We review the Ribble Ultra TT Ironman triathlon bike
Ribble Ultra TT
Lancashire direct-sell super-shop Ribble is a regular test winner, but its all-new carbon fibre Ultra TT aero bike is definitely an uncompromising ride. It’s ideal for those riders who prioritise aerodynamics and power delivery, but less appealing in comfort and weight terms.
FRAME AND FORK
The matt carbon frame certainly looks the business with tapering top tube and notched junction between down tube and the back of the fork crown keeping airflow smooth behind the extended head tube section. Gear and rear brake cables disappear into the big neck of the Ultra to minimise drag too and both down tube and seat tube are sliver-thin wind slicers in section. The seat tube also gets a Cervélo-style profile, curving back round the rear wheel before extending almost vertically upwards past the low set, flared aero seatstays up to the aero seatpost. The twin position saddle clamp seatpost comes with blanking plates to cover whichever mount hole you don’t use rather than leaving it open to disturb airflow. There’s even a rubber shroud covering the seatpost clamp which will help stop water seeping in on wet rides as well as smoothing airflow.
The Shimano Tiagra brakes are left in conventional front of fork, rear of seatstay positions rather than being tucked away out of the wind. Correct outer cable length on the rear brake is crucial to stop it being pushed round by the slightly awkward routing. The Ultra is also heavier than the previous Ribble carbon Aero TT frameset and significantly heavier than the simpler shaped alloy Ribble TT option, and ride quality is more rigid. This potentially makes them a better choice for riders attacking courses with more altitude or without the power to get the Ultra up to the warp speeds where it really works.
As well as aggressive overall pricing, Ribble’s vast parts inventory means buyers can specify pretty much whatever spec they want from the online ‘bike builder’ menu. Here Ribble has based the build on a complete Shimano Tiagra groupset for solidly dependable smooth shifting through the tip shifters on the extensions. The Mavic Cosmic wheels are well proven too, with deeper rims and flat bladed spokes adding a drag-reducing element. The Michelin tyres offer a good balance of grip, rolling speed and lifespan.
The Deda cockpit with well shaped pads and straight extensions is very aero, light and stiff out of the saddle. It’s definitely on the low and narrow side if you’re new to using a tuck position though so a different option might be more beginner friendly. The CSN saddle needs to be nudged nose down to be comfortable when you’re crouched into a tuck but a proper soft-nosed tri saddle can be chosen from the builder menu if you prefer.
Injecting some softness into the ride should certainly be a priority for any rider looking to tackle longer bike legs on the Ribble. It’s immediately obvious that the extra carbon fibre in the weighty frame adds a serious amount of multi-directional stiffness to the ride. That’s great in terms of power delivery if you’re a muscular rider who can tie less rigid frames into knots with a flex of their quads. In common with a lot of carbon frames, the faster you go, the more the bike tends to skim rather than clatter over rough sections, with the fibre and resin composition definitely removing some of the vibration that would otherwise be felt through roads of a less-than-perfect surface quality.
That means we can see this bike being deservedly very popular amongst those who competing in short course time trials, smashing out personal bests for 10s or 25s on a local dual carriageway on a mid-week night. Over longer distances at lower speeds, though, the jarring and jolting coming through both forks and back end can be tiring particularly on shoulders already aching from the swim. The relatively high overall mass can also outweigh the advantage of the drive train stiffness and start to drag on long climbs or situations when repeated acceleration is required.
On flat courses that’s obviously less of an issue and higher average speeds definitely work in favour of the Ribble. The steep forward seat angle is ideal for keeping pelvis and lungs open while dropped into a tuck. The steering is both predictable and obedient right through the speed range so keeping the pace up on twistier courses is easy. Despite noticeable shunting around from the flat bladed spokes the Ribble stays surprisingly well controlled in gusty conditions, which make it a prime candidate for upgrading with deeper section aero wheels when funds are able to stretch far enough. Adding speed via the wheels also puts you into the exact sweet spot where the aero shaping and carbon shock absorption really start to make a big difference.
+ Aero frame with good power delivery for short-course speed
+ Smooth Shimano transmission and quality cockpit
– Rigid ride can make it uncomfortable on longer rides or rougher roads
– High frame weight affects overall bike mass and upgrade-ability