John’s Bike Review: 2011 Ridley X-Bow
After going almost 10 months without a new ride, a few weeks ago I decided to finally pull the trigger on a frame I’ve been eying for over a year, Ridley's X-Bow cyclocross frame. Thanks to the boys at Norco, it arrived within two days of placing the order and on the third day it was finished.
A few things off the bat: First, I decided to use an Alpha Q CX-20 fork (thanks to Dik at Kona) rather than the stock Ridley fork to save a little weight. I’ve used the Alpha before and found it so be light and stiff, as well as comfortable and chatter-free, four out of four for a cross fork. The only quirk to these forks is the necessity of gluing in an insert rather than using an expansion plug, a small hassle that is probably worth it because of the strengthening properties of the insert.
Second, while I will likely use this bike as a commuter, I decided to set it up as a race ready steed and went with a single front ring (39 t) with a 10 speed Campagnolo 12-25 set up in the rear. Not pictured is a Paul Components chain keeper to keep the drive train in action.
The wheels are Campy hubs on Velocity A23 rims which have been fantastic so far. Combined with the Challenge Grifo Open 32mm tires (thanks to Paul at Great Western Bike), I find I can run between 25 and 30 psi without worrying about pinch flats which is about 3-5 psi lower than I can ride the same tires on a narrow road rim. This adds up to a smooth ride with plenty of traction and confident cornering. The rest of the bike is fairly standard, Time pedals, Deda and Pro front end, BBB carbon seat post, Gobi saddle and basic Tektro 720 cross brakes. I’ve used a Gore fully sealed cable for the rear shifter and standard cables for the brakes, with the front straddle cable pretty high to preclude fork chatter, just in case.
I took it out for its first real off road ride last week and it was fantastic. It corners with less effort than my previous cross bike and feels solid on quick accelerations and steep short uphills. The short wheelbase and high bottom bracket that all the Ridley cross bikes share make the bike a tight handler at low speeds and an easy bike to throw in to turns at high speeds (read less than 35kph for cross). I’ll see how it handles on the road come winter when it will likely be fendered and lighted, thanks to Ridley’s recent addition of eyelets, but for now it’s going to stay as bare bones as I can make it.
As pictured, just under 19 lbs.