Ridley Bikes boss Jochim Aerts started out painting frames in his father’s garage – and even now, 21 years later, it remains a mainstay of the Belgian manufacturer’s business.
But from those humble beginnings, Aerts, an amateur racer before turning to business, has grown Ridley to become one of the leading lights in Belgian bike building. ProTeam Vacansoleil-DCM ride Ridley’s, while the company produces 25-30,000 bikes a year.
That’s small fry compared to Giant – who knock out somewhere in the region of six million machines – but Ridley’s range focusses solely on top-end, with a slowly-expanding 43-bike range, across road, time-trial/tri, cyclo-cross and mountain bike and with fewer than 80 employees worldwide. It remains a small business at heart.
In 2010, Ridley moved to a new 12,000 sqm HQ, which RCUK visited last month. Framesets continue to be manufactured in the Far East, starting as a 3D drawing to test stress, with necessary adjustments being made to reinforce or cut weight, before a prototype is produced.
That comes back to Belgium to be assembled and tested by one of Ridley’s pro riders, who puts the new hardware through its paces, battling the country’s unpredictable weather and testing terrain. Ridley pride themselves on their rigorous testing process and, with feedback on board, the finished product is put into mass production and shipped to Belgium, where each frame is hand-painted.
Ridley offer an array of standard paint options but customers needn’t settle for that. The Ridley Customiser offers riders the chance to create their dream bike online before receiving the finished product 4-6 weeks later. Here’s how it works…