Ri­d­ley Sablo

WO R D S : MIKE BLEWITT IM­AGES : CAHN BUT­LER AND MIKE BLEWITT

Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents -

Ri­d­ley hail from Bel­gium, the land that is al­most as mad about cy­cling as it is about foot­ball. You might be more fa­mil­iar with Bel­gian road cy­clists and cy­clocross rid­ers than moun­tain bik­ers. But Martin Maes prob­a­bly sounds fa­mil­iar, es­pe­cially af­ter his suc­cess­ful cross be­tween the En­duro World Se­ries and Down­hill World Cup (and World Cham­pi­onships) this year. Bel­gians are cy­cling ob­ses­sives, and Ri­d­ley make bikes that suit what the na­tion de­mands. Ri­d­ley’s range of bikes are built with a rac­ing pedi­gree, and their road and cy­clocross bikes have many ac­co­lades. And so it suits that their moun­tain bikes have a sim­i­lar slant – be­ing built to race el­bow to el­bow. And that’s ex­actly what the Ri­d­ley Sablo is, a high end dual sus­pen­sion moun­tain bike aimed squarely at marathon racers and cross-coun­try racers.

The Sablo was in­tro­duced for 2018, and as of July 2018 Ri­d­ley’s Aus­tralian im­porter started to im­port some for Aus­tralia, with 3 sam­ple bikes land­ing on our shores – and this is one of them, which I man­aged to get my hands on. There will be two mod­els in the shops for 2019, both have ex­actly the same frame as this one. While the 2019 model will be pretty sim­i­lar in spec, there will also be an XX1 model at $10599.

Sport­ing 100mm of travel and re­mote lock out, the Ri­d­ley Sablo is unashamedly a bike de­signed for cross-coun­try and marathon rac­ing, and there­fore equally handy for multi-day events. There’s a swathe of bikes on the market that fit that need right now, in­clud­ing the Sunn Shamann Finest tested in this is­sue, and of course the Canyon Lux, Santa Cruz Blur, Scott Spark RC, Norco Re­volver, Merida Ninety-Six, Trek Top Fuel, Gi­ant An­them, Spe­cial­ized Epic... so what ex­actly will Ri­d­ley bring to the party?

INI­TIAL IM­PRES­SIONS

True to the her­itage of Ri­d­ley, the Sablo presents as a well-built race-spe­cific bike. The full car­bon fi­bre frame has sleek lines, from the tapered head tube through to the large sculpted down­tube, svelte dropped top tube and for­ward sit­ting seat tube. The gloss black and red is both un­der­stated and classy in a world of hi-viz colours and overly bold graph­ics. The main pivot point is nes­tled into the down­tube and seat tube junc­tion, al­low­ing you to run a 2x driv­e­train if you want or need to. The frame has in­ter­nal rout­ing for 2x with a SideSwing front de­railleur, and rout­ing for a drop­per post as well. It is only the rear brake that is ex­ter­nally routed, some­thing that those who work on bikes a lot will ap­pre­ci­ate, along with the threaded bot­tom bracket shell.

The back end is pretty stout, from the tall chain­stays and huge dropout area, the the large size at the top of the seat stays where they join the car­bon link­age. All this means that the piv­ots are a good size and the frame gives a strong base for the sus­pen­sion to work. With the rear pivot sit­ting atop the seat stay, this is a link­age driven sin­gle pivot bike. The link­age means the de­sign­ers can cus­tomise how the sus­pen­sion op­er­ates, and in con­junc­tion with a cus­tom tuned Fox Fac­tory DPS EVOL rear shock, that’s ex­actly what Ri­d­ley have done. The sus­pen­sion is sup­ple off the top, be­fore of­fer­ing good sup­port through the mid­stroke – it means it can be ef­fi­cient but still pro­vide the small bump com­fort and trac­tion that some bikes miss out on.

Num­bers wise, the ge­om­e­try of the Ri­d­ley Sablo could be de­clared as con­ser­va­tively mod­ern. The 70 de­gree head an­gle and 435mm chain­stays are about right for a 100mm bike with rac­ing in­ten­tions, and the reach isn’t overly long, matched with a 90mm stem on the large size. How­ever with a lit­tle more bot­tom bracket drop and a taller head tube than some, the Ri­d­ley Sablo should re­ally de­liver on sta­bil­ity at speed.

The DT Swiss X1700 Spline wheels come taped for tube­less, so it was just a case of whip­ping out the tubes and putting some sealant and valves in to run tube­less. The stock Sch­walbe Nobby Nic tyres in­flated and popped into place eas­ily. They might not be the best tyres for your lo­cal trails, but that’s some­thing you can fig­ure out with your Ri­d­ley dealer. If you’re lucky enough to have some loamy soil, these will be great!

ON THE TRAIL

When jump­ing aboard the Ri­d­ley Sablo a few things are im­me­di­ately no­tice­able. Firstly, the

sus­pen­sion is ac­tive, in a re­ally good way. And the thing is stiff un­der power! There is some chain growth in the sys­tem, and stomp­ing on the ped­als with the sus­pen­sion fully open does make it move around a bit. But do that on any loose sur­face and all you re­ally no­tice is how well the tyres dig in and let you take off, in­stead of the bike jack­ing up and skip­ping around.

The lat­eral stiff­ness from the large bear­ings and solid frame is also re­ally no­tice­able, and it gives the Sablo a re­ally planted feel­ing when com­bined with the sus­pen­sion. Lock it out, and it feels like a hard­tail – one of the ma­jor ben­e­fits of a dual-re­mote lock out like the one on the Ri­d­ley Sablo is how it lets you move from full­sus­pen­sion trac­tion to hard­tail-like rigid­ity in the push of a lever.

The fit of the bike was im­me­di­ately no­tice­able too – you do sit low in the bike thanks to the bot­tom bracket height. And although the sus­pen­sion is pretty ac­tive, it does ramp up nicely in the mid­stroke which means it doesn’t wal­low and sink to the point where you’re smash­ing ped­als when it’s rocky. In­stead, your weight sits a lit­tle lower, which off­sets the 70 de­gree head an­gle. There’s more than one way to achieve the right bal­ance of sta­bil­ity and agility af­ter all.

The ge­om­e­try re­ally lends it­self to fast cor­ners and quick changes of di­rec­tion, where weighted ped­als help the bike dig in but it stays ready to change di­rec­tion with sub­tle move­ments. Thanks to the rigid frame, such in­put is ul­tra-re­spon­sive. Add in sup­ple sus­pen­sion and it’s easy to let the Ri­d­ley go on des­cents – but it still needs an ex­pe­ri­enced hand at the wheel. Just like any XC bike, the Ri­d­ley Sablo can go very fast – but com­pared to a slacker and more for­giv­ing trail bike, you need to have the ex­pe­ri­ence to re­ally make it move fast when the ter­rain gets rougher or steeper. This is stan­dard with just about any XC bike.

When the trail points up and gets pretty rough, the Sablo re­aly digs in. I en­joyed the sus­pen­sion for the ex­tra trac­tion when climb­ing, but it re­ally does pay to have your shock pressure just right. If it’s too soft you might just find the back end moves too much, and you then want to lock it out – miss­ing out on the per­for­mance ad­van­tages of ex­tra trac­tion for steep and loose climbs. That said, on smoother climbs it is su­per easy to lock the sus­pen­sion out and climb.

While the rear shock is a cus­tom tuned Fox Float EVOL DPS shock, the front is a 32 SC Per­for­mance, miss­ing out on the ex­tra damp­ing ad­just­ment of the Per­for­mance Elite. It’s a sub­tle dif­fer­ence, and given the fork has a re­mote lock out, most users will ei­ther use the sus­pen­sion on or off. Still, it would be nice to see the range of com­pres­sion damp­ing ad­just­ment with the FiT4 damper on a bike that sells for eight grand.

The 34t chain ring on the SRAM Ea­gle cranks were a per­fect match to the 10-50 cas­sette. It re­ally does show how ideal the 12-speed SRAM Ea­gle sys­tem is for an XC gear range. There’s lit­tle to say about the XO Ea­gle group set ex­cept that it worked with min­i­mal fuss or at­ten­tion for the whole test, along with the Guide TL brakes.

While I had my reser­va­tions with the Nobby Nic tyres in the dry and rocky trails in my lo­cal area, they did bet­ter than I had re­mem­bered

for this type of sur­face. The DT Swiss X1700 wheels on this bike are the model with a 22.5mm in­ter­nal width. I sus­pect 2019 mod­els will have the 25mm model, which would be a nice up­grade. If so, these make an ideal wheel for the bike, with a star ratchet hub and rims that set up tube­less so eas­ily. Sure, you could go for a car­bon wheel set for added stiff­ness and po­ten­tially less weight (de­pend­ing on the wheels) but the X1700 are a great quality wheel made from ex­cel­lent parts.

The stock 90mm stem was pretty good, but I ended up fit­ting an 80mm stem and for me the bike felt spot on. I’ve tended to use a drop­per post on my own cross-coun­try full-sus­pen­sion bike, and I did miss one on the Sablo. Thank­fully the frame is de­signed around one, so it would be an easy ad­di­tion if it’s some­thing you like for the ride.

O U R TA K E

One of the best things about the Ri­d­ley Sablo is that it of­fers no sur­prises. And de­pend­ing what you are look­ing for, that could be good or bad. The frame has ex­cel­lent con­struc­tion, and has been de­signed by a com­pany with a long her­itage with bike rac­ing. There are small de­tails that will help make the bike a long-term in­vest­ment. From large bear­ings, a threaded bot­tom bracket, solid con­struc­tion, to us­ing cur­rent stan­dards and be­ing adapt­able for a num­ber of driv­e­train op­tions.

While the Ri­d­ley Sable of­fers no nasty sur­prises, it doesn’t re­ally push the en­ve­lope with ‘new school XC’ ge­om­e­try or han­dling. The 70 de­gree head an­gle, like that on the Canyon Lux tested in last is­sue, is pretty mod­er­ate. The rest of the ge­om­e­try works with it though to give a very bal­anced han­dling bike, some­thing that is far more ev­i­dent on the trail than from read­ing the num­bers on a chart. How­ever the Ri­d­ley uses in­dus­try stan­dard parts through­out, which some mod­ern XC bikes don’t. Although there is a cus­tom shock tune that is some­thing any sus­pen­sion ser­vice cen­tre can achieve on a stock unit. And this is the strength of the Ri­d­ley Sablo – it works, and it is a bike that is built tough and built for more than just race sea­son. It can be up­graded in years to come or stripped and re­built af­ter a hard sea­son of rac­ing. It’s a great bike for marathon and stage races, and just as use­ful for plain old cross-coun­try rac­ing too. It would be great to see more frame de­signs that work around two bot­tle cages – but I’d take the ride quality of the Sablo over fit­ting two cages in the frame.

“THE GE­OM­E­TRY RE­ALLY LENDS IT­SELF TO FAST COR­NERS AND QUICK CHANGES OF DI­REC­TION, WHERE WEIGHTED PED­ALS HELP THE BIKE DIG IN BUT IT STAYS READY TO CHANGE DI­REC­TION WITH SUB­TLE MOVE­MENTS”

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