Ribble Hybrid AL e review
Fully loaded e-commuter that fares well as a versatile all-rounder
Offering a smooth level of assistance from the Ebikemotion system, coupled with decent range and a fully loaded spec the Ribble Hybrid AL e can handle the daily commute as well as anything. But being both capable and rewarding, it's certainly not restricted to A to B rides and could take you on many adventures.
Stable and comfortable ride position
Ebikemotion motor is smooth and unobtrusive
The Ribble Hybrid AL e was selected for an Editor's Choice award in 2020. This year's list contains 78 items which scored a 9 or 10/10 with our tech team - this gear is the best of the best, and has received the Cycling Weekly stamp of approval.
In our original review, we marked the handlebar grips down as a 'con' - but Ribble clearly took the criticism on board and changed these.
Hot on the heels of Ribble's Endurance SL e-bike comes the Ribble Hybrid AL e, a bike designed to handle the daily commute with ease as well as weekend jaunts in the countryside.
Ribble's custom Bike Builder program and dedicated direct to consumer approach mean that as well as versatility, this bike offers superb value for money and the ability to create an almost true custom build.
Ribble's 6061 aluminium alloy frame is an example of one of the neatest and most seamlessly integrated e-bike frames to date. Showing it off to housemates and work colleagues alike, all were taken aback that this is an electric bike at all.
The Hybrid AL e features elegantly shaped tubing profiles including pencil-thin, dropped seat stays for added compliance and a distinctive dropped drive-side chain stay design. This allows Ribble to keep the back end as short as possible for nimble handling whilst still retaining decent tyre clearances without fouling chainrings.
The rest of the geometry and tube sizing keeps it on the more relaxed end of the spectrum. The 190mm head tube length is accompanied by a full 45mm of spacers (including 15mm conical headset spacer) to keep the front end high. It also has a reach of 415mm which is pretty short giving the Hybrid AL e a pretty upright riding position.
Ribble has specced a full carbon fork on the Hybrid AL e to help keep weight down whilst still retaining a good level of steering stiffness and much needed vibration dampening.
A full complement of bottle, rack and mudguard eyelets are of course present and on this Fully Loaded test model Ribble has added full mudguards, a rack and lights. A special mention has to go to the classy paint job and decals, it's a great looking finish.
>>> The best e-bikes reviewed for 2020: all you need to know
Ribble has opted to use a Mahle Ebikemotion X35 motor system. This ensures a slim frame profile thanks to the rear hub based motor, but also a minimal weight penalty when accounting for all the additional electronic components needed for such a bike.
The complete X35 system boasts an all-in weight of just 3.5 kilograms, which makes even the benchmark Fazua's Evation 1.0 system seem a little portly. The Ebikemotion X35 still provides up to 250 watts of additional, pedal-assisted power, over three distinct power settings. The 250w/h battery is what I would class as small capacity but Ribble (and Ebikemotion) still claim a potential range of around 100 kilometres (around 60 miles) off a fully charged battery.
My experiments have shown the battery life estimate to be pretty accurate. Like most riders I have obviously been preferring the full power mode and over a 20km mixed terrain ride with a couple of hills, and taking into account my 74kg weight, I have been finding it drains around 25-30% of the battery. When mixing up the power modes and sticking to the factory power settings, the battery drain is much less - around 20%. If you are a sufferer of 'range anxiety' the accompanying Ebikemotion app has a couple of clever tricks that can help alleviate your issue; we'll come on to those in a bit.
The system is operated using a discrete top tube mounted button that illuminates with one of four colours to display battery status and, with an additional press, changes and displays which of the three power settings you are in.
The assistance is noticeable almost as soon as you begin pedalling and a big plus to this system is how well it operates over a large cadence range, so for riders new and experienced will find it easier to stay 'on the power'.
It's not the most powerful system as you could imagine owing to the small capacity battery but it has a power assistance equal to that of Fazua's Evation 1.0 (pre Black Pepper edition) and is pretty impressive given how discreet it looks.
One aspect of the Ebikemotion system is the incorporation of a specific smartphone app that has been adapted specifically for Ribble's e-bikes. It links to your bike via Bluetooth and can be used as a neat cycle computer displaying your speed, distance and general ride data.
The app also includes a navigation option but you will need to purchase the base maps at £3.99 per year for each continent, in order to enable this feature.
A neat touch is the way you can manage the three power settings to really fine tune how much power is delivered and therefore how much range you can eke out of the system. What was interesting about playing around with this is that a drop of 10% in power equated to very little difference in real world feel when pedalling, so a quick tip is to drop the full power (Setting 1) to 90% to make it more efficient but still give a really decent level of power. You can also program the app to give you a warning when the battery reaches a certain level or the range drops below a certain point.
One thing that was super annoying was the contextual and summary audio advice mode. When enabled each press of the power button is accompanied by your phone shouting out your current speed, elevation etc. Bear in mind you might need to do three or more button presses it repeats the audio commentary FOR EVERY BUTTON PRESS. Luckily you can of course turn it off.
Ribble always punches well above its weight when it comes to speccing its bikes, thanks in part to it's direct to consumer business model. It also gives you the option to customise some of the parts and the colour through the Bike Builder section of its website.
>>> Best women's electric bikes
Ribble has opted for a sensible eleven speed SRAM NX drivetrain to give a decent spread of gears whilst still keeping things simple. It has a solid and chunky shifting performance that isn't the most refined but has been reliable and has yet to miss a beat. The 42 tooth chainring and 11-42 cassette mesh well together and it has an easy enough low gear selection to prevent undo strain and range reduction on hillier rides.
Ribble has laced the Ebikemotion hub into a set of Mavic Aksium Elite EVO wheels and that's a sensible step. These are solid and reliable and perfectly suited to the job in hand. Tubeless compatibility is a bonus, especially if you come to rely on the bike for daily commuter miles, but unfortunately Ribble doesn't spec the tubeless version of the really rather good Schwalbe G-One Allround tyre.
The finishing kit is all Ribble's in-house Level kit, including a sensibly wide riser style handlebar to provide a decent amount of control. I've also been impressed with how comfortable the Ribble Classic saddle has been, even going as far as completing 20km rides without using cycling shorts without issue.
The alloy Level seatpost is looking decidedly scruffy after being raised and lowered a few times so be aware that this can happen quite quickly.
I did not get on well with the grips, at all (NB: these have been improved since the review was first published - the images show the new style). Superficially they look great and have a pleasant amount of cushioning but after the first ride they began spinning on the bars - something that seems to be difficult to rectify.
As this is the Fully Loaded version it comes with a decent aluminium rack and mudguards already fitted. The rack is rated to 25 kilos and is really solid and the full mudguards are genuine SKS examples.
The front mudguard did have a habit of coming loose especially on rougher road surfaces and it did fully go flying one time. Fortunately it features safety clips so didn't cause an accident and despite riding over it i could bend it all back and it still functions perfectly. It would have been good to see an extended mudflap on the rear guard to really protect the rider.
The Ribble Hybrid AL e is really quite a joy to ride in most respects. It has an engaging handling feel that and a build quality that turns it into a bike you look forward to riding rather than a dead and dreary commuter. It doesn't encourage you to go fast however and as with most pedal-assist bikes it is one that works best when tickling around the assistance limit.
The light overall weight means it isn't an anchor to pedal when you do inevitably find yourself increasing the speed. Something that this bike does better than many of it's rivals is it's capabilities off the beaten path on forest tracks and tow paths when the tyres and handling make it pretty fun to ride. I would recommend taking off the mudguards if you are to spend a lot of time on this type of terrain as they do make a racket.
What I did find to be a slight issue was the sizing and the impact of the short reach of the frame. At 183cm/6'1" I am right at the top of the Ribble suggested large frame size and it felt like I needed to raise the handlebar as my weight was pushing down a little too much for this style of bike. Ideally I would want to ride the XL size and would recommend that if you are within a few centimetres of the border between sizes it would be best to go up to the next size if possible.
Buy now: Ribble Hybrid AL e from Ribble Cycles from £1999
At less than £2k for a fully loaded electric bike with a superb frame, quality motor system and really decent parts the Ribble Hybrid AL e certainly offers almost unbeatable value when compared to its rivals.
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James Bracey's career has seen him move from geography teacher, to MBR writer, to Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and video presenter. He possesses an in-depth knowledge of bicycle mechanics, as well as bike fit and coaching qualifications. Bracey enjoys all manner of cycling, from road to gravel and mountain biking.
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