By Lennard Zinn
Ridley president Jochim Aerts is nothing if not motivated and inventive.
Aerts was a well-known frame painter and frame builder making bikes for other brands when he created the Ridley brand a dozen years ago. And even in this economy, his company keeps hitting sales records every month.
Ridley is now the biggest-selling bike brand in the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg). Not bad for a company that only began in 1996. Now with QBP distributing it in the USA, the sky is the limit here as well.
Ridley first made a splash on the international racing stage with its cyclocross bikes, and the 2010 ‘cross bikes Aerts introduced in February at QBP’s Frostbike dealer show promise to make an ever bigger splash. The top of the line is the X-Night carbon integrated-seatpost bike, which gets an almost total makeover from the 2009 version.
He took an idea from the Dean aero bike he created and believes is the world’s fastest legal time trial bike and applied it to cyclocross. Inside the tubes of the Dean are carbon/Kevlar tubes to guide the cables their entire length inside of the frame without housing and with low friction.
By using this same internal cable system inside of the top tube of the X-Night, Aerts made a bike that not only looks better but greatly reduces the need for cable maintenance. Belgian ‘cross mechanics generally replace cables and housings on race bikes twice a week, but the new fully-integrated cables on the X-Night makes cable replacement a necessity only once every two months, even in Belgium’s horrendous riding conditions.
Also unique on the X-Night are left and right completely replaceable dropouts. While replaceable derailleur hangers are the norm, they must be made very weak in order that they will fail before the dropout itself is damaged in a crash. But the Ridley dropouts are super-strong CNC-machined 7075 aluminum with stiffening ribs. They withstand impacts far better than do replaceable hangers, and the entire dropout on both sides can be replaced in the event of a massive impact.
The BB30 oversized bottom bracket allows for lighter cranks with a lower Q-factor and more ankle clearance. The thinner-section seatstays reduce mud buildup. The 1.5-inch lower headset bearing and mating conical steering tube increases stiffness of both frame and fork and reduces front brake chatter while also reducing weight.
The improved X-Night bike is sure to show up again in Paris-Roubaix if it’s muddy next month. Last year, the Silence-Lotto team raced X-Nights with road forks in them on the cobbled classics. The bike is light and strong, and the shorter fork steepened the head and seat angles to road dimensions and dropped the bottom bracket height, yet the longer rear end gave it better compliance on the cobbles.
“This is what happens when you work closely with the pro teams,” says Aerts. “You learn and improve.”
The X-Fire’s only change is to get the same 1.125-inch upper and 1.5-inch lower headset bearings so that it, too, can accept the super-stiff conical-steerer Oryx fork.
The X-Ride aluminum bike has the same geometry and reasonable price as before, but it is lighter by 150 grams, thanks to a triple-butted 7000 aluminum tubeset and 1.125 X 1.5-inch headset bearings. Its thin seatstays and sharpened trailing edges of the fork blades shed the mud that the wheels drag around and try to deposit on them. The conical steerer and enlarged fork crown make the Python fork – already the standard for cyclocross forks – even stiffer and shudder-free under hard braking on descents.
The Crossbow is unchanged. This double-butted aluminum bike still offers everything a ‘cross bike needs and at a low price.
Made in the same high-quality Asian carbon frame factory as Cervélo and Scott, the consistent quality and high strength of Ridley bikes is unquestioned. And with Aerts’ paint technologies, it’s a tall order for any bike to look better than a Ridley.