Riding the 2019 Ridley X-Night SL cyclocross bike at Gavere

Ridley’s top cyclocross bike is designed to be light and responsive

(Image credit: Guido Pas)

It’s not often we get to ride a top flight cyclocross bike on a professional course. But Ridley invited Cycling Weekly to ride the Superprestige Gavere course on its latest X-Night SL the day before the races, when the course was already marked out, although not as chewed up as when the pros took to it on the Sunday.

The first thing you notice is how agile the X-Night SL is in tight corners and when picking a line. It’s easy to turn, but still has plenty of stability to tackle faster sections of the course.

Ridley X-Night SL's aggressive geometry is designed for fast racing

Having made it through the turns, there are a couple of run-ups at Gavere. It’s then that you notice how light the bike is too, even with Fulcrum Racing 7 wheels and inner tubes.

After the descent from the top of the course, there’s a long, flat, firm run, which needs the large ring and top end of the cassette. Going full gas, at no time did I feel as if the bike was likely to pitch me into the lake or down the bank on either side.

The bike felt fast on the dry bottom run on the course

The Superprestige Gavere course includes an unusually long climb through the woods, so the X-Night SL’s low weight and stiff frameset really help retain momentum.

The X-Night SL frameset is pretty resistant to mud accumulation in the usual places, although the Ultegra Di2 front mech tends to collect mud on its flat top surface. But Di2 copes really well with the mud and kept shifting cleanly throughout the ride.

Mud build-up is not too much of a problem
(Image credit: Guido Pas)

The X-Night SL we rode had Vittoria Terreno Mix tyres. They’re a great all-rounder, but weren’t the best choice for the increasingly sloppy mud. I dropped the pressure until they were bottoming out on the rim. This added enough grip to cope with the conditions, but something a bit more aggressive would have been an advantage. On the plus side, they didn’t clog up.

The 2019 Ridley X-Night SL: design, specs and prices

Ridley is onto the sixth iteration of its X-Night cyclocross bike. Over the years, cyclocross races have become faster and the X-Night’s geometry has changed to reflect this. One significant change is in the bottom bracket drop, with the latest X-Night having a lower bottom bracket than its predecessors to add stability. Ridley has retained the traditional horizontal top tube on its cyclocross bikes, with a flattened profile to make shouldering easier.

>>> Best cyclocross bikes for 2019

There's good clearance behind the bottom bracket

The X-Night’s 72 degree fork angle is quite aggressive, for agility. There’s a short reach and low stack for a compact racing position and the ability to shift weight over obstacles.

The launch of the X-Trail gravel bike range in carbon and alloy has allowed Ridley to tailor its cyclocross bike range to racing, with the X-Trail having a longer wheelbase and less aggressive geometry.

Other modern features of the X-Night SL include flat mount disc brakes, which make for a stiffer interface between the frame and the caliper, while the 12mm thru-axles increase rigidity. Ridley still makes cantilever versions of its cyclocross machines, for the dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist.

The Terreno Mix tyres held on OK, but something more aggressive would have been useful in the mud

Ridley uses a PF30 bottom bracket for stiffness too and it’s taken pains to reduce the shelf behind the bottom bracket shell – a classic location for mud build-up, although there’s still a cable run for a mechanical front mech. The X-Night frame is adaptable for single ring and two ring mechanical and electronic groupsets.

Alongside the X-Night SL, Ridley also sells the X-Night. The frames look identical, but there’s a 200g weight penalty, with the X-Night weighing around 1kg due to the lower modulus carbon used.

The day before the race, the course was already getting muddy

Ridley also sells the X-Ride and X-Bow alloy crosser ranges. The X-Night SL comes in mechanical Ultegra spec for €3599, Force 1 for €4299 or Ultegra Di2 for €4779. Drop down to the standard X-Night and prices start at €2799. For a modest upcharge, you can customise the paintwork on all Ridley’s bikes.

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