We review the Ridley Dean RS Ironman / triathlon bike

Ridley Dean RS 1312B

Ridley Dean RS 1312B
(Fulcrum Racing 4 wheels)
£2,925
Ridley Dean RS 1312A
(same bike w/ 4ZA Cirrus Pro T100 wheels)
£3,665
ridley-bikes.com

Ridley’s Dean RS impressed us when we rode it for a Four Ride review last year, but testing it for a second time alongside some direct competitors really proves its distinctive but seemingly very effective aerodynamics and its composed comfort and handling character.

FRAME AND FORK

The Ridley’s fork and front end get things off to a thought-provoking start. The F-Splitfork puts two thin blades one behind the other in a staggered arrangement that’s designed to pull airflow away from the turbulence created by the spinning spokes.

The heavily shaped, back-sloped head tube extends down over the front of the fork, covering the mounting hole needed for the rear-mounted U-brake for a claimed front end drag reduction of 6.4 per cent. In other places, though, smoothness is deliberately disturbed with strips of rough textured tape added at strategic areas. The idea is to create a tiny amount of turbulence in the surface airflow which smooths the overall airstream (Ridley claims a 3.6 per cent drag decrease).

Control cables feed into the down and top tubes to keep things clean. The rest of the frame uses relatively conventional aerodynamics, with an ovalised down tube and the merest hint of a wheel-hugging cutout in the aero seat tube. A single-bolt sliding rail saddle clamp adjusts the effective seat angle, while a deep twin-bolt collar keeps your saddle height secure.

Five frame sizes make it easy to find an accurate fit. High-modulus carbon fibre construction and direct-mounted headset bearings mean it’s an impressively light frame, although that’s slightly offset by the heavy fork.

THE KIT

Overall weight is much lower than many other aero bikes at this price – impressive considering the all-alloy cockpit, mixed Shimano Ultegra/105 spec and Rotor 3DF cranks that prioritise stiffness compared with the lighter 3D+ version. Deeply hooked base bars keep hands feeling secure on descents, the pad position makes it easy to find a comfortable tuck and the curved Selle San Marco TT saddle is a great place to rest your rump even when rolled right forward.

There are two wheel options to choose from: the Dean RS 1312B (pictured) with smooth-rolling but not particularly aero Fulcrum Racing 4 wheels at £2,920; and the 1312A with 100mm-deep Cirrus tubulars for £3,665. Due to some difficult weather, we ended up testing both.

THE RIDE

Whatever the wheels, the Ridley makes a positive impression straight away. The front end may be radical but the default riding position feels anything but. Arms fall easily into the Deda pads and the MicroSHIFT tip levers feel light and precise as you click through the gears. We were shifting noticeably faster
than on the other bikes as we got up to speed.

The low weight of the bike combines with impressive power delivery to give it real pop. Whether we were pushing up the revs or attacking climbs on rolling courses, it always felt eager and enthusiastic, rubbing the other bikes’ noses in its responsiveness. Once you’ve got it up to speed it holds onto it really well, not least because the handling is excellent.

The deep fork and shallow-section rear tubes mean there’s a definite forward bias to its aerodynamic balance, giving secure and surefooted front end placement at any speed. It’s a good job too, as the slab-sided T100 wheels on the more pricey version snatch and gust badly even in light winds, to the point where we didn’t trust them not to wipe out our photographer on one extremely windy test day.

In calm conditions they cleave the air nicely though, for an unstoppable PB-smashing feel – and they’re a reasonable price when bought as part of the package. Top- quality Italian tub tyres add speed as well as a surprisingly smooth glide on such deep wheels, and even the Fulcrum options get premium Continental clinchers.

The frame and fork are both surprisingly forgiving for such a naturally fast and power-efficient bike, which makes the Ridley a pleasure to ride rather than a place to sit and suffer. The bars and saddle are welcoming from the first mile until you hop off and pad into the transition zone. Just make sure you do most of your braking with the front when you arrive as, like most cam assisted brakes, the rear one is decidedly spongy and the Dean is likely to be travelling faster than you expect.

Combining obvious and more subtle aerodynamic innovations with solid power delivery creates a forgiving ride character. Add to that an excellent specification for the money and the Ridley Dean RS is a standout ride.

BIKE SPEC

  • Frame and forks

Size tested: M
Sizes available: XS, S, M, L, XL
Weight as tested: 8.36kg (1312B) / 8.06kg (1312A)
Frame weight: 1,406g
Fork weight: 560g
Frame: Dean RS carbon
Fork: 4ZA F-Splitfork TT

  • Transmission

Chainset: Rotor 3DF, 53/39T
Bottom bracket: Rotor
Cassette: Shimano 105, 12-25T
Chain: KMC X10
Derailleurs: Shimano Ultegra 6700
Shifters: MicroSHIFT TT

  • Wheels

Front: Fulcrum Racing 4 (1312B) / 4ZA Cirrus Pro T100 (1312A)
Rear: Fulcrum Racing 4 (1312B) / 4ZA Cirrus Pro T100 (1312A)
Tyres: Continental Competition 700x22c (1312B) / Continental Grand Prix 700x24c (1312A)
Wheel weight: 1,220g,1,650g (1312B) / 1,070g/1,500g (1312A)

  • Other components

Stem: Deda 01
Bars: Deda Crononero
Headset: 4ZA
Saddle: Selle San Marco Aspide TT
Seatpost: 4ZA Aero TT
Brakes: Tektro TT levers, 4ZA Cirrus U-brake front, side-pull calliper rear

Pros
+ Impressively light and responsive, with power-friendly speed sustain
+ Excellent default ride position plus fatigue-reducing comfort

Cons
– Slab rim design means the T100 wheel option (Dean RS 1312A) is a ‘calm day only’ choice
– Not Shimano Di2 compatible