The Ridley Orion C20 road bike tested, rated and reviewed
Ridley Orion C20
Much like cars and the Nurburgring most bikes see a fair bit of cobble action during their development, and the Ridley Orion’s seat-tube proudly bears a “Tested on Pavé” sticker – a reminder of Ridley’s Flemish origins. The Orion C20 sits in Ridley’s Endurance range, although the fact that it shares that tag with half the bikes that Ridley makes tells you something about the company’s focus.
Frame and fork
We’re not sure that white would be our first choice of bike colour for a cobbled spring Classic, but the Orion is certainly a handsome bike out of the box that’s sure to draw covetous glances.
With a boxy, octagonal-section down-tube and top-tube and a short, tapered head-tube, the Orion promises a fast ride despite its rough road leanings. Ridley are still using a conventional threaded bottom bracket, which is starting to look a little old fashioned these days and limits how wide the down-tube can get. And the chainstays are relatively slender too.
Ridley has used wishbone-style seatstays, with a single tube running from the seat cluster to the rear brake which then splits into the two stays. It’s a sleek design, a quality that it shares with the rest of the frame even though all the cables run externally. There are barrel adjusters on the gear cable stops on the down-tube, but you might want to add in-line adjusters to the cables, which some riders find easier to reach and can also be less fiddly to operate on the fly.
Up front is a graceful curved fork. It looks the part and is supple on poor surfaces, although the carbon only goes as far as the legs – there’s an aluminium steerer rather than the lighter, stiffer full carbon types which are offered elsewhere for the same money.
Shimano’s Tiagra group is par for the course at this price, and the Ridley packs the full set, including the brakes which are a cut above the various off-brand callipers often found at the carbon entry-level.
It would have been nice to see a hint of 105, but Tiagra is what we’d expect – 105 is a bonus if you can get it. There’s very little wrong with the current generation of Tiagra unless you’re troubled by the exposed gear cables. In terms of function there’s little to tell the levers apart from their costlier brethren.
Ridley has opted for a compact chainset and a 12-28 cassette, which is a sensible range of gears for all but the most extreme riding situations. Ten cogs at the back means reasonably small gaps between them, too. Strong riders or flatlanders might want a slightly higher range but changing the cassette is no big deal. You can get the Orion with a triple chainset if you need more range too, though naturally there’s a weight penalty for this option.
It’s good to see a wheel set-up that’s practical and straightforward, with conventional Shimano hubs laced to 30mm deep rims. No gimmicks, reliable and you’ll have no trouble finding spokes to fit them should you need to. Wrapped around the rims are a pair of 23mm Continental Ultra Sport tyres, which are a safe bet though a little less easygoing than 25mm types.
At just over 9kg, the Ridley is a reasonable, if not startling, weight. Despite its endurance tag, the Orion has a low, racy riding position and short, steep geometry. This means that handling is agile and it’s easy to put the power down.
Ultimate pedalling stiffness isn’t as high as the likes of the Giant TCR or Cube Agree GTC, although depending on your riding style you may not notice anyway. If you’re a big or powerful rider, or you like your sprints, then it may matter to you, but if you’re more about getting the miles in, then it probably won’t be a factor. There’s more than enough chassis stiffness to keep everything in line and accurate in the corners.
The real strength of the Ridley is comfort. The pavé test claims are more than an idle boast – the Orion really is very smooth on rough roads despite its 23mm tyres and oversized seatpost, and makes you want to just keep going. The Orion doesn’t tread the fine line between stiffness and comfort as successfully as the Cube Agree, but you’re unlikely to have too many complaints about the ride quality with this handsome machine.
+ A forgiving ride makes for easy mileage
+ Conventional wheels are easy to work on
– Not as lively under power as some of its rivals
– Component spec merely adequate for the money