Ridley has taken their top Pro Tour mountain climber – the Helium SL – and given it a thorough reworking to build an all around better race bike. The new Helium SLX (and companion Aura SLX) get new tubing shapes, a more refined layup with higher modulus carbon, and a new fork that together promises improved stiffness and handling, while subtly trimming weight off the frameset. Some of the same updates even make it into the revision of the more affordable, but still <900g Helium/Aura X. We took a look last week at the new range of premium women’s road bikes that Ridley introduced, and touched on the tech of the new Helium family.
In Ridley’s endurance road range a new SL version of the Fenix/Liz gets a lighter disc brake frame. And then on the cross and gravel side, it seems Ridley is also poised to offer a Lauf fork option on their do-it-all carbon X-Trail…
The Helium SLX and its companion Aura SLX are a completely new frameset with updated tubing shapes over the currently available Helium SL. The bike also adds some new higher modulus 60T carbon plies to the previous 40/30T carbon mix to improve lateral stiffness by 15% from the headtube through the bottom bracket and back to the dropouts. The revised carbon layup targeted a performance benefit instead of lighter weight, so the Helium SLX claims the same <750g medium frame weight of the Helium SL.
The fork also gets a big update dropping the curved legs of the current bike and replacing them with a new straight blade fork, also getting the stiffer carbon blend. The redesign was said to target an improved ride of the front end of the bike, delivering a lighter snappier feel that is said to now better pair with the frame. This time too Ridley managed to trim about 50g off for the new fork down to 300g, so the SLX frameset does coming in slightly lighter than the top bike currently on offer.
The new bikes also get new revised and completely internal routing, which seems to have been at user request, even though it added back a few grams. They will come spec’ed with 25mm tires, which Ridley says is the max width. But the frames are also said to be designed for up to 28mm wide rims, and there looked to be enough room to fit a tire around the same size, although the brakes may be the limiting factor. The Helium SLX comes standard in either a mechanical or Di2 Ultegra build only. But of course the bike can be custom sped’ed with Ridley’s flexible Dreambuilder program that gives Super Record, Chorus EPS, Chorus, Dura-Ace, Ultegra Di2, eTap & Red 22 groupset options. The new Helium SLX comes in a wide 6 size range from XXS-XL from 45-60cm seattubes. It will be available from February 2017.
In the reorganized Helium family the only other carbon option will be the new Helium X (and Aura X). It uses the same frame shaping as the 2016 Heliums, with the more affordable 40/30T carbon fiber layup. It’s still no slouch, still weighing less than 900g for a medium. The X does get a new fork for 2017 though, taking the same revised straight leg shape developed for the SLX but again with the less pricey 40/30T carbon. That update is also said to be felt a lot here, where it offers a much more precise ride over the previous curved fork. The Helium X also comes in a limited standard spec, Ultegra mechanical only. But like the lighter SLX it can be customized in Dreambuilder with the same mix of groupsets. You’ll have to wait a little longer for the Helium X. It will be ready to buy in March 2017.
For those still looking for something more affordable, but light, the aluminum Helium SLA that was introduced earlier in the summer is already available and weighs just 1100g for the frame.
Fenix SL Disc
The new Fenix SL Disc takes the do it all endurance race Fenix SL and adds disc brakes for next season. It goes with the same 30/24T carbon mix that Ridley thinks gives the best road buzz eating feel while still being able to deliver raceable stiffness. With the new brakes the SL Disc claims a weight of 1140g for a medium and 420g for the tapered carbon fork. Even with Classics ambitions, the SL Disc is said to max out at 28mm tires. If you need anything bigger, Ridley suggests that you look to their cross and gravel bikes.
In the update to discs, Ridley also saw to dropping the seatstays farther down the seatpost for even improved comfort in the back. Without braking forces on those seatstays they were able to knock out a lot more road buzz, while maintaining drivetrain and handling stiffness.
In the interest of even more comfort, the Fenix SL Disc goes with a 27.2mm post. And in a nod to its destiny to race the cobbles of the northern Spring Classics, the bike gets spec’d with a secondary clamp on the seatpost for extra security against slipping when the going gets really rough.
The Fenix SL Disc update also brings with it flat mount brakes for 140 or 160mm rotor compatibility and thru-axles front and rear. Axles go with the 12mm standard, which is thankfully becoming the real road standard, and will phase out all others (& QRs) for Ridley’s disc brake road range going forward.
Cross bikes don’t get much more reworking than what we’ve already seen, although they did get a rolling update to flat mount disc this season which did save a couple hundred grams. No other changes which is nice since cross is already here, so it looks like it will be next year that they swap to the 12mm standard.
But on the all-road and gravel side, Ridley did have a couple of interesting updates they were talking up. First the standard carbon fork swaps to a 12mm thru-axle (from the prior 15). And while the X-Trail carbon frame and complete bikes stay the same with their complete builds, Ridley tells us that they will be adding the option to spec the bike with a Lauf Grit fork as part of their Dreambuilder system. It will likely only be in black, and not color matched (at least until the gauge interest), but should give the bike with its 38mm tire clearance more off-road capability.
Even though the frame has an integrated transition for its stock fork, the rounded crown of the Lauf does not pose any clearance issues, and actually from the side and above looks to blend smoothly into the dropped downtube shape. No word yet on availability.