Ridley X-Fire Disc >> $3400, 19 lbs
More than two years after the UCI approved disc brakes in ’cross, and after two full seasons in which disc brakes were a mere novelty in races (Tim Johnson provided some rare sightings), there’s some momentum building. Ridley, Belgium’s premier cyclocross manufacturer, has made it clear that they think disc brakes in cyclocross
are here to stay by introducing the X-Fire Disc. I had the opportunity to spend more than a month on this bike, and frankly, I like it.
The Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, Clement PDX tires, FSA crankset, and Ritchey cockpit are all stuff we’ve seen. It’s the wheels and brakes that demand attention. Velocity A23 clinchers with six-bolt ISO hubs come stock on the test rig; they’re not very light, but they are tough and strong. Hayes’ new CX-5 mechanical calipers do the stopping. Slightly lighter than the ubiquitous Avid BB7 caliper, the Hayes brakes have good stopping power and decent modulation and, just like the BB7, pad contact can be adjusted from both sides. A Hayes 160mm rotor up front and slightly lighter 140mm in back are what the calipers get ahold of when it’s time to throw out the anchor.
Ridley’s 4ZA Oryx disc fork is considerably beefier than the cantilever version and has gained about 25 grams. There’s a good reason for this. The braking stresses for disc brakes are very localized to the hub, so the fork has to be reinforced at the bottom third. The X-fire’s fork is chunky and every bit as stiff as it looks. For a 160mm rotor, the caliper bolts directly to the post mounts. The frame has a very minimal weight gain, once again about 25 grams. The frame has a rear hub spacing of 135mm. There is noticeably more stopping power compared to cantilever brakes, but the real kicker is the modulation and consistency. Even cable-actuated discs are really nice compared to the roulette wheel of braking that is cantis-on-carbon. Braking can be left much later into turns and is much more predictable. The X-Fire is stiff and fast and stops on a dime, but at a cost: The disc version is right at 19 pounds, compared to around 17.5 pounds for the comparable non-disc version. The simple fact here is that disc brake bikes are going to weigh more, at least for a while. The good news is most of the weight gain is in the components, not the frameset, so as the technology advances it will be easy to upgrade.
The mechanical Ultegra build retails for $3,400. Also on offer is a SRAM Apex build at $2,600. The X-Fire Disc frame is Di2 compatible and available as a frame and fork that retails for $1,670. As yet there’s no sign of the disc brake bikes on Ridley’s site, so check out their dealer locator page for a Ridley shop near you. — MICHAEL ROBSON