The eagle-eyed viewer of the exploits of Team Lotto-Soudal in this year’s cobbled classics, may have noticed (and rumours were rife) that the standard Ridley livery was hiding something a bit different to the other models from the Ridley stable. Andre Greipel did his utmost to present his new carbon machine to the world, attacking, alas to no avail, on seemingly every berg and brick along the route.
Ridley has always had a quintessential ‘Flemish’ feel about them, and the new model – the Fenix SL, is no different in that respect, but the accompanying phrase attached of ‘True World Riding’ hints that this bike is not designed just to excel within the confines of a dank northern European spring.
The Fenix SL is seemingly an amalgam of the ‘strength to weight’ properties of the Ridley Helium model, the aerodynamics of the Ridley Noah with the endurance capabilities of the original Fenix and women’s specific models.
Visually it definitely appears so. The aero front end looks to shape the air and sweep it back through the top and down tubes which change profile toward the seat and fluid looking bottom bracket shell. The top tube has a ‘leaf-spring’ appearance that converts to the rear stays – which are ‘flat’ and spring-like at the seat tube, becoming more rounded at the rear dropout.
Fitted with 25mm tyres, the frame is designed to accommodate 30mm, with no adaptation or change needed to the brakes in terms of position or drop.
The Fenix SL will sit at the core of the Ridley range, and is described by them as an ‘all round endurance platform, and reliable partner for long tough days in the saddle’.
Although it hints at being an endurance bike, it is a master of all trades. And with six versions becoming available built around the same frame, from the ‘Fenix SL Team’ being just a bidons throw from that ridden by messers Greipel and co., to the 105 equipped model, the Fenix SL is aimed at every type of rider and racer, over every type of parcours.
Team Lotto Soudal rider Stig Broeckx said, when asked to hand it back; “I love this new Ridley! I’ve ridden it since the day it became available to us (for the Spring Classics), it has improved stiffness compared to the Helium SL, the little bit of extra weight (over the Helium) is not an issue… Can I keep it until the end of the season please? It’s suitable for every terrain, that’s what I like so much about it.”
Cycling Weekly was part of a group given an exclusive presentation of the Fenix SL, by Ridley founder Joachim Aerts, in late April this year. The Ridley factory in the town of Hasselt in East Flanders being ideally situated next to the route of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, we were given the opportunity of a 100km ride partly following the route, including the major climbs (the day before the race, sharing some of the parcours with the gruelling sportive).
We had managed the (sunny!) day before to fit in a 30km ride along the breezy bank of the Albert Canal, small adjustments made in preparation for the next day. From the start the comfort was apparent, so was the responsiveness in manouvering around tight, bollarded turns, and accelerating in and out of the wind to catch our ride guides!
The hills of the Ardennes proved the perfect place to ride the Fenix SL. Weather conditions varying from light rain to heavy rain, roads wet, to wetter, with some token pavé thrown in.
The overriding impression was one of comfort, and stability throughout, but not sluggishness. When climbing in the saddle it felt very efficient in power transfer, and accelerations were snappy and concise. What really impressed me was the stability in descending; our bikes were set up with Campagnolo Chorus EPS, and I found that with the brakes, coupled with the stability of the Fenix SL, I had complete confidence regardless of the road conditions.
All photos by Simon Scarsbrook