We recently put the hammer down aboard one of the fastest road race bikes ever made, the Ridley Noah SL, at a preview of new cycling gear for 2015.
This bike was the highlight of our trip. The Noah is a sinister tool that blazes past its enemies. It rides like a road bike, but with the aerodynamic tweaks imported from the Dean Fast Time Trial bike, it’s an engineering masterpiece.
For example, take a look at the front fork. That slit running down the blades creates a vacuum within the fork where the spokes come churning past. A traditionally designed fork creates high pressure between the forks, leading to high drag on the spokes. But the vacuum created by the slit, the brand cites, reduces wind drag and buys you speed.
Although the bike is very similar in terms of geometry to the prior Noah, this new frame is a huge 400 grams lighter — 980 grams in a size medium.
The Noah SL felt lustworthy during a test ride. Its bottom bracket is as stiff as any bike, which makes it awesome for sprinters or criterium racers. Standing on the pedals on a steel or even an aluminum bike feels slow after riding a bike like this that translates so much of your effort into forward speed. It feels almost as if more forward speed is being made than you are putting into the bike.
Aside from the stiff platform, some of that speed is likely coming from the ingenious tube shapes on the Noah.
Ridley molds grooves into the leading edges of its tubes, which creates turbulence at the leading edge. This decreases the low pressure behind the tube that causes drag. If this sounds confusing, just know that dimples make golf balls fly farther, and this tube uses the same principle.
The company claims it is more comfortable than the prior version, and it didn’t feel overly rough. The space provided by the new fork for wider 25mm tires opened the door for much of this improvement.
Ridley also claims the new carbon layup adds comfort. This could be true considering how drastically re-worked it is — 400 grams of weight shaving is a lot of change. This serves as a reminder that when paying for carbon fiber, there IS a lot going on that you can’t see. This bike is assuredly built right behind its good looks.
The Noah SL will sell for just over $4,000 built with Ultegra components and Fulcrum 5 wheels, and it will be available spring 2015.