At £1500 this is what Ribble can produce and it looks like a classy bike but does it live up to its comfort and racing claims? Not quite
Ribble has been looking to change its image over the last few years and with new paint jobs, new bikes, a logo change and of course a new UK Pro team, it seems to be working. The Ribble Sportive Racing Black encompasses all of that and on face value looks to be a winner.
The Sportive Racing Black is an endurance bike, although Ribble says that it is a mix of both racing and endurance style geometry to offer comfort yet fast paced riding. Looking at the geometry it really is a mix!
For a size small you’ll be looking at a 539mm top tube length, slightly longer than you get at this size normally, a whopping head tube size of 150mm, 10mm more than you find on the Cube Agree for example, another endurance bike, yet with a relatively normal wheelbase compared to other rival endurance bikes, this is 984mm.
I’ve been testing this bike during some specific training sessions during my midweek rides. After doing not much at all during the winter, it’s this Ribble Sportive Racing Black that has been getting some abuse with a variety of standing start efforts, time trial efforts and specific zone rides around Surrey – I even got a race in on it.
This bike has fallen into the £1500 category with this specific build. You could use Ribble’s bike builder to get this total down or if you wanted to splash the cash and get a fancier set of wheels (Zipp springs to mind here) then you’ll also be able to do so. You can also ensure you get the right size handlebar and stem, along with the saddle too – a good start for those with specific requirements.
Sticking with the spec, you get a full Shimano mechanical Ultegra groupset, with a very endurance friendly compact chainset, plus Mavic Aksium wheels that are complimented, surprisingly for the price, with a pair of Vittoria Corsa tyres. Not only do these tanned beauties give a classic look with the alloy box section wheels but they offer amazing rolling resistance and grip in the corners which compliments the bike’s handling nicely.
The wheels weigh around 1880g and the rim measures 17mm internally so is a good match for the 25mm tyres supplied. Ribble say that this bike is restricted to 25mm tyres, though I reckon you could squeeze a set of 28mm’s in there.
Going on my riding experiences, you will need to squeeze wider tyres in thanks to a fairly harsh ride from the Ribble Sportive Racing Black.
Since most, if not all, rim brake endurance bikes now come supplied with 28mm (think Cube Agree) tyres and those equipped with discs often sport 32mm, there is no excuse for Ribble here.
You get Deda Zero hanldebar and stem (400mm and 120mm) which suit the bike well and work without fault. The saddle provided though, didn’t suit the bike or me so I swapped for a Fizik Arione.
The frame itself is made from carbon fibre, Toray’s T700/T800 to be more specific and is very over built around the headtube where it meets the top tube and the down tube is large and square also. The top of the rear stay is one piece with no traditional gaps, or slender tubes to help with some compliance. You get internal cable routing and a great black on black colourway, with a little rear flash of colour at the back, and it looks very good.
I mention the robust look of the frame as I did struggle with comfort and compliance on the Ribble Sportive Racing Black. Riding through Richmond Park heading out into the Surrey hills the rutted nature of the roads really showed up the lack of compliance both front and rear, so much so I could see everything visibly rattle a fair bit.
It was stark contrast once on a very smooth tarmac, and I forgot about my comfort issues, but let’s be honest most of the roads in the UK won’t be perfect. This cements the issue with the lack of clearance for tyres, something wider would help alleviate the bumpy ride.
The other problem with the ride is that I got constantly numb hands, even during a race at Hillingdon race circuit, which is not only flat, but very smooth too! Something I haven’t experienced on any race bike on that circuit before.
During my standing start efforts the bike performed fairly well, I did notice some flex through that PressFit bottom bracket and it caused some rub against the front mech and chain, so we are currently not getting the right balance of stiffness to comfort ratio. I expected it to be a little more rigid than this in the BB area.
Whilst on the climbs and during longer sustainable efforts (five minute time trial efforts) the Ribble Sportive Racing Black was nicely poised, cornering was assured and predictable and it wasn’t a chore to maintain speed. It does have a rather high front end thanks to that monster headtube, so getting aero isn’t exactly easy.
It really is a mixed bag with the Ribble Sportive Racing Black. I wonder if the frame is slightly overbuilt which hurts the comfort levels. But despite the little give at maximum efforts I found it to work nicely on mixed terrains, rides that include a little of everything, which is what an endurance bike should offer.
You’d really need to squeeze in those 28mm tyres to help comfort here and you’ll struggle to improve comfort with the handlebar, saddle and seat post choice, so that is the main reason that this bike doesn’t get full marks. I’d almost be tempted to look at the aluminium offering at this price, as when compared with this grade of carbon, quality alloy will be a little lighter, most likely, and you’ll save a few pennies on the price and will be more comfortable I’m sure!
You can however, as with all Ribble bikes, build as you please with the spec. So if this isn’t something you would consider at this price or prefer some carbon wheels from Zipp, you can do just that.
Ribble has rebranded and wants to be less cheap and cheerful and treated more like a serious and worthy purchasing option. It has achieved with the Ribble Sportive Racing Black, I've been impressed, it feels planted and predictable as an endurance bike should, though its claims of comfort feels exaggerated to me.