Ridley Factory Tour

ridley_officeOne of the many highlights of our trip to Belgium was an opportunity to visit the Ridley Factory.

The cool thing about Ridley, and what really sets them apart from the crowd, is the fact that many of their frames are finished by hand in Belgium. The final frame prep, painting, clear coat, and assembly are all done by a small team at Ridley’s facility in Hasselt, near the heart of Flemish cycling.

We got to see the whole process from start to finish, and it was definitely pretty cool. The best part though was getting to check out all the eye candy at the end :).

Check out the photo galleries below to see more

Frame Prep

Painting and Decals

Clear Coat

Assembly

Eye Candy

Hear more from Ridley Founder Joachim Aerts

 

See more about our trip to Belgium Here

Ridden and Reviewed: Ridley Fenix

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The Ridley Fenix was built to tame the cobbled roads of Flanders

The Belgian Swiss Army Knife

A few months ago when Ridley invited us to come to Belgium to learn more about their brand, we were pretty excited. When Ridley told us were going to be testing their bikes on cobbles, we were a little less thrilled. We’ve ridden cobbles before, and if you’ve ever wanted to know what’s like to ride a bike inside of a paint mixer, taking a spin down a Belgian lane is a pretty good approximation. We knew that Ridley makes some tough bikes though, so we figured this would be the ultimate test of a bike’s durability.

The Ridley Fenix is what Ridley describes as their “Swiss Army knife” bike. The bike was designed at the behest of the riders of Ridley’s pro-tour teams, who needed a bike that could conquer the long, brutal spring classics races in Italy, Belgium and France. Looking at lessons learned from the Damocles and the Excalibur, two of Ridley’s most successful bikes ever, Ridley’s designers came up with the Fenix. Built with a more “endurance” tuned geometry for improved comfort over long distances, flattened seat stays for improved compliance on the terrible cobbles, and diamond-shaped tubes for incredible durability and strength, the Fenix is one of the toughest, most versatile bikes ever.

The Performance-exclusive Ridley Fenix CR1 is built around the same frame the pro's ride

The Performance-exclusive Ridley Fenix CR1 is built around the same frame the pro’s ride

About The Ride

Because Ridley had a lot of journalists and vendors visiting the week we were there (during that Tour of Flanders), the bike we ended up with wasn’t exactly spec’ed the same as the Performance-exclusive CR1 model (different crank, handlebars and saddle), but it was close enough to give us a general feel for the bike. And wow, were we impressed.

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The Fenix more than lives up to its reputation. From the minute we first put a leg over the bike, it felt like it came alive. The handling was snappy, and the bike felt responsive from the first pedal stroke. On the pavement it handles like one of the finest race steeds we’ve ever encountered (in fact the bike more than held it’s own when we took it to the brutally fast Wednesday night ride at the famed Zolder Circuit), but where the bike really came to life was on the cobbles.

We’re not going to say that it made the cobbles smooth like butter–there’s only so much a bike can do, but the Fenix certainly made the ride less jarring than we remembered. Turning onto our first cobbled section at speed, we braced for the first bike impacts and tried to prepare for the bone shaking hits. We didn’t really need to though, since the Fenix definitely took some of the sting out of the cobbles. It was especially apparent in the saddle, where the flat-section seat stays made a noticeable difference and transmitted much less vibration and absorbed the worst of the hits.

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Even these cobbles were smoothed out some by the frame’s flattened seatstays

The bike also held it’s line and tracked far better in the rough stuff than we were expecting. Even our lighter weight tester, who normally gets bounced off the cobbles pretty well and ends up all over the road, was able to find a line and hold it on the Fenix over some of the worst cobbles we encountered. On the one occasion when we did crash, the bike was just fine—thanks to the diamond shaped tubing that gives it a higher strength and makes the tubes more resistant to side impacts. After a few kilometers (sorry, we were in Europe), we could definitely see why the Lotto-Belisol guys love the Fenix.

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The Fenix handles rough roads well, with a stable handling feel that helps you hold your line

About The Bike

After our experience testing the bike, we had a chance to talk with Joachim Aerts, founder of Ridley, and Dirk, the lead product developer, about what went into the bike. It turns out that the inspiration for the Fenix came not only from the shapes found in nature, but also from real world riding. Both of them grew up in Belgium, riding on the cobbled roads, and thought about the kind of bike they would want to ride on those roads. After getting more input from pro riders, they turned to the Lotto-Belisol mechanics, and asked for their opinions about the bike. Would it be easy to work on? Could it survive a crash? Did the internal cable routing make sense from a practical stand point? Once all these questions were answered and problems solved, and only then, did the bike move into production.

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The carbon fiber frame found on this test bike, as well as the Performance-exclusive CR1 and CR2 are the same as the ones ridden by the pro’s from the Lotto Belisol team

Ridley, and the Lotto-Belisol team, were so thrilled with the final product that they didn’t even make a special version for the pro team, which is fairly unusual in the bike industry. The pro riders literally get off-the-shelf Ridley Fenix bikes, painted in the team colors, and built up with their pro livery parts.

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Jurgan Roelandts of Lotto-Belisol chose to ride the Fenix (outfitted with team-issue Campagnolo Super Record 11 EPS and Bora Ultra wheels) in the Tour of Flanders

Overall, we’d say that the Fenix is one of the best all-around bikes we’ve ever ridden. Stiff enough to hold it’s own on one of the fastest group rides we’ve ever done, comfortable enough to ride all day on some of the roughest cobbles in the world, and tough enough to survive a fairly gnarly crash. If you want a bike for riding a charity ride, a gran fondo, and even racing, then this is definitely the bike for you. This bike not only gets our seal of approval, but the seal of Belgian approval as well.

Introducing Ridley Bikes at Performance Bicycle

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If you know nothing else about Belgium, you should know that the roads are cobbled and the weather is, well, we’ll be polite and call it changeable. If your bicycle is anything less than the toughest thing around, you won’t be owning that bike for very long. Which is why if you ever go to Belgium you’ll notice that most people ride Ridley bikes—because they’re made in Belgium, for Belgian roads.

When your roads look like this, your bikes better be as tough as the riders

When your roads look like this, your bikes better be as tough as the riders

Ridley Bikes was founded with the design philosophy of “tough enough to ride, fast enough to win, tested in every day life”. The company was started in Hasselt, Belgium in 1990 by Joachim Aerts, a former juniors racer. Originally founded as a bicycle paint shop in his father’s garage, Ridley has since evolved into one of the most innovative and dependable bike brands in cycling.

Joachim got his start by offering both custom frames, and later custom paint for pro and amateur riders. At the time, during the age of steel bikes, most professional would have their bikes built by the favorite custom frame builder (usually someone local who knew the rider well), but would have them painted to match their sponsor and team colors. When riders switched to aluminum bikes however, entirely new construction techniques became possible and Joachim used his experience as a juniors racer to begin designing a  new generation of bikes that were tougher, stronger, and faster than anything available before.

Ridley's facilities remain in Hasselt, where most of the bikes are still finished and assembled

Ridley’s facilities remain in Beringen, where many of the bikes are still finished and assembled

The evolution only continued with carbon fiber, and Ridley now makes bikes that are shaped to be strong, engineered to be fast, and ones so light they practically float up the hills.

The Ridley line-up consists of four basic models:

The Ridley Fenix was engineered for cycling’s “Spring Classics” races. It features a more relaxed geometry than their other road bikes, and Ridley’s innovative diamond-shaped tubing shapes for superior strength. The Fenix is available in 4 models, in both carbon fiber and aluminum, exclusively at Performance Bicycle.

The Ridley Fenix is one of toughest bikes around –  perfect for racing, gran fondos, and every day riding.

The Ridley Noah was designed with input from famed sprinter Andre Greipel, and is designed solely for speed. With water-droplet shaped tubes and the F-Split fork to knife through the wind. The Noah is available with a Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed groupset, exclusively at Performance Bicycle.

With it’s aero tube shapes, F-Surface treatment and revolutionary F-Split fork, the Ridley Noah is one of the fastest bikes in the world.

The Ridley Helium was designed for climbers, with circle shaped tubes that offer the best strength-to-weight ratio possible, allowing Ridley to shave off every possible gram. The Helium is available with a Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed group set, exclusively at Performance Bicycle.

The circle shaped tubing offers the best strength-to-weight ratio possible, which allowed Ridley’s engineers to make the Helium as light as possible.

The Ridley Liz is a women’s specific bike, and was designed for the ultimate in fit, performance and comfort without compromise. The Liz is available in two carbon fiber models, with either Shimano Ultegra 6800 or Shimano 105, and as a carbon fiber frameset.

To get the best mix of performance, comfort, and fit, Ridley worked with several pro women’s teams to find the best geometry for the Liz.

Today, Ridley is one of the most recognizable bikes in cycling. Famed for their toughness, and for their race-winning performance under the riders of the UCI World Tour Pro team Lotto-Belisol, Ridley’s penchant for innovation has made them one of the most imitated and watched brands in the industry, but the only one with the heritage and hard-earned reputation to be able to say “We Are Belgium”.

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