04/06/2013 | 1 comments
The Ridley Fenix Classic is an excellent all-rounder – stiff, comfortable, and, at £2,345, good value for money.
The Fenix is Ridley’s frame for the cobbles and the Fenix Classic is one of five consumer models sold by the Belgian brand.
Having been unveiled earlier this year, the frame, built up to team spec, was ridden by the Lotto-Belisol squad throughout the cobbled Classics season, most notably at the Tour of Flanders, where Jürgen Roelandts finished third, and Paris-Roubaix, where the jagged cobbles are at their harshest.
More importantly for us, however, the properties required to succeed over such terrain make for a machine which is equally well-suited for regular riders in the UK like you and I. The cobbled Classics have become an increasingly valuable shop window for bike manufacturers to launch their latest ‘comfort’ model and this year’s launch of the Ridley Fenix, Bianchi Infinito CV and Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod are testament to that.
The Fenix frame is made from a 24-ton high-modulus carbon fibre. That’s a mid-grade carbon fibre compared to the 60, 40 and 30-ton blend used on the super-light Helium SL, which is able to offer a superior stiffness-to-weight ratio as a result, but one which Ridley say provides the right balance of strength, comfort and stiffness required to withstand the cobbled climbs and pavé of northern Europe.
Strength, well, that’s hard for us to gauge, but the Fenix certainly proved more than a match for anything we could throw at it over the course of our month-long test. The diamond-shaped, sharp-edged tube profiles have been engineered to create a frameset which is both durable and stiff.
The Fenix may use a lower grade of carbon fibre than its featherweight stablemate (claimed frame weight for the Fenix is 1,200g, which is by no means light compared to 750g for the Helium SL) but that has little impact in terms of stiffness. The Helium SL is a superb machine (read our review here) and one well-suited to long days in the hills but the Fenix frame is super-stiff, make no bones about that, and willingly responds to pressure on the pedals, while the PressFit bottom bracket and huge, asymmetric chainstays (capable of handling the power put out by the likes of Andre Greipel) also help explain the Fenix’s eager nature.
Stiffness counts for nothing if it leaves your body battered after a century ride on rough roads and comfort is high on the agenda of any manufacturer designing a machine for the sector in which the Fenix sits. Still, the Fenix is relatively low on technology: there’s no IsoSpeed decoupler like the Trek Domane, nor the ‘vibration cancelling’ Countervail lay-up of the Bianchi Infinito CV or the SAVE+ ‘micro-suspension’ of the Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod.
Instead, the Fenix relies on seatstays which flatten dramatically in the middle to take the edge of rough roads and that design works to good effect. It’s not an armchair ride by any stretch, and doesn’t float over the tarmac like the Trek Domane, but the Fenix offers a good amount of feedback from the road while taking the sting out of rough sections. We found the bike comfortable over long distances and, crucially, nothing but fun to ride.
The geometry also helps in that regard. Head back to our ‘first look’ at the Fenix for a closer inspection of the Fenix’s key angles and vital statistics but, in short, the geometry sits somewhere between that of a full-on race machine and a sportive bike. Our medium test sample measured 565mm along the toptube, making it a rangy ride, and the 175mm in the headtube made it low enough at the front to get aggressive when you want to push the pace on.
As for handling, the Fenix is a sure-footed and the tapered headtube (1-1/8″ to 1″-1/2″) and broad fork legs make for a planted front-end which tracks well. It’s also a responsive ride, as you’d expect for a machine ridden at the highest level, and the Fenix’s reliable handling revealed itself during a 90km ride at the Amstel Gold Race sportive, riding in a large peloton on Dutch roads notorious for their traffic-calming measures.
The Fenix comes in five models and ours, the Fenix Classic, has been specced to “conquer the most gruesome road sections,” according to Ridley.
That’s most evident in the choice of 25mm Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tyres; popular rubber with UK riders thanks to their grip, durability and decent, if unspectacular, rolling resistance. Professional teams are increasingly fitting their riders’ bikes with wider tyres (partly due to the move towards wider rims) and the switch from 23mm rubber to 25mm helps take a little buzz out of the road. While we’re talking comfort, Ridley say the 4ZA handlebar tape is also slightly thicker than normal but it felt fairly standard to us.
Otherwise, the Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels are typical for a machine at this price point. They’re tough and reasonably stiff, making them a reliable training partner, although they are a little hefty at a claimed 1,760g for the set. Fulcrum is the wheel brand of Campagnolo and while the Italian firm’s hoops are a common sight, it’s increasingly rare to see Campag components specced on an off-the-shelf machine. That’s a shame, in our opinion, as the Campagnolo Chorus kit (brake levers, shifters, front derailleur, rear derailleur and 11-25t cassette) on the Ridley Fenix Classic provides crisp, accurate gear changes accompanied by that unmistakably mechanical Campag shifting sensation.
The brakes, however, come from Ridley’s in-house brand, 4ZA, but that’s no bad thing as they provide plenty of well-modulated stopping power, while Rotor provide the 3DF crankset. The compact chainrings mean there are plenty of low gears but some riders may want to replace the 25t cassette to one with a 28t sprocket for the really steep stuff.
The finishing kit (saddle, seatpost, stem and handlebar) also comes from 4ZA’s Cirrus collection and it’s all decent, mid-range, aluminium kit. That said, we’d normally expect to see a carbon fibre seatpost specced on a bike like this, although there was no discernible lack of comfort coming as a result of Ridley’s decision to use a metal post.
All that’s left to mention is the paintjob. The Fenix Classic frame comes in the same paintjob as the team issue machine and is a nod to the terrain on which it’s designed to conquer, with cobblestone decals on the toptube (where there is also a cobble-winged pheonix) and broad fork legs, while the Lotto logo features on the toptube. All neat teaches which pay tribute to Ridley’s Belgian heritage, although naturally the white finish picks up dirt pretty quickly.
The Ridley Fenix Classic is an excellent all-rounder, with an aggressive persona that makes it fun to ride and enough comfort built in to handle rough roads. £2,345 is a not small change by anyone’s standards but the Fenix Classic has a pro-level frame without the pro price tag and a good spec to match.
Sizes: XXS to XL
Website: Ridley Bikes