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Ribble Ultra Road launch: all-new aero bike with unique bars

19 Aug 2021
Verdict:

Ribble’s new top-end racer promises free speed, partly thanks to a highly innovative handlebar

British bike brand Ribble has unveiled its new top-end road bike: the Ribble Ultra Road. The emphasis is very much on aerodynamics, with a ground-up frame design and a unique patent-pending handlebar.

The Ultra Road joins Ribble’s road line-up alongside the Endurance, which although aero-optimised itself, is more of a classic climber’s bike. This latest bike is all about straight-line speed.

Aerodynamics

Ribble says the Ultra Road is the result of a three-year project that has included extensive CFD (computational fluid dynamics) design and wind-tunnel testing, as well as real world analysis.

Every tube profile of the frame and fork has been shaped with aerodynamic efficiency in mind, but with one eye always on real world conditions and the needs of both pro and recreational riders.

As such, Ribble claims that the Ultra Road has been optimised for wind conditions across a yaw spread of 0° to 20°, with the sweet spot being around the 10° mark. And all analysis has been conducted with componentry and rider included, so the results apply to the full package, not just the frame.

For example, the down tube is skinny at the top and then becomes much wider lower down. The top section utilises a truncated airfoil profile, refined from the tube profiles on the Endurance road bike, with the aim of reducing drag at this crucial point.

Lower down, the wide section takes into account that most riders use a water bottle, and so the broad, flattened tube profile minimises drag around the bottle. In fact, Ribble claims that this makes the down tube more aerodynamic with a bottle in place than without one.

 

Similarly, Ribble has plumped for fork legs 66mm wide and 15mm deep as being the best solution for the full yaw sweep of wind angles. The designers even looked at widening the fork stance to shield the rider’s legs – as with Team GB’s Olympic Lotus bikes – but it proved not to work so well in side winds. The seatstays, however, do sit in the shadow of the forks to minimise drag at the rear.

According to Ribble, all this aro optimisation adds up to a time saving of between 60 and 75 seconds over 40km when compared to the (already aero-optimised) Endurance race bike. Over a 100km ride with typical wind yaw angles, Ribble reckons the Ultra Road can save around three minutes against the Endurance for the same effort.

The Ultra Bar

Perhaps the standout feature of the new Ultra Road is the bar/stem cockpit, which is unique to Ribble and comes with the top-spec versions of the bike.

During the development process, Ribble realised that the metal ring that traditionally clamps the brake lever hoods to the bar has a significant impact on bar design – bars need to be round for most of the drops section in order for the ring clamp to slide into place.

 

Ribble side-stepped this problem by creating a direct mount for the brake levers, whereby the retaining bolt goes right through the front of the bars and is secured at the back, hidden in a recess beneath a rubber cover.

This has allowed Ribble’s designers to make the bars any shape they please, and there is still adjustment of the hoods 30mm up/down and 15° rotation to allow for hand position preferences.

The resulting Ultra Bar is dramatically shaped for aerodynamic efficiency, although Ribble says that the bar it ended up with isn’t as fast on its own as the first version it created.

This is because the original version was so slippery that the clean air coming off it was creating addition drag when it hit the rider’s legs. Ribble added the ‘bulges’ – the fatter sections beneath the tops of the bars – in order to deliberately create turbulence that induced a drafting effect for the rider’s legs, and resulted in faster speeds overall.

Another noticeable feature of the Ultra Bar is that is doesn’t require bar tape or plugs. The drops section is roughened to make it grippy, and Ribble claims that it will stay grippy even in the wet.

A discreet mounting point on the front of the bars allows for the attachment of computer mounts and tri bars.

 

Models, weights and prices

The Ribble Ultra Road comes in two models – SL R and SL – both with multiple options for spec and colourways.

The top-end SL R frame weighs in at a claimed 1,050g (size 56), while the SL frame weighs a claimed 1,300g, with the difference being down to carbon selection and layup.

According to Ribble, this puts the complete weight of the top-specced SL R model at 7.6kg.

The SL R model also benefits from the Ultra Bar, while the SL comes fitted with a standard bar. All models come specced with 28mm tyres, although Ribble says there is clearance for up to 32mm.

 

Builds for Ultra SL models start at £3,199 specced with Shimano 105, and go up to £4,399 for the Ultra SL Pro model specced with Shimano Ultegra.

The frameset price for the Ultra SL R is £2,999. Builds start at £3,899 using Ribble’s Bike Builder application and go up to £7,299 for the Ultra SL R Hero model that comes complete with Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and Enve Foundation 65 wheels.

Complete SL R builds specced with Ultegra start at £4,299, while builds with Sram Force AXS start at £5,499. There’s also an Ultegra-specced Tri edition, complete with tri-spoked wheels and tri-bar, from £6,599.

Further customisation is available through Ribble’s Bike Builder and personalized paintjobs are available through its Custom Colour application.

For more details check out ribblecycles.co.uk.

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