We’ve seen a raft of aero road bikes hit the market this year, from newcomers NeilPryde and their debut Alize and Diablo models, to old hand’s Cervelo and the S5 unveiled last month. This – the Ridley Noah Fast – is something different altogether.
Ridley’s Fast concept – Future Aero Speed Technology – emerged after the Belgian manufacturer’s engineers identified three weaknesses during wind tunnel testing that increase a bike’s drag and reduce its speed. And, as a result, the Noah Fast implements three patented technologies –the F-Brake, F-Splitfork and F-Surface.
The F-Brake is an integrated brake, the first on a road racing machine, which sits within the F-Splitfork, which also draws air away from the spokes and counteracts turbulence created by the wheels. F-Surface is a textured plastic strip applied to strategic locations on the frame, letting air travel smoothly around the frame instead of detaching and creating drag.
The Fast has the same geometry as the existing Noah – but how does it ride? Well, from our first ride, fast. Our test bike was kitted our with a Vacansoleil-DCM team-only spec – SRAM Red groupset, with Rotor cranks and Q-Rings, FFWD F4R-C wheels, Selle San Marco Regal saddle and a smattering of components from Ridley’s own-brand 4ZA Cirrus Pro range. The production Noah Fast will be decked out in Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.
Just from swinging a leg over the top tube, the Fast’s aerodynamic stature strikes you, with the absence of traditional brake callipers making for a clean yet unconventional look.
The roads around the Zolder motor racing circuit, which hosted the 2002 World Championships, made up our test rack, with a short, punchy rise, the subsequent descent with a tight left-hander and a quick run along the Albert Canal.
But, despite blue skies in the morning during our tour of Ridley’s paint factory, the weather soon turned typically Belgian. Sideways rain and strong winds. So what could we glean from the 30 minute taster ride?
Continuing where the previous Noah left off, the Fast is exceptionally stiff, making it quick off the mark, and even quicker to get up to speed. Ridley’s key innovation, the integrated brake, stood up to the atrocious conditions, providing consistent, powerful braking.
As for ride quality, the Fast’s stiffness makes this a bike for sprints and criteriums, not day-long rides. It’s a machine built for pure speed and performs as such. The integrated seat post helps take out some of the road buzz but the Fast remains a rigid ride. Vacansoleil-DCM have used the Fast on the Tour de France’s flatter stages, but the Helium remains the bike for the mountains.
“The pro riders often like the Helium because it is lighter and a more comfortable ride,” says Ridley CEO Jochim Aerts. “But the Noah Fast is as fast as it gets.” With just a short test ride in the bag, we need more time in the saddle to form a conclusive, all-round opinion.
But it is a credit to the Belgian company that they have ventured unashamedly into unchartered territory. Aerts is understandably proud of his company’s innovation – but cautious about its implementation. “Step by step,” he says, ultimately setting a loose three-year time scale in which to roll out the Fast technology further down the Ridley food chain.
As for the Noah Fast, it will be available to be public later this year as a frameset (£3,999) or with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 spec (with 4ZA Cirrus Pro T50 wheels, Vredestein Fortezza tyres, KMC X10SL Gold chain, and 4ZA Cirrus Pro handlebars, saddle and stem) for approximately £9,000.
And so, is this the holy grail for Ridley? Not according to product developer Eric Vloemans, who revealed there are half-a-dozen projects in the pipeline, with the Ridley team in the process of assessing which will give them the most gains. Any hints? Not a chance.