Ridley Noah SL Ultegra Di2
An aerodynamic road bike ready for anything
“It is in our brand identity, our dna, to make fast aero bikes, fast competition bikes. With each model, we try to take a new step,” said Bert Kenens, product manager at Ridley Bikes. Kernens was speaking about the Noah line, which has been around for roughly eight years. During that time, features have appeared and disappeared from the Noah. The F-split fork with its air channels in the middle of the fork blades has been addressing the turbulence generated by the spinning front wheel on many iterations. There used to be split seatstays, too, but Ridley found they were only effective when there was no rider on the bike. Legs turning pedals seemed to negate the aero gains of split seatstays. So, engineers simply made a lower, tighter rear triangle, which you still see on the latest Model.
You can see another wind-cheating feature on the down tube. The tube’s shape is a truncated airfoil, like a vertical airplane wing with the trailing edge blunted. Ridley added to that aerodynamic form with two channels running the length of the down tube at the sides of the leading edge. The company says that its F-tubing makes air adhere to the frame better, reducing drag.
As of last year, Ridley has been able to test the aerodynamics of its bikes a lot more easily. The company is part of an organization called Flanders Bike Valley. It also includes Lazer helmets, Bioracer clothing and close to 70 other companies. The organization pools the resources of these smaller companies so they can compete with larger bike-related brands. One of the Valley’s first accomplishments was the opening of a new wind tunnel in 2016. “About 50 m from our headquarters, we have a wind tunnel,” Kenens said. “That helps us to continue to test and do benchmarking.” This past winter, Ridley took a bunch of competitors’ aero bikes to the wind tunnel to see how the Noah compared with them. Kenens said the Ridley bike was one of the better performers in the group that included the Trek Madone, Specialized Venge, Canyon Aeroad and bmc Timemachine.
What I’ve always liked about the Noah SL line is that its machines are practical aero bikes. While designers have made sure that each bike can slide through the wind well, aero considerations didn’t trump everything else. The Noah SL Ultegra Di2 doesn’t have an integrated seatpost, making it easier to pack up when you want to take it on a plane. Even though Ridley was one of the first companies to put integrated rim brakes on its early Noahs, the Noah SLS use standard rim brakes to simplify maintenance. My test bike was outfitted with disc brakes, which bring superb stopping power and modulation to the machine.
On the road, the Noah SL Ultegra Di2 was quite versatile. Of course, it cruised on the flats nicely. I found, too, that it had a good amount of snap on climbs. As for going down, it felt great. I could push just that little bit more through corners than I can with some other aero and non-aero road bikes. One of my test rides was through farm country northwest of Waterloo, Ont. My route included a few gravel roads and some bumpy paths. On 25c tires, the bike didn’t totally rattle me. Would I pick the aerodynamic Noah for an epic gravel ride? No. But, it’s perfectly game if you want to roam a bit, whichever way the wind is blowing.