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Ribble Gran Fondo Disc review

23 Nov 2017
Verdict:

A high-spec hundred mile machine that delivers a solid ride great value for money

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,759

Ribble’s Gran Fondo has been revamped for 2017, with different tube profiles and geometry for a more relaxed, less tiring ride.

The British mail-order firm has gone all in to replicate an Italian look that matches the bike’s name, even going as far as to paint an Italian flag on the top tube.

Buy the Ribble Gran Fondo Disk from Ribble now

But even if it has come from a warehouse in Lancashire rather than Veneto, all the ingredients are there for a comfortable ride at speed.

Frameset

In an effort to make the latest Gran Fondo more comfortable, less tiring and easier to handle, Ribble has stretched everything out a little.

The head tube is a touch taller than before, and the wheelbase has been extended to a measured 991mm on our size M model, too, for added stability.

The down tube is now a distinctive triangular-profile section which certainly assists with stiffness where it counts – as do the 408mm box-section chainstays.

S-shaped seatstays have the job of deflecting road vibrations before they reach your backside.

Cables are run internally through the frame, which is also compatible with electronic groupsets (an option available on Ribble’s online bike builder).

Ribble claims that the frame has clearance for 25c tyres, but we reckon there’s room for 28s should you want to go fatter.

A measured head angle of 70.7° makes this bike decidedly on the relaxed end of the scale at the front end.

It’s paired with a seat angle of 73.4°, which promotes a slightly forward-canted riding position which puts you in control while retaining comfort.

Groupset

Shimano’s 6800 Ultegra groupset is used across the build of our test bike (but, as with most of it, you can specify differently when ordering the bike).

A 50/34 chainset is attached to the Ultegra 11-32 cassette by an 11-speed Ultegra chain, plus the front and rear mechs are 6800, too.

Ultegra-equivalent RS685 shifters are found at the cockpit. As you’d expect, the mechanical parts of this bike gel brilliantly.

Finishing kit

The Italian theme is continued into the finishing kit, and includes Deda handlebars and stem, with the compact drop bars measuring 420mm in width and the alloy stem at 110mm.

For the frame size, these are bang on the money, fit-wise. A Selle Italia saddle is fixed to the top of Ribble’s own-brand 27.2mm ‘superleggera’ carbon seatpost.

Wheels

Mavic’s Aksium Disc wheels are the French firm’s bottom-end disc-specific hoops, which doesn’t mean to say they’re underperformers, just that you need to be reasonable about your expectations given their entry-level billing. 

Again, you can specify higher-spec Cosmic Pro Carbon wheels, but even if you downgrade the groupset to 105 level, the price still rises to just north of £2,000.

We’ve ridden very few tyres that can top Continental’s Gatorskins for durability, grip and otherworldly puncture resistance.

No, they’re not the quickest tyres on the market, but if you want to get round a sportive without stopping to fix a puncture, you couldn’t do much better than these 25c options.

First impression

Tip-toeing out of the house for an early morning start, one of the world’s loudest freewheels wakes the neighbour’s dogs as we coast away to start our ride. On the plus side, this will certainly let fellow ride companions know when you're behind them.

What we’re initially struck by is the deep, lustrous paint on this frameset, and the fact it comes in at this price with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset, albeit not the most recent version.

On the road

The comparatively conservative steering geometry of the Gran Fondo makes for a bike that is very happy to zip along country lanes with exceptional stability.

With some wind taken out of the 25c Gatorskin tyres, we’ve few grumbles about the level of comfort on offer here.

Offering a fairly short top tube for a size M frameset, the reach to the bars is easy, and the fairly rangy head tube takes a fair amount of strain off the wrists, too.

Yes, despite its curving seatstays and carbon seatpost, it does transmit a fair amount of vibration to your rump, but it’s nothing you can't live with comfortably.

With its long-distance ability in little doubt, we knocked out a couple of sprints before the hilly section of our test loop, and this is where the Ribble’s stiffness became a positive.

Thanks to a solid feeling at the bottom bracket area, plus thru-axles at the Mavic Aksiums’ spindles preventing the slightest bit of flex, the Gran Fondo rips out a standing sprint with aplomb.

It’s the same story on the hills, with little of your effort going to waste. This bike offers generous gearing options, with a smallest option of a 34x32 meaning there will be few climbs you won't be able to tackle in the saddle, spinning your legs in a Chris Froome style (even if not at Chris Froome speed).

The fatigue-free way in which the bike goes about its business is certainly one of its strengths.

Handling

As you might expect, the handling of the Gran Fondo isn’t electric, but then it doesn't claim to offer blistering cornering prowess.

What you do get is a calm, predictable entry into corners, the ability to hold a line, and therefore a big dose of confidence.

It takes some heaving over in particularly technical descents, for example, but it’s not alarming, and just means you need to plan ahead and try to avoid the need for mid-corner line correction.

A fairly long wheelbase is partially the reason for this, but the relaxed steering angle is the major perpetrator.

The front end does, however, offer a lot of feel for what’s going on beneath the tyre – a little too much at times, but the worst of the road vibes are ably damped out by the Deda compact drop bars, which offer just the right amount of flex to cope with typical British road surfaces.

What this all adds up to is a bike that won’t give you any nasty surprises when you’re riding among a group of hundreds of other sportive participants.

Its light weight and direct response will propel you up most hills in the big chainring, the brakes are excellent, and help you shave off speed on downhill corner approaches, and the all-day riding comfort is just as good as many more expensive bikes.

Add to this the fact that it’s fully Ultegra-equipped and if you do find yourself wanting more vim from your rides, all you’d ever need to think about upgrading are the wheels.

Ratings

Frame: Stretched out for comfort and stable handling. 8/10
Components: A full Ultegra groupset is great value at this price. 9/10 
Wheels: One area that would benefit from an upgrade. 7/10 
The Ride: A bike you could just keep going on for mile after mile. 8/10

Buy the Ribble Gran Fondo Disk from Ribble now

Verdict

A high-spec hundred mile machine that delivers great value for money and a confidence-inspiring ride that makes up for what it lacks in excitement with all-day riding comfort.

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 533mm 535mm
Seat Tube (ST) 530mm 530mm
Down Tube (DT) N/A 613mm
Fork Length (FL) N/A 380mm
Head Tube (HT) 147.6mm 150mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.1 70.7
Seat Angle (SA) 73.7 73.4
Wheelbase (WB) 990mm 991mm
BB drop (BB) N/A 70mm

Spec

Ribble Gran Fondo Disc
Frame High-modulous carbon frame and fork
Groupset Shimano Ultegra 6800
Brakes Shimano RS805 hyraulic discs, 140mm rotors
Chainset Shimano Ultegra 6800, 50/34
Cassette Shimano Ultegra 6800, 11-32
Bars Deda RHM02, alloy
Stem Deda 02, alloy
Seatpost Ribble Superleggera 27.2mm carbon
Wheels Mavic Aksium Disc, Continental Gatorskin 700 x 25 tyres
Saddle Selle Italia X1 Flow
Weight 8.64kg (size M)
Contact ribblecycles.co.uk

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