FORT COLLINS, Colorado (VN) — Photos of a new Ridley X-Night have been making rounds on the Internet for the past month. Sunweb-Napoleon Games duo of Kevin Pauwels and recently crowned Belgian cyclocross champion Klaas Vantornout have pushed the new frame to wins at the Rome World Cup and Belgian championships and on Tuesday Ridley officially pulled the sheet off its newest flagship ’cross bike.
The most visible — but perhaps not most significant — difference from the previous X-Night is the move away from an integrated seatmast, which Ridley has replaced with a 27.2mm seatpost — a narrower offering than what Ridley normally offers on its ’cross bikes. The rear stays are also trimmed down, especially the seatstays, and Ridley has done away with the wishbone design in favor of two separate stays sporting a bridge between the two.
The front triangle of the X-Night appears relatively unchanged; however, Ridley did lower the bottom bracket and headtube to make the geometry more similar to a road bike. It still employs internal cable routing, though unlike the previous X-Night, which had a solid piece of housing running the length of the frame to the rear derailleur, the new model appears to have a housing stop under the bottom bracket, leaving the rear derailleur cable exposed as it runs along the chainstay.
The new X-Night saves 500 grams compared to its seatmasted predecessor, though we would expect the largest difference to be in the X-Night’s handling and ride quality. Ridley frames with seatmasts, such as the Helium SL that VeloLab tested in 2012, tend to be very stiff vertically in the saddle. On a fast, bumpy ’cross course, a more dampened ride can be the difference between a racer bouncing on top of the saddle and losing watts or keeping a the rear planted and pushing pedals.
The other large difference is the X-Night’s shorter head tube and lower bottom bracket. Ridley cites course design at the World Cup level as the reason for it to finally abandon its classic ’cross geometry, with high ground clearance and tall head tubes, a geometry that the Belgian company has long defended. Ridley claims that with the trend in World Cups moving to faster courses, Ridley athletes needed a frame design that is more similar to road geometry. This may not be a great selling point for American riders though, as our U.S. courses tend to be much slower with more 180-degree turns and dismounts.
Pauwels is a favorite for the men’s elite race in Louisville, the X-Night’s official launch, and with frames available to shops in May, this could be one of the best bike launches of the year, if the engine backs up the bike. We’ll get a closer look at the new frames later this week and will report back with our first impressions.