Bike Test: RIDLEY HELIUM SLX

Updated from the previous SL model, the Helium SLX is Ridley’s go-to race bike in 2017 and is currently being used by the Lotto-Soudal team on the WorldTour circuit.  As an all-out race bike, the Helium isn’t the outright lightest on the market, but it sits well within the category as an all-around bike that stands out, especially when it comes to climbing.

THE FRAME

With a claimed weight of just 750 grams, the carbon Helium SLX frame definitely sits among some of the lightest frames on the market. Light, yes, but one that still provides a good, stiff ride due no doubt to the wide, rectangular-shaped downtube and squared chainstay interface with the bottom bracket. As with virtually every other high-end bike out there, the SLX relies on integrated cable routing to give the bike an overall clean look.

The fork sits at a claimed weight of 300 grams with stainless steel dropouts. Down in the bottom bracket you get a PressFit 30. It’s not the flashiest paint scheme as it comes with a matte grey finish with some orange highlights. Our test bike was fitted with 25mm Continental tires, and Ridley claims the frame is roomy enough for 28mm rubber.

THE PARTS

Ridley made a good decision by dressing their Helium SLX up with a full Shimano R9100 Dura Ace group. You can never go wrong with the smooth, precise and light-action shifting you get with the R9100. The top-end Shimano parts fill the bill for both the drivetrain and braking needs. For the stem, bars and seatpost you’ll find Ridley’s 4ZA house-branded parts with an alloy stem and carbon bar combo. The Forza C30 carbon wheels are laced with DT Swiss 240S hubs. The Continental Grand Prix 4000s II tires are a great addition delivering ample grip and minimal rolling resistance.

The low-profile Forza C30 wheels came laced to DT Swiss 240S hubs.

THE RIDE

Let’s face it, any bike that weighs in the sub-15-pound range should be adept in the hills. And so with a bike this climb-friendly, we headed to the hills to put it to the test. Out of the saddle the bike had a good response and didn’t have the flex or lull after putting power into your pedal stroke. With its 56.5cm top tube length, the Helium had room to stretch out, but due to its tallish 175mm head tube length, the front end didn’t feel as aggressive as other bikes in this category.

The Helium held its own when descending through high-speed corners, and we could really push it as we accelerated out of them. Like the shifters, the Dura-Ace brakes are known for their light-action feel and did a great job slowing the SLX down. The Forza C30 wheels were new to us, but the low profile carbon wheel held up well especially on the climbs.

THE VERDICT

This is a bike that, while tilted more in favor of a race bike, isn’t too extreme that a weekend warrior couldn’t feel comfortable with it. For the price, you get a light, stiff frame with a top-notch build. While the flat, understated, grey finish was unique, everyone did appreciate seeing a bike without company logos and marketing graphics plastered all over the frame like we see on so many other bicycles.

The Helium SLX comes race-ready with a light frame, Dura-Ace 9100 and the carbon Forza wheels.

However, no matter how you slice it, a bike selling for nine large has to tell quite a story, especially if it shows up with a mechanical drivetrain. And on that last point alone, for us, the SLX comes up a few chapters short. The bike we thought told a much better story is the entry-level Helium SLA Ultegra model, which is spec’d with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain and Fulcrum aluminum wheels and sells for half the price. Unlike our test bike (only available through Ridley’s build-a-bike program), the Ultegra uses the same lightweight frame and is ready to roll out of your dealer’s door.

PUNCH LINES

  • Lightweight frame
  • Pricey build for mechanical shifting
  • Unique colorway

STATS

Price: $9000

Weight: 14.75 pounds

Sizes: XXS, XS, S, M (tested), L, XL

www.ridley-bikes.com

THE GEAR

  • Helmet: Louis Garneau
  • Jersey: Eliel
  • Bibs: Sugoi
  • Shoes: Bont
  • Glasses: Oakley
ridleyfirst ridebike testtestbikefirstrideheliumslxeric gresslerericgressler