‘What’s that? It looks great,’ is always a good reaction to get when you roll up to a group ride on a test bike. The latest version of Ribble’s Endurance SLR road bike also delivers comfortable fast-ride efficiency, all-weather versatility and great handling for a top-value price. Detail frame changes mean it’s more responsive when you put the boot in too, but it still doesn’t quite pop and float as well as the best road bikes in class.
Design and geometry
As aero data drives everyone towards the same results, road bikes are looking increasingly similar and the Ribble is a tick box of the contemporary frame design. Cue flat back aero main tubes, dropped rear stays, slim seatpost and hidden seat clamp with rubber gaiter to reduce water intake. The SLR comes as standard with Ribble’s one-piece Level 5 bar and stem for totally internal brake routing though and cable ports are plugged seamlessly. It’ll take up to 32mm tyres without worrying about gravel jams and if you’re okay with 25mm tyres there’s a full mudguard set available with a bolt-on bridge for the rear stays. If the black-on-black stealth look isn’t what you’re into there’s a full custom paint option service if you wait a bit longer for delivery.
As well as offering aerodynamic advantages through a wide range of wind angles, the frame comes in at just 850g (claimed) which is light for a versatile disc frame. Ribble designer and ex U23 World Champion, Jamie Burrow, told us the latest version tested here also gets ‘beefed up chainstays’ to improve kick. If the pricing of this bike or the complete options menu is too high then you can get the SL Disc version of the frame which is the same shape, with all the same features but with a 300g heavier carbon layup and priced at £1,299 for the frame package compared with £1,799 for the SLR Disc.
Components and build
While SL Disc complete bike prices start at £1,899 for a Shimano 105-based bike, the SLR menu starts with Ultegra at £2,999. We were lucky enough to get the top-spec SRAM RED eTap AXS and another month of riding further underlines our impression that this is currently the ultimate road bike transmission. Gear range, ratio progression, cleanliness of design, user-friendliness or easy app-based programming and the new AXS WEB ride data feedback are all outstanding. The only glitch we had was occasional ‘off-the-inside’ chain drop, so we’d suggest adding the chain catcher that Ribble omitted from the package. Ribble doesn’t offer the integrated power meter option either which is a shame for riders who are serious about their training and stats. You can order the Level bar out front mount in either Garmin or Wahoo fit though which is a nice touch.
The Red spec also gets you the awesome new Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels which really impressed us in a previous test. Because they sell direct, Ribble can’t supply the tyres set up tubeless but it’s well worth making the slight effort to convert them and we tested the bike in both tubed and tubeless formats. The bike initially arrived with older Zipp 302 wheels and Vittoria tyres so first rides were on those. It’s worth noting you can also alter spec significantly using Ribble’s online Bike Builder service, but you’ll get the best deal by staying stock.
Ride, handling and performance
As we said in the intro, you’re pulling a seriously good looking bike out of the box and you certainly won’t feel like you’re rolling up for the club run or posing on the traffic lights on a (comparatively) affordable bike. The ride doesn’t let it down either. The new backend makes it a fraction sharper under power than the previous version which already had a usefully solid kick. Overall frame feel is brighter and sharper than the SL, too, and at 7.6kg all in it’s certainly not afraid of climbing.
A 72.5-degree head angle and grounded frame feel make it feel totally surefooted on high speed and/or steep, twisty descents and that’s only improved by the flawless handling and low tyre pressures recommended for the super-wide Zipp rims. Set up tubeless they also add very obvious smoothness and glide speed gains compared to the 302 wheels we started with. The 73.6-degree seat angle gives a good position for pushing the pace on the flat. While it’s hard to measure the aero gains from the clean cockpit and aero profiling on the road, the psychosomatic bonus is definitely there. While the Firecrest’s definitely helped, when riding head-to-head with similar ‘endurance’ bikes from other brands it doesn’t quite have their lively pop and buoyant flow when the hammer goes down or the road surface deteriorates. The narrow, rectangular profile of the bar tops isn’t particularly comfortable to hold either and the one-piece bar and stem feel numb rather than forgiving. Changing bar height by removing spacers is going to be a real fight compared to conventional externally routed setups, too. We’d say that about any integrated setup though and at least AXS removes any worries about gear cables.
Ribble has done a great job of delivering a totally modern road bike that’s practical enough for commuting but light and efficient enough for racing. While this flagship model is obviously well out of budget for most, the AXS and SRAM kit is awesome if you can step up and full build bike value is very good throughout the range. The fact it looks good enough to get unsolicited positive comments from proper bike snobs is a big bonus too and the new frame is a fraction more responsive and lively. That means it’s definitely right up there with most similar bikes – even at higher price points – but it doesn’t quite have the life and charisma of the very best of the breed.
Tech specs: Ribble Endurance SLR Disc SRAM Red eTap AXS
- RRP: £7,999
- Frame: Ribble Endurance SLR Disc, Toray T1000/800 carbon
- Groupset: SRAM RED eTap AXS
- Crankset: SRAM RED eTap AXS 48-35T
- Wheels: Zipp 303 Firecrest
- Tyres: Continental GP5000 700 x 28mm
- Brakes: SRAM RED eTap AXS HRD hydraulic discs with 160mm rotors
- Bar/stem: Level 5 integrated carbon 440mm bar and 100mm stem
- Seatpost: Ribble SLR Carbon semi-aero seat post
- Saddle: Fizik Arione R5 Kium saddle