Ri­d­ley Noah SL Ul­te­gra Di2

An aero­dy­namic road bike ready for any­thing

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - re­viewed by Matthew Pioro

“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.

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