by Nick Legan
I wanted to love the Ridley Noah, I really did. We had one of those special moments about a year ago, as one lined up next to me at a local crit. My eyes met its swooping, aggressive lines and the yearning began; it was lust at first sight. And that rush of emotion proved to be equally fleeting once I got on one.
The Noah is one of the quickest bikes in the world. It blew away the rest in our torsional stiffness test, and though it didn’t fair as well in the wind tunnel, it was still tightly packed with the others, and leagues ahead of our baseline road bike.
So why was I disappointed? It’s a thoroughbred race bike, perhaps the purest race frame in our test, and I’m all about race bikes. I should have loved it. But I didn’t. The fact was that the bike was simply too stiff for my 145-pound frame.
Scientific Testing: 23 of 30 points
The Noah proved the stiffest of the bunch in the Microbac torsional stiffness lab test, 4.2 percent stiffer than the Blue, and 21.7 percent stiffer than the Felt. It didn’t fare as well in the wind tunnel. According to A2’s Mike Giraud, the standard down-tube placement of the shift cables may have had some negative effect on an otherwise fast frame. Likewise, the frame tubes, though aerodynamically shaped, are somewhat wide. This helped in stiffness, but harmed in aerodynamics.
Subjective Ride Quality: 20 of 30 points
The very attributes that gave the Noah such good lab scores — excellent torsional stiffness and a beefy tubeset — hurt it when the rubber met the road. I tried everything to make the bike more comfortable; swapping out tires and wheels, dropping tire pressure, swapping saddles, but to no avail. In the end the Noah gets a poor 5 of 10 points for comfort.
Acceleration was quite good, particularly under sprint loads. The Noah was not exceptionally light at 7.68kg (16.9 pounds), but had none of the sluggish feel often associated with heavier bikes and wheels. Nonetheless, sprinting on the flats left me with better sensations than accelerating mid-climb, earning 7 of 10 points for acceleration.
Handling was sharp and predictable, inspiring confidence descending switchbacks and leaning hard into fast corners. Though the handling was without any tangible flaws, we never achieved the sort of man-and-machine mind-meld tracking we have experienced with our favorite bikes; 8 of 10 for handling.
User Friendliness: 8 of 15 points
The Noah’s saddle-clamp mechanism is a chore, requiring a 13mm wrench and some serious patience to get everything set up correctly. The 4ZA brakes are weak and have a quick release similar to cantilevers, where releasing the cable means losing control over the brake entirely. Brakes are not a place to cut corners.
Value: 14 of 20 points
At $4,900, the Noah is nearly $2,000 cheaper than the next bike in this test, and almost half the price of the most expensive. Yet it still comes with a nearly complete SRAM Red group (barring the terrible brakes), bombproof Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels, and a stiff Deda cockpit. In all, it’s a very similar group to the much pricier Blue and Cervélo bikes. That said, the Noah’s ride quality and brake choice cut the value down.
Weight: 2 of 5 points
At 7.68kg (16.9 pounds), the Noah was the heaviest in our test by a decent margin, even without aerodynamic wheels.
You Can’t Handle The Truth! Or, Um, The Stiffness
Caley says the Ridley is too stiff. I say Caley is too skinny. It doesn’t take much to jostle his little 145-pound stick figure of a frame.
The Noah is a race bike. It is designed to go quickly. As Nick often points out, race bikes are single-purpose machines that don’t always perform perfectly as all-rounders. A race car and an SUV handle differently.
I believe Caley’s main beef is not the Noah’s torsional stiffness under pedaling load, but the ground-to-rider vibration transfer. After attacking him, I will defend him somewhat — the Noah does not damp the small but frequent bumps as much as you might like. This characteristic was most notable riding roads with a lot of surface grit; there, the handlebar and saddle vibrated noticeably. But when riding steady on clean roads, the Noah felt comfortable. Plus, when you stand up and sprint, the thing moves directly forward in no uncertain terms.
Bontrager sells a vibration-damping handlebar plug. The concept is simple — a little dead weight added to a handlebar kills the high frequency shaking. I believe a similar thing happened here with the bike. I weigh 50 pounds more than Caley, and the Noah felt just fine.
Bottom line? Go have a sandwich, Caley, and stop griping about a bike you can’t handle.