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Test Lab, Ridley Noah Fastbike MMXII

Ridley Noah Fastbike MMXII

Earlier this year Belgian bike company Ridley released their new Noah Fastbike, although a few preview versions had been spotted underneath the riders of the Vacansoleil pro team. Bicycling Australia travelled to Belgium for the launch (see issue #172) but we were also fortunate enough to be allowed a longer test back here inAustralia.

I last tested a Ridley Noah in 2010 for the Tour de France issue. At that time Team Katusha were riding the Noah. It wasn’t many kilometres into testing that I decided the Noah was one of the finest bikes I’d ridden. Its stunning good looks, fantastic pace and solid feel were simply breathtaking. To quote from the famous Reggie Perrin, ‘I’ve always taken great pains not to talk in clichés. A cliché to me is like a red rag to a bull.” But that bike was worthy of all the clichés you could throw at it. So how does the new Noah stand up?

Ridley say their new Noah stands upon three key components;

The ‘F-Splitfork’ which draws air away from the spokes and counteracts turbulence generated by the wheels.

The F-Brake which Ridley call “the first real integrated brake” and finally

The F-Surface: a textured surface applied to strategic locations on the frame, letting air travel smoothly around the frame instead of detaching and creating drag.

The F-Splitfork and the F-Surface are modifications on previous technology seen on the original Noah. However the differences are quite pronounced. The F-Surface was quite unobtrusive, being little more than decal thickness with bumps about the size of grains of sand. The idea was that these bumps would break up the wind in the same way that dropping a pebble into water breaks the surface tension. This enables the leading edge of the frame to slice through the air, as it were. One criticism I had of this surface was that it had a tendency to become extremely grubby. It looked like you’d taken a sticker off your school book and all the glue had caught every bit of fluff and dirt in your school bag. Not a good look for a bike that cost around $12,000. On this new version the leading edge is much higher and the surface is much cleaner, almost like an epoxy strip. Our test bike was a pre production sample and I was disappointed to see that these strips were actually peeling off in some places. I queried this with the local distributor who told me that this had been seen on a number of the samples world wide because the surface had just been stuck on for demonstration and that “the production bikes won’t have these problems, as the surface will be built into the manufacturing process.” I’m interested to see how Ridley will do this. To me the look of the new surface is an improvement on the old version and Ridley have some interesting figures from the wind tunnel to back it up.

Velocity [kph]    Standard Paint Drag        F-Surface Drag                     difference

50                                5.96                             5.72                                         4.03%

55                                7.04                             6.81                                         3.27%

60                                8.47                             8.06                                         4.84%

65                                9.96                             9.53                                         4.32%

70                                11.33                          10.84                                      4.32%

As you can see they’re impressive figures, and while I personally wouldn’t spend too much time around the 60kph mark on my usual rides, presumably there’s still some benefits at slower speeds.  So I wonder if in the future Ridley will look at building the surface into the carbon mould rather than attaching something to the frame afterwards. If Zipp can do it on their rims then surely it could also be done on a bike frame.

The F-Splitfork

Like the F-Surface the F-Splitfork has also been upgraded. This design was first explored by Oval and it was adopted by Ridley on the original Noah. The idea behind the design is to channel air away from the spokes and therefore cause less drag on the wheel. On a normal fork, the air gets bounced around inside the fork area as the wheel spins. Here it gets thrown out the back onto the leading surface of the down tube.

But there’s something of a double whammy happening here because with this new design Ridley have managed to lengthen the channel that removes this air to go from the drop-outs right to the top of the fork. And the reason for this change is Ridley’s work on their integrated braking system.

F-Brakes

These integrated brakes are one of the things that Ridley are most proud of. They say that in testing on the track they found that it required 20 watts less power to get the Noah up to 40kph than their Helium road bike. It doesn’t sound like much, but that test was over a period of 234 seconds. If you had that same saving of wattage over say, a hundred kilometres, then it would be fairly significant.

Personally, I was a little skeptical about the aerodynamics of the brakes when I first saw them. Obviously keeping them out of the wind plays a part, but they do have rather a large cable sticking out from the side at either end, which to my mind must have a certain amount of drag.

However Ridley do point out that the fact that the pads are attached to the second part of the fork allows them to save approximately 300g because they do not have to supply calipers. Presumably the extra carbon needed to create this second fork, and indeed seat stay section, is less than 300g at each end…

One funky little thing regarding these brakes is the opening and closing mechanism, which is located on the cables just in front of the handlebars. This is a neat little device, although it should be pointed out there is no modulation to speak of when using them on the fly, such as a small lever a’la Shimano or SRAM. I personally found when riding there was enough flex from the fork to hear the pads rubbing on the rims, particularly during out of the saddle climbing. So instead of being able to adjust the brakes a little bit it that situation you would have to switch them to right open.

The Open Road

Which brings me to actually riding the Noah. As previously mentioned, I very much enjoyed riding the previous incarnation of this bike, however, this new model didn’t disappoint. In fact exactly the opposite. In the world of pro racing, any bike that isn’t up to scratch is very quickly found out. These bikes have to be super responsive and I could tell instantly that the Noah was one of these. Without any exaggeration, I found it out in about 50 metres. From almost the first pedal stroke you can feel the stiffness and power of the Noah. It’s something that comes from deep in the frame and I can’t describe any other way than a sense of ‘rightness’. It’s a cliché to say that you’re ‘at one’ with the frame but in this case it is particularly apt.

I found myself climbing better and more easily on this bike, despite its 39/25T combination than I do on my own, which has a 34/29T compact groupset. It’s worth noting as well, that the previous Noah we had on test weighed in at 7.3kg, while this new model tips the scales at 6.8kg.

Additionally, the balance of this bike was outstanding, though people used to a low front end may find the long head tube takes a bit of getting used to. I’m not a sprinter, but I still found myself moving the stem down to the last spacer. However, descending, riding along the flat at high speed, or in fact anything fast was simply intuitive. The Noah goes just where you want without you having to think too much about it. It’s a wonderful ride.

Components and Pricing

As you can see from the pictures, our test bike was the sample team spec, which includes Rotor cranks and Fast Forward carbon wheels. The gear selection is SRAM Red. The intention of the Ridley distributors is to provide the Noah with 4ZA Cirrus wheels and the option of SRAM Red, Shimano Dura-Ace or Campagnolo Record, all at the same price of $8,999.  This is a considerable saving from the $12,000 our 2009 tester was quoted at. Additionally, the frame and fork package will set you back $5,999.

One last bit of advice. You may wish to think carefully about your choice of saddle. The saddle adjustment on the Noah’s seat collar is via a nut located right on the top. With a standard saddle this allows very little access for a spanner. I thought I had it done up tightly only to have it slip at the bottom of a long valley. I ended up with a long, out-of-the-saddle climb to get home and several hours with a shifting spanner trying to tighten it again. A saddle with a large cutout like an SMP would allow easier access. Or perhaps, even a re-think from Ridley of the collar design itself.   

Summing Up

Quality

This bike absolutely looks and rides perfectly. All the parts are top drawer and if the problem of the F-surface not sticking is indeed rectified on the production models, then the Noah will be an extremely high quality machine.

Performance

From the first pedal stroke it is obvious that this bike is a performance machine. It is wonderfully responsive, a good climber, super fast on the flats and has perfect balance. This bike is an absolute weapon.

Value

The Ridley Noah that we tested in 2010 was priced at $12,999 with Super Record. This one is $4,000 cheaper with Record. That is a big saving by anyone’s measure. And for that you get a fantastic piece of machinery.

Overall

I was mildly sceptical about some parts of the Noah when I first saw it, in particular the integrated braking system. However, it didn’t take me long to realise that this is a very special bike. Its performance is phenomenal and while there was one or two niggles, such as the seat clamp design, those were small bikkies compared with how good the Noah is to ride. Add to this the fact that it is now cheaper and lighter, well, who cares if it’s, more aero or not? It is one sweet ride.

Specifications

Frame           Ridley Carbon

Fork              Carbon with carbon dropouts

Stem             Deda  Zero 100 aluminium

Handlebars  Deda RHM 01 aluminium

Saddle          San Marco Regale

Seat Post     Integrated

Shift Levers  SRAM Red

Brakes          Integrated with SRAM pads.

F Derailleur  SRAM Red

R Derailleur  SRAM Red

Cassette       Shimano 12-25T

Chain             KMC

Crank             Rotor Cranks

Bottom Bracket      SRAM         

Wheels           Fast Forward Carbon

Tyres               Schwalbe Durano SE

Pedals            n/a     

Weight            6.8kg w/o pedals

Price              $8,999 with either Dura-Ace, Red or Record.

Distributed by Sheppard Cycles

www.sheppardcycles.com

Ph (03) 9235 0000

            

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