Words: Simon Smythe
Had our famously laid-back photographic studio uploaded the wrong photos to the CA picture server? Were they quite sure a machine with a full carbon frame, Shimano 105 groupset, ITM bar and stem and Selle Italia saddle wasn’t meant for another magazine, and had been left leaning up against one of their polystyrene baffles after a millionaire’s toys shoot for SuperYacht World?
Mail order specialist Ribble piles ’em high and sells ’em cheap and I don’t think they would mind me saying that, because if you can live with a British name on your down tube — and who couldn’t, now that we’ve won the Tour de France — then in some cases you’re getting the same Far East-sourced carbon frames that bear much more famous European names.
To get a full carbon frame in the sub-£1K category is becoming as rare as an admission of doping by a seven-time Tour de France winner. Not only that but also a complete 105 groupset plus Mavic’s Aksium factory wheelset, which I regularly used to complain about but now welcome in its lightened, rejigged version. As a bonus they now come with Mavic’s own Aksion tyre, which is supple and fast-rolling.
However, carbon-fibre as a bicycle frame material is perfect for shaping and profiling and creatively manipulating to get the best ride quality, so the Evo Pro, which is the entry-level carbon frame in Ribble’s range (and cheaper than some of its aluminium frames) seems perversely old-fashioned: the main triangle has the look of the early carbon-fibre frames which were made by ‘wrapping’ mitred carbon tubes together — even though I understand it’s actually a monocoque.
It’s not just in its use of carbon-fibre — the Ribble seems to take its design cues from the Giant TCR era of the early 2000s and it’s hard to get enthusiastic about that compact sit-up-and-beg look, matching bar tape and saddle notwithstanding.
But I liked it once I started riding it. Or at least first of all I liked it, then I wasn’t so sure, then I definitely knew I did, but with a couple of reservations which I’ll come to later.
Groupset and match
First of all the Ribble is lighter than the others here, and that can’t be ignored. Secondly it has all the gear: full 105 groupset, including the chainset and calipers — areas where many manufacturers go OEM on you and the overall package is less coherent — a complete groupset that is designed to work together is bound to perform well. These two factors informed my initial feelings during the first minutes of my first ride. It accelerated nicely and shifted crisply and that’s at least half the battle. It also has the feel of carbon.
If you shut your eyes (don’t actually do this) it feels different from its aluminium counterparts. Smoother, plusher, livelier, faster. But as I picked up speed I detected a disonnectedness as I pulled on the bars and became convinced that the moment I was on a fast descent it would either go into a speed wobble or go straight on into the trees.
Happily I was proved wrong and it descended perfectly well. I shook it about and tried to induce bad handling while going down hills but it kept steadfastly to its line.
Best in test
However, the fact is that the Evo Pro does feel a bit more flexible than you expect. The rear triangle seems fine, with the back wheel held firmly enough by a wishbone seatstay arrangement and curved chainstays, but there’s a slight lack of directness between the back and front, that comes when pedalling hard seated. This doesn’t actually compromise handling, but I would say the Ribble isn’t really for road racing. However, my guess is most sub-£1k drop-bar bikes will end up as fast commuters anyway, with perhaps the odd sportive, and the
Evo Pro is perfect for that, as it’s very comfortable.
To sum up, the positives by far outweigh the negatives. And of the four bikes on test I enjoyed riding the Ribble the most.
Model Evo Pro Carbon
Frame Carbon 3K weave
Fork Carbon with aluminium steerer
Chainset Shimano 105 50/34t
Derailleurs Shimano 105
Shifters Shimano 105
Brake calipers Shimano 105
Wheels Mavic Aksium
Tyres Mavic Aksion 23c
Weight 8.18kg (18.03lb)
Size tested L (56cm)
Wow factor 16/20
Build quality 19/20