Preston’s Ribble Cycles has come up with astounding deals for as long as anyone can remember. Many cyclists got their first ‘proper’ bike from Ribble. The bulk of the company’s business is mail order, and Ribble bikes are not sold in other shops, but there is a showroom in Preston.
Even before you’ve straddled it, the Sportive Bianco is miles above the other bikes here in terms of value, even though this build misses the £1k mark by £73. You get a full carbon monocoque frame and full Shimano 105 groupset and it’s the lightest by over a pound.
It’s a bike with poise, its muscular-looking curved tubes widening or tapering at the points where strength or lightness is required. Ribble says the Sportive Bianco is built with ‘basic race geometry’ but has a slightly longer head tube, at 15cm in this case, for comfort on long rides.
The finish is great – Ribble’s carbon frames are made in the Far East at the same factories as bikes bearing much more famous names and if you didn’t know, you simply wouldn’t guess that it was so much cheaper. We certainly don’t see any reason why Ribble’s frames carbon frames should be regarded as inferior just because they have a Lancastrian name on the down tube, instead of a Milanese one.
The latest generation of 105 (5700) looks striking in matt and polished silver and matches the silver frame decals. The whole bike is impressively coordinated right down to the silver bar tape. The ITM wheels weigh about the same as the Campag Khamsins. A lighter set might be a better match for the sub-kilo frame, but that could be your first upgrade.
Being the only carbon bike here, there’s a pleasant surprise when you ride the Ribble. It’s not only easy on the eye, but it sounds great too! The carbon tubes resonate and hum on a fast ride.
It is a fast ride indeed – the green shoots of fitness might be reappearing after a hard-frozen winter, but the Ribble felt much quicker round the test circuit than the other bikes (we rode the Ribble last) and the times confirmed it actually was faster under similar conditions.
The ride quality is completely different from that of the other bikes. The back end is much softer – it even had us checking for a slow puncture – but responsive when pedalling hard. It seems contradictory, but the fastest bike here is also the most comfortable.
We're not putting the Ribble's good performance down to the fact that it's made from carbon, because there are as many bad carbon frames as there are good ones. It's tempting to go crazy with the oversizing and the stiffness, resulting in a dead frame with rigor mortis set in. Instead the Ribble is just nicely judged so that you really could spend all day on it and cover a lot of miles in the process.