Throughout history, Belgium has been celebrated for producing a type of rider that stands apart due to their ability to excel in tough conditions. It’s with riders like Eddy Merckx and Johan Museeuw that the accolade ‘Going Belgian’ was popularized. ‘Going Belgian’ has become a frequently used term for those who aspire to emulate the rugged Belgian ‘hard men’ by doing an exceptionally hard ride. If the ride is done in inclement weather, the metaphor is all the more apt.
Ridley is a Belgian bike brand that has been in the business since 1990. Although popular at home for the four world cyclocross championships they have claimed (the ultimate ‘hard man’ event), Ridley is best known for the rides put in by a couple of celebrated Australian ‘hard men,’ Robbie McEwen and Cadel Evans, over the years.
Ridley first started making carbon frames five years ago and now produces five different carbon bikes, with the Excalibur representing the fourth down from the top-of-the-line Tour de France stage-winning Noah.
|The Belgian inspired Excalibur exploded on climbs and descended well.|
Belgium of course is as equally renowned for the harsh weather and road conditions which have helped shape their favorite sons. As such, the Excalibur’s signature frame features (oversized 1.5-inch lower headset bearing and oversized downtube) are intended to maximize the frame’s durability to keep the Belgian homies happy.
With the now standard 3K carbon weave finish and white/gray graphics, the Ridley isn’t the flashiest looking bike. Still, run your fingers along the chain and seat stays and you find some subtle tube shaping.
Our medium test bike had 40.5cm chainstays, 55cm top tube, 97.8cm wheelbase, 38.5cm chainstays, and a 27.5cm tall bottom bracket. The bike tipped the scales at 16.8 pounds. You can choose from five different frame sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL).
Ever ride in an express elevator? Welcome to the Ridley Excalibur. Thanks to the super-stiff frame, this is a bike that explodes on the climbs. Best of all, when the road switches up and starts to descend, those same frame qualities (plus the reinforced top tube and shorter wheelbase) will serve you equally well. Pick a line, and the Excalibur will rail the fastest turns without any need for counter-steering. Pedal, lean, swoop and down the road you go.
Unfortunately, for some riders, the bike’s climbing and descending prowess came at a price. When we took the bike down to the weekly Rose Bowl circuit ride we noticed some unnerving front-end chatter when cornering, and an overall harsh front-end feel over rough patches of asphalt. Moving the saddle forward would help, but it would change the riders position. In the league of Belgian riders, where the notion of going ‘hard’ is instilled at birth, the Ridley’s rough ride caught a few of our ‘softer’ American riders out.
The Ridley was the first Campagnolo Chorus-equipped bike that some test riders had ridden, and it left many wondering ‘Why spend the extra dough for Record?’ The next down in line Italian components both shifted and braked superbly. In fact, some riders thought they got even better performance from the Chorus parts. Blasphemy, we know, but true.
Although nobody came away raving about the Excalibur’s overly gray (like the weather in Belgium) appearance, overall the Ridley was rated highly, especially by the faster and more aggressive riders who liked the slingshot acceleration and didn’t mind the rough ride up front.
Weight: 16.8 pounds