Review : Ridley Fenix

For readers who have watched the great Classics such as the Tour of Flanders or Paris Roubaix (or more infamously known as the “Hell of the North”), the fabled cobbles of these races are always the key highlights. They are also feared and relished at the same time by the Pros racing over them. Riding at high speed over these cobble stones not only require a sense of bravado, but a high endurance level as well – the constant knocks will banged up most riders.

To help riders conquer these cobbles, several bike makers have jumped onto the development of frame-compliance technology. These entirely new lineups of bikes are designed to get their sponsored teams over the fabled cobbles as quickly as possible, and the result is that end consumers like us now have more choices in choosing a bike that can smooth out our daily ride quality as well.

Today we get to take a look at one such bike from Ridley. In developing the Fenix, Ridley’s objectives were 2-prong. They not only wanted to create a bike for their Lotto-Belisol riders to contest the Spring Classics effectively, but also to have a bike that doesn’t come with a high-end price-tag so as to make it more appealing for the mainstream cycling enthusiasts. Launched in 2013, the bike was a huge success in the US and Europe markets. To top it up, Japan was marked as the top seller for Fenix Carbon in the world!
A year later now, and with the dust having settled from the first half of the pro race calendar, how does the Fenix fare for the rest of us in Asia?

The Fenix build that we received comes with entry-level Shimano 105 10-speed drivetrain components and brake calipers. Rather than going with third-party components, Ridley completed the look of our test bike with their own in-house 4ZA handlebars, stem and seat post. While they aren’t flashy or feathery light, they are still well built and more importantly, helped to keep the price down. The Fenix also uses FSA’s Gossamer crank instead of Shimano 105’s option, so as to take advantage of the bike’s stiff BB30 bottom bracket.

If I were to nitpick, it’s that I had hope for the bike to come with the new 105 11-speed groupset to add some longevity to the overall bike’s value. Even the matching wheels are Shimano’s basic R500 model. They work as dependable training wheels, but if there was one immediate upgrade I would recommend for this Fenix, it would be to get a better performing set of wheels – such as the excellent value-for-money Ultegra.

With the bike design, you would be hard pressed to find fanciful technologies like the elastomers or decouplers from well-known endurance bikes such as the Specialized Roubaix or Trek Domane. Ridey has opted for more a more conservative approach by manipulating the bike’s tube shapes to improve comfort and ride quality – similar to the BMC Gran Fondo and the Cannondale Synapse. In my 2 weeks of riding with the bike, I found that the Fenix to be a much more comfortable ride than the company’s flagship aero-centric Noah (which was already an amazing bike to ride on, by the way), but it still proves to be a tad bit harsher than compared to the Specialized Roubaix and even the Focus Izalco, which I have ridden for a couple of years now.

I suspect the tall chainstays may inhibit the Fenix’s true comfort capabilities. Its seatstays may be flattened to help soak up some road chatter, but they aren’t of the thin variety we’ve come to associate with an ultra-plush ride quality.  However, on the other hand they do a fine job of stiffening up the rear end, which gives an added touch of stiffness when riding out of the saddle or when sprinting. The fork’s stiffness also makes the ride a little more robust than I would have expected, but the same characteristic also kept the front end firmly planted through corners. This can be a subjective take for different riders though.

That’s not to say the bike disappoints. Far from it. Where the Fenix’s ride quality can be more of a personal judgment, myself and two other seasoned regular riders unanimously agreed the bike’s handling was a big positive characteristic one would normally associate with more expensive, higher-end bikes. What we liked was how the bike always managed to hold its line and tracked far better in the rough stuff than I was expecting. There’s a very confident feel to the way the bike handles, especially in poorly maintained road conditions – for example at certain stretches of roads along Mandai and Neo Tiew roads. It’s not difficult to see why the Lotto-Belisol guys love the Fenix and used it as their frame of choice during the Classics. The Fenix was made for the rough stuff.

So what type of rider is the Fenix made for? In my time with the bike, I found that the bike falls somewhere in the middle balanced between stiffness and comfort. It’s neither the stiffest nor a completely comfortable endurance bike. But it’s stiff enough to keep you competitive on the weekend group ride or at the occasional criterium, but yet it’s also compliant enough to keep you comfortable on epic rides, such as Audax events.it’s compliant enough to not beat you up even after a long day in the saddle such as Audax-type events. If you want a bike for riding a charity ride, a gran fondo, and even racing, then this is definitely the bike for you. A balanced do-it-all bike, perhaps.

I would recommend saving up a little more to upgrade to the newer Shimano 105/Ultegra 11-speed groupset and in getting a pair of higher end wheelset to get the best out of the Fenix.

Our test bike retails for S$2650.00 and that’s a pretty good value for a bike with some versatility.

Available also: Fenix in Shimano Ultegra 11s with racing Fulcrum 5 wheelset.
Retailing at S$3600.00

 

Ridley Bicycles are distributed by:
Actionbods Pte Ltd

Blk 194 Pandan Loop, #06-18 Pantech Business Hub,
Singapore 128383
(Showroom – Kindly call for appointment)

Tel: +65 67766995

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10am to 6pm
Saturday and Sunday: Viewing can be arrange prior to advance booking.

Webpage: http://actionbods.appsfly.com

Interested to know more about Ridley Bicycles, please click this link:
http://www.ridley-bikes.com/us/en/