One of the best framesets I’ve ridden brings this bike a high mark, but in a twist of irony its claimed versatility could be its undoing, as those in the market for a new bike may want to go for something more specific rather than a bike that straddles several camps. With narrower tyres and a double chainset this would be a formidable road machine, but then the majority of the fun comes from using the bike on gravel tracks and woodland trails. Without doubt a great bike, but one with niche appeal.
On the heavy side
I first rode the Ridley X-Trail Carbon SRAM Force1 HDB on the parcours of the Superprestige Zonhoven cyclo-cross course, with its famous ‘de kuil’ sandpit.
From the off, the handling felt natural and it was equally at home on the sand, on trails in nearby woodland and on the concrete finishing funnel.
There are four build options for the bike — three carbon and one alloy. The one on test is the range-topping X-Trail Carbon SRAM Force1 HDB.
The bike is not designed to be an out-and-out cyclo-cross race machine, so isn’t as light as Ridley’s carbon CX bikes. Not that it’s particularly heavy – tipping the scales at around 8kg, the extra weight is barely noticeable from the saddle.
The X-Trail’s frame looks great; a stylish paint job and clean lines afforded by the disc brakes and 1x chainset add to the sleek look.
The frame is made from X-Trail C, HM/HR unidirectional carbon that is responsive and handles excellently on a range of surfaces from tarmac roads to tree root-riddled trails.
The fork includes hidden mudguard mounts, which adds to the versatility of the bike without detracting from its good looks.
As its name suggests, this bike comes with a SRAM Force 1x drivetrain, and includes a long-cage rear mech and 10-42t cassette. The range of gears was wide enough to cope with my training routes, which include some 20 per cent ramps, but riding a 1x might not be the best option for a day in the hills.
The frame can also accommodate a conventional double chainset, an option for those looking for a bit more versatility.
Stopping power comes courtesy of SRAM hydraulic disc brakes. These give fantastic braking in the wet or dry, and are mounted over thru-axle wheels.
The bike has clearance for 36mm tyres, and that’s what it is supplied with in the shape of Clement X’Plor MSO 700x36c; it is also tubeless-ready. The wide tyres shook off some cobble riding, bounced off tree roots in the woods and didn’t feel sluggish when used on tarmac roads at a high psi.
Having already ridden the bike on a testing and technical cross course in Belgium, it will be interesting to see how the bike handles on British roads for the next few weeks.
Watch: Cyclocross Buyer's Guide
Having done several short commutes in a range of weather conditions I’ve been very impressed with the Ridley X-Trail Carbon SRAM Force1 HDB’s handling and how well it rides on tarmac.
What’s more, despite the geometry being a halfway house between a road bike and a CX bike, together with the inclusion of wide 36mm tyres, the bike still feels brisk, with little sense of wasted energy through those voluminous touring hoops.
The bike’s responsiveness and eager acceleration is a credit to the frame, which is clearly designed with speed and fun in mind.
The bike can be supplied with mudguards to create a versatile winter machine.
At £4,000 this bike would be a big investment for most riders, especially as an additional ride. However, if you believe Ridley’s claim that it could replace three other bikes in your garage, then it starts to look like pretty good value for money — but that might not be a realistic scenario for a lot of cyclists.
Fun to ride and undoubtedly versatile, you get a lot for your money, so anyone buying the X-Trail won’t be disappointed, but it could be a bit too much for many people to spend.
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Jack Elton-Walters hails from the Isle of Wight, and would be quick to tell anyone that it's his favourite place to ride. He has covered a varied range of topics for Cycling Weekly, producing articles focusing on tech, professional racing as well as cycling culture. He moved on to work for Cyclist magazine in 2017.
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