mm diameter. as with pretty much every sports bicycle these days, pedals are not supplied, so i fitted a pair of crank brothers re-vamped candy pedals. though ridley describe the colour as black, due to its inherent mattness it generally appears closer to slate grey. itÕs scarcely the most endearing of colour finishes, but assuming its days will be spent thickly coated with mud, it hardly seems worth moaning about.
the Õdone in sixty minutesÕ decal on the seat tube was a pleasantly humorous touch.
there was a time that my material prejudice would have shunned aluminium as a suitable means of containing two wheels and a gearset, when sage advice would have recommended that even triple-butted 7000 series alloy were better suited to the larger figure. one or two rides on aluminium in previous years have only mildly ameliorated that opinion. maybe the ridley x-ride 20 has changed my mind for the better.
strictly speaking, a true cyclocross bike would be bereft of bottle cage bosses, for how else would riders shoulder the bike when faced with scrabbly climbs? the ridley featured not only a couple of bosses on the downtube, but another two on the seat tube. true to my mythical cyclocross background (ie, all but non-existent), i left the cage bolts in place without need of employment. but nonetheless, ridley are positioning the x-ride series as appropriate vehicles for riding 'cross and it would be a naive reviewer who didn't at least give it a shot.
i've ridden and reviewed the challenge grifos on a previous occasion and thundering through the varying terrain offered by my favoured route in bridgend woods gave no cause to alter my favourable opinion. the rubber is important because no matter the expertise of the frame designer, if grip is compromised, it all comes to nought. ridley's frame designer's expertise is probably deserving of a pay rise; the balance and predictability of the x-ride 20 led me to have a far more exciting time in the undergrowth than its weight (almost 10kg) initially promised.
if this were mine in perpetuity, i'd probably opt for a slightly longer stem, but the bars seemed pretty much the ideal width, providing a decent compromise between comfort and a narrowness that allowed passage between closely spaced bushes and trees.
unfortunately, the frame being a tad overweight offers undesired side-effects in a 'cross bike. i know i'm not the only rider who has need of shouldering their bike when completing several training circuits and it would be hard to dismiss the major shoulder discomfort when necessarily lifting the x-ride. a cross specific jersey with a padded right shoulder eased the situation only minimally. it's perhaps natural to place the blame for this squarely on those shimano hydraulic disc brakes, but short of stripping the bike down to its metal tubing, that's hard to consolidate.
what the brakes did perpetrate under pretty much every set of circumstances was two distinct howling screeches. whether wet or dry, i failed miserably to prevent them doing so. the noise made no difference to the impressive braking prowess, achieved, it should be noted, with less than onerous input from the brake levers. the howling banshee imitation did seem to be peculiar to the pair of disc rotors fitted to the fulcrum wheels, for when riding the bike on a pair of wheelsmith aeros, the shimano rotors attached to those only exclaimed loudly in the first couple of kilometres, remaining generally fairly quiet after that point.
i have every faith that continued riding and braking would lessen this problem to the point of inaudibility, but i'd have preferred it to have done so a bit more quickly. the wheels to which the disc rotors were attached performed most admirably, perhaps contributing to the weight problem, but easily compensated for by their trackability and often impressive acceleration.
brake noise is, however, a relatively superficial complaint, one that scarcely detracted from the sheer joy that the x-ride provided under pretty much every situation. fitted with a pair of crank brothers candy #7, pedals leaping on and off, chuntering up and down rocky and muddy climbs, it was hard not to smile even if it resulted in muddy teeth.
from my point of view, the 46/36 fsa chainset seemed rather well judged, even when riding on-road rather than loose gravel and mud. with a galeforce tailwind and clicked into the outer ring and a smallish sprocket, i'd be fibbing if i claimed to be undergeared at any juncture. perhaps rather predictability, the 105 mechs never missed a change. nor did those hydraulic discs ever once lock up, though that may have been more through my inability to suffer the howling any longer.
the sturdy alloy chainstays which head straight back from the bb shell, describe an outward kick about halfway to the dropouts on which i oddly kept catching my right heel every now and again. however, after a couple of weeks riding, this only occurred very occasionally. in other words, you'd get used to it.
as i've mentioned on more than a single occasion, i am in possession of a saddle agnostic posterior, one that easily warmed to the ridley badged seat on the x-ride. not once did i experience any discomfort no matter the tactility of the ground under the tyres. that included a lengthy period of once more practising my mounts and dismounts in a secluded corner of the woods where there was no-one around to laugh.
i realise it's something of a cliché to state that a bicycle rides lighter than its weight ought to dictate, but in this case, that's perfectly true. i have used the x-ride on a couple of sunday morning rides, joining my fellow velo club members one of whom rides a colnago c60. i can't say i left all behind on the climbs, but i wasn't riding shotgun at the back. aluminium may be regarded as the 'has been' of frame materials by those more inured to the luxuries of carbon, failing even to offer the retro caché of steel, but on the strength of this particular strain of ridley, i wouldn't dismiss it out of hand. its big brother, the x-ride 10, is only about half a kilo lighter.
ridley base much of their reputation on a belgian heritage. i'd say this bike comfortably justifies the implication.
the ridley x-ride 20 disc edition retails at around £1600 and is available in frame sizes ranging from 48cm to 58cm. the model reviewed was 54cm. thanks to uk distributors sportline/madison for supplying the x-ride.
thursday 26 november 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................