Ridley Fenix SL 30
Flandrian brand go big with their Classics bike – as used by Lotto-Soudal
Born and bred in Flanders, the spiritual home of cycling, Ridley have reason to believe they know more than a thing or two about bikes - and particularly when it comes to a bike for the cobbles.
As bike sponsors of Lotto-Soudal for a few seasons now, Ridley have been supplying the team with various incarnations of their aero Noah and super-light Helium models (currently the Noah SL and Helium SL).
The third bike in their road arsenal is the Fenix SL, which has had an interesting genesis. The Fenix used to be the sort of do-it-all bike Ridley offered, and that was reflected in the spec and price tag, which stayed notably lower than its two compatriots.
Even though it took third under Jurgen Roelandts at the Tour of Flanders in 2013, the Fenix Classic has been replaced by the Fenix SL, which is a cut above
Even though it took third under Jurgen Roelandts at the Tour of Flanders in 2013, that Fenix has been replaced by the Fenix SL, which is a noticeable cut above. The Fenix is now a pure Classics bike, and the team tested out the frame at last year’s Classics. Remember Andre Greipel cresting the Koppenberg ahead of the peloton at the Tour of Flanders? That was on the Fenix SL.
Remember Andre Greipel cresting the Koppenberg ahead of the peloton at the 2015 Tour of Flanders? That was on the Fenix SL
The Fenix SL remains something of an all-rounder as, while it's designed with a nod to comfort, as any bike designed to hit the cobbles is, it's no beach-cruiser and retains a thoroughly racy instinct, with the stiffness to handle the power of even a rider like Greipel.
Key features include the diamond-shaped top and down tubes, which Ridley say offer far better resistance to side impact than standard round tubing. With carbon being notoriously strong in certain directions and fragile in others, it’s a nice little extra that will give you peace of mind in case you spill.
Ridley have slimmed the seatpost down on the new SL with the 31.6mm of the older models becoming a more en vogue 27.2mm in order to allow more flex. On top of that, Ridley have bumped up tyre clearance, meaning you can fit up to 30mm tyres on the Fenix (just about the widest you'll be able to fit on a regular road bike) - an offer you’ll probably want to take up if you’re thinking of attacking the cobbles.
Spec-wise, Ridley have gone big with the SL, making eight different models in the range going all the way from the SL 10 with full Dura-Ace, right down to the SL 50 that comes with 105. It’s also worth noting in the middle of the range comes the SL Team, the only bike specced as standard with Campagnolo (Chorus, since you asked) as a nod to Lotto Soudal’s partnership with the Italian brand.
The model here is the SL 30, which is specced with full Shimano Ultegra and a 52/36 crankset, a sight that’s becoming common enough across manufacturers that it’s reasonable to assume the ‘pro compact’ will be the new standard sooner rather than later.
Finishing kit on the 30 is all 4za, Ridley’s in-house components brand. This is obviously done in order to keep the cost down, but 4za make some smart kit these days, smart enough for Ridley to offer it aftermarket as well as standard spec. Remember the Noah FAST? All the finishing kit – including the smart integrated bar/stem system – was 4za, so you’re not getting fobbed off with sub-par kit.
Interestingly, all of the models are built around the exact same frameset which means ride quality will be consistent through the range. There aren’t many manufacturers that spec the same frameset on their sub-two grand bike as on their five grand range topper, and you're getting the same frame as the likes of Greipel, Jurgen Roelandts et al.
What might surprise you about Ridley is the brand themselves are comparatively young, having only been founded back in 1997. Interestingly, considering Belgium’s cycling heritage, there aren’t all that many bike brands from the country that have been around for more than 20-30 years, and certainly none that would be considered global powerhouses.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that brands and teams all over the world aren’t full of Belgian expats, each one with their own story on how exactly to make it up the Koppenberg without putting a foot down.
And they’ve no doubt learned a lot from the rigours of building bikes for top flight racing. Plus, Lotto-Soudal are a Belgian team riding Belgian bikes in Belgium. What’s more perfect than that?