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Ridley X-Fire

Review: Ridley X-Fire

scottmares's picture

Right Out of the Box

4

Right out of the box we were not surprised that Ridley USA sent us the tough black and yellow version of the X-Fire. Actually, we were pretty happy with this choice as we liked this paint scheme better than the red and white. The black paint job accents the over built down tube and seat stays of the X-Fire. The next thing that really popped for us was the fork! This is a pretty cool fork as it has Plenty of room for mud and has been built to take on the added stress of a disc brake. The bike came with a nice complement of shimano ultegra shifters and deraiileurs. The crank was a super sexy FSA carbon cx crank which is one of the best for the money. The brakes were the new Hayes CX 5. The CX 5 brakes are sleek and have a nice gun metal grey to them that makes them look tough and more than capable for the job. The cockpit was dressed out with a good choice of Ritchey stuff. All capable of getting the job done and looking nice in the process.

Road Test Ride

5

This bike is stiff.. The 24T carbon is just that, STIFF. And it should be, as the "T" in the 24T stands for Ton as in 2,000 lbs. So what does this mean you ask? The carbon that the X-Fire is made out of will stand up to 24 tons of pressure per square inch before failing. So if your one of those guys out there that believes that you can bend any frame.. (LOL and rolls on the ground) "Forget-About IT! (insert New Yorker accent). If you are a power rider then you will enjoy and appreciate how stiff this frame is. Putting this frame with the Shimano Ultegra group makes this bike a high performer on the road. You might even leave your road bike at home. We got to take this bike for a few miles at Dealer camp. It was no surprise to me that every pedal stroke that I took it was put into forward motion. The bike is really stiff on the road and is a lively sprinters delight. But, there is always a trade off as the bike is not exactly a featherweight.

Dirt Test Ride

4

I was lucky enough to get this bike on several courses over the 2012 season, Dealer Camp in UT, Powell ButePark in Portland OR, Washington fairgrounds in Beaverton OR, PIR Portland OR and the Washoogal race track in Camas WA. So I got to really spend some time on this one and not just a few hours and a single day. I think that is important to get to know the bike more thoroughly.

Dealer Camp the conditions were dry, dusty, loose and bumpy. The Bike was fast and agile in these conditions. At dealer camp I got to take the bike for a few hot laps. I could really feel the bumps as the T24 frame was super stiff and really let me know where every small rock and bump was. The Hayes CX-5 was just was the ticket on that course as I could wait till the last minute to apply the brakes. I felt that they were very responsive and not overly grabby.

Over the next months I was taking the X-Fire out for hot laps at Powell Bute park. This was a lot of fun to do. If any one has been out there they know that its a groomed trail that has a lot to offer. there is tight twisty off camper turns long sweepers on pea gravel. Fast autobahn stretches that allow you to put it in the big pie plate (46) and let the big dog run. The X-fire is just the bike for that kind of course. Bottom line the X-Fire is fast responsive and stiff.

Race Test Ride

4

Fire on the Mud!

The first race I got to take the X-Fire out into was the foul weather at the Washington fairs grounds. This is a pretty big race as its part of the Cross Crusade. The cyclocross gods made sure that the conditions were wet, cold, really muddy and bumpy. The race was nothing short of epic. This turned out to be a real power course. There was plenty of mud to be had by all in this hour long slog fest. The mud was the soup kind that when you roll though it your bike track almost fills back in with mud as if the mud was a brown version of the blob. In Portlandia you can only start to judge the condition of the course if you take a few variable into account. I race with the "A's so that means at the end of the day. Then you have to figure in the weather. Is it going to continue to rain or not? Usually what this means is that by the time I get to line up there is NO dry dirt and NO grass left on the course at all. The mud was 2-3 inches deep all the way around the course. The bike did its job and we did have mud tires on the bike and that made all of the difference. We did have a pit bike just in case and a person manning the pit. But we did not need it. We had a really good time on it and only wish the motor was as good as the steed.

At PIR the conditions were very wet, muddy and precarious. In this race I thought I would try an experiment. The races were Turing out to be races of attrition and a clean bike was the way to go. So I started out with a bike with Canti and then every lap I would switch. The Canti bike was holding more mud than the X-fire. I can’t really say why the bike didn’t cake up like the canti bike did. Other than the mud was caking up on the brakes. The X-Fire did not cake up with mud like I thought it would and it preformed great right up until I got a flat. In this race It was really, really muddy and it was sticking to everything and snapping off derailleurs like they were going out of style. Even though I didn’t get to finish with the X-Fire the bike swapping paid off and I was able to finish very well in that race as the elements took care of a lot of my competition.

The Washoogal racetrack was cold, somewhat wet and partly muddy. So I got to race the X-Fire in a lot of different conditions. Needless to say it’s a solid performer in the mud and I didn’t have the mud problems that I had with the canti bikes that I was using. I did have pit bikes at all of the local races and when I traded out I quickly found out just how good the brakes were. Each time I raced it in Oregon it was muddy and the brakes made the difference when going into the corners. I could outbreak my fellow competitors that had canti brakes. This also translated into less energy wasted in braking and that means less mistakes in steering as my upper body was not as tired.

We Liked

The frame graphics are pretty cool.

The frame itself is tough with its T24 carbon and shaped tubes. Basically the equal of a Naval Destroyer, tough and fast.

Internal routing. The internal routing keeps the bike looking clean even when its not. No mud to hang off cables or wires! This can get really nasty if there is grass mixed in.

Component selection is solid. This tells me that this bike was not an after thought or was rushed into production. Even though not all of the parts are top of the line they nearly are and we can tell that there is a balance in performance and cost

Hayes Brakes! The Hayes brakes worked great in the muddy conditions and I will definitely want to use them again in those conditions.

Great fork! Again, we feel a lot of thought went into the design of this bike and the fork is another example of attention to detail.

We Didn't Like

There are alot of things to like about this bike and only a few things that we didn't. So this part is pretty short. Some of these things as not being that important and may not be that significant.

Weight for the price we were expecting a bike a little lighter. When we put the bike on the scale we were a little surprised at her number. But then again The X-Fire does have Disc brakes and those are heavier than canti brakes. And one thing to remember is that muscle weighs more than fat. You can put the X-Fire on a diet, and dress it out in some carbon wheels.

Stiffness. This bike is really stiff. And is a good thing for a bigger rider. This may not be good for smaller riders that are more susceptible to bumps and vibrations.

Upgrades

Door number 1 or Door number 2?

Luckily there are only a few things that need to be done to totally upgrade this bike to a no nonsense race machine. It just depends on how much you want to upgrade. There are 2 areas that I would consider. One is essential the other is optional and the difference is where you are with your money and taste. If you don't like tubulars then I would upgrade the seat post, bar and stem. The wheels that come stock on the bike are training/race wheels and are not that heavy BUT they are not feathers either. Even though, the Ritchy parts are good they are not top of the line and if you opted for some carbon in the post, stem and bar you will make the bike lighter with out spending $2,000. Now on the other hand if you like tubular wheels I would do some serious looking around for a pair. Not only will you make the bike lighter and faster. We went for the later and found a great set of wheels at Planet X for under $900.00.

The Final Say

Ridley and Belgium are now pretty much synonymous with cyclocross. A lot of the top pros are riding, racing and winning on these bikes. If you are looking for the next generation of cyclocross bikes in carbon and disc then this bike is going to be a serous contender. The Ridley X-Ride has a lot of excellent qualities. If you could only buy either a road bike or a cyclocross bike I would buy this one because you can race this one on the road as well. Its a tough bike that is turning out to be a mudder that can go year round and race on the road as well. The only thing you should be careful when you are buying one is the sizing. We normally ride a 58cm and in the Ridley we found that we fit the 56 better than a 58. Check out your nearest Ridley dealer for a test ride. Just make sure to hold on tight when you go off road. Pass me a beer and some fries!

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