As I recently got called up for the latest instalment of our Staff Bikes series, it was a relief that all the parts for my brand new road bike just about arrived in time for it to appear in the video above. The bike in question is built around a Ridley Helium SLX Disc frameset, with a few lavish upgrades that put it into dream build territory. In my opinion, anyway...
A bit of backstory on this bike and first, a confession: I’m quite aware that my level of cycling fitness can’t really justify a bike this fancy, but after having my hip resurfaced in July (which kind of scuppered my weight loss plans in the short-term, but it was nice to get the op out of the way months ahead of schedule) I figured a nice new bike would be an excellent way to motivate me to get cracking with my recovery. Perfectly sound logic, right?
The aim with this build was to create a modern, all-round road bike that was a step or two down from something really high end, without spending insane amounts. That meant full internal cable routing, electronic gears, a total bike weight that comes in close to the UCI's 6.8kg limit and most of the trimmings you'd find on a top-of-the-range bike, but tailored to me and my needs.
While it wasn't inexpensive by any means and I've chosen some pretty serious kit, it wasn't close to being as crazy expensive as many modern superbikes. Buying the frame, groupset and some other bits through the Cycle to Work scheme meant I actually managed to keep things relatively affordable. I already owned the wheels and barstem, then the Helium SLX frame was discounted to £1,999 at Merlin Cycles, add an Ultegra Di2 groupset and my trinkets like the OSPW and Dura-Ace chainset and we're coming in at around £4.2k before the C2W savings. The salary sacrifice is much less than the average person probably spends on their car every month anyway, and I know which one makes me happier.
Enough about me and how I’m trying to convince myself that I really needed this bike, let’s get into the build...
The frame is a Ridley Helium SLX Disc, which is a 2020 model and described as "a performance bike for any challenge". I chose this because it’s super light at just 780 grams for the frame, the geometry is on the sensible side for a race bike and it’s quite pretty, with more traditional-looking tubes than a lot of modern road bikes.
I couldn’t help but notice that Ridley had recently released the new Falcn all-round race bike (you can read our full review here already) and I was a bit tempted, but the lower price of the Helium and the colour scheme meant I couldn’t justify going for the newer model. The Helium does everything I want it to do and supports full internal cable routing, something - purely for aesthetic reasons - that I wanted, because I've never owned a completely cable-tidy bike before.
As mentioned above, I also wanted a bike that was in between the aero and lightweight categories, and I think this frameset fits the bill being so light, yet integrated with some small nods to aero across the frame. With the 55mm-deep wheels it's coming in at 7.25kg, so could easily drop below 7kg with some lighter wheels and other small adjustments.
I know in reality that having a 7kg or an 8kg bike makes no difference to riders like me, and I'll be much better off losing some kilos off myself - but I just like the feeling of a light bike.
The wheels were taken off my previous best bike, and they are the Fulcrum Speed 55s, complete with the brand's USB ceramic bearings and a nice screechy freehub (the most important bit, obvs). They're set up with 28mm Continental GP5000 tyres and feathery Tubolito inner tubes to save a little more weight.
The wheels are fast and agile at just over 1.5kg for the pair, the depth makes them good all-rounders and they don’t push me about too much in the wind. I may invest in some alloy wheels to use this bike more over the winter months next year, but for now it’s only coming out on dry days. I'll probably just use my trusty Trek 1.2 for most of my winter rides, and the rest of the time look longingly at this one while waiting for spring...
The barstem is courtesy of Black Inc, with a 40cm width and 90mm stem. 90mm might be a bit unfashionably short, but for me and my little arms - and calculating what reach I would need with this frame size - it’s right for me.
There’s 28mm of rise underneath that stem, which is on the upright side but I'm ok with that. I'm an average chopper who isn't going to be winning sprint finishes any time soon, so this just offers a bit more of an upright and comfortable position for long days in the saddle. With my fitness and mobility improving fairly quickly right now, I may treat myself to a professional fit next year to fine-tune the position, and see if I can get away with lowering the front end a bit.
You might have also noticed those rubber bungs on the bars, which cover bolt holes to fit Black Inc's bespoke tri bars to the tops. I'm not really planning to use them, but it's a good option if I ever find myself wanting to do some really long distance rides in the future.
Black Inc has also considered computer integration too, and its specially designed out-front mount with my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt on top has been fitted to the bars since these photos were taken (there are threads underneath the barstem to bolt it on).
Another thing I really like about the latest road bikes, and particularly bikes of the past four years with the most recent generation of groupsets, is the ever-increasing gearing options – both in terms of range and the actual number of gears you get. This leads me onto my choice of gearing for this build, which is mostly Ultegra 12-speed Di2 throughout, but with a bit of an upgrade to the chainset - a Dura-Ace 9200 model with 54/40-tooth chainrings and 165mm cranks.
A word on the short crank length first: with my hip and knee situation, I tend to go for shorter cranks because there's evidence that this can open up the hip angle and reduce the peak load on the knee. It might not make a huge amount of difference, but every little helps.
That big old chainset might seem ambitious, but I'd argue with modern 12-speed cassettes that have plenty at the back, even riders like me have enough range to get up steep hills. The 40 ring at the front and the 34-tooth sprocket at the rear gives me a gear that would be comparable to riding on the 36 ring of a mid-compact chainset and a 28-tooth cassette sprocket at the back, which is still a pretty generous bailout gear for general road riding.
I’m not exactly a mountain goat and don’t live in the hilliest part of the world, so I think for me, I have more than enough gears for any riding scenario with this set-up. If I ever do decide to take on a huge hilly bucket list ride, I’ll probably consider investing in a smaller chainset.
I say all this, it’s probably half of the reason I went for this set-up... the other half being that the Dura-Ace chainset just looks cooler than the Ultegra one in my opinion. And in my head I’d saved quite a bit of money buying the bike on the Cycle to Work scheme, so this was totally financially justifiable (please don't tell my other half).
On the subject of extravagant purchases, you might have noticed something going on at the rear mech, and that is a very nice and shiny oversized pulley wheel system from the French high-end components brand Nova Ride. I don't need it, it's probably not going to make me faster or more efficient, but does it look cool? In my opinion yes, and again, perfectly financially justifiable...
The seatpost is Deda’s Superleggero carbon, with a 25mm layback* in a 27.2mm diameter and 350mm length, and set to my saddle height of 71.5cm. It weighs just 185g and houses my Di2 battery inside nice and safely. Hopefully it will also give me some extra bump-taming comfort, and it saves a little bit of weight over a more basic alloy seatpost - again, neither particularly essential, but it’s just my preference.
(* Ignore the slammed forward saddle, that's now been moved back about 2cm. It was very hastily stuck on for this photoshoot!)
The saddle, a Selle Italia Watt Kit Carbonio Superflow, is a bit of an unusual choice for a road bike build because it’s actually a triathlon saddle (the Ironman logo is a bit of a giveaway). The branding means it's perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing saddle in the world and clashes a bit with the rest of the bike, but I just find this seat super comfortable in any position, and have put it on multiple bikes I’ve owned and tested in the past two or three years.
I think the only things I haven't mentioned are the bar tape, which is Wolf Tooth's Supple Lite complete with blue Cinelli plugs, the bottom bracket which is a Hope PressFit 46/24mm, my trusty Garmin Rally power meter pedals for Shimano SPD-SL cleats, and the bottle cage, which is a discontinued Giant Gateway carbon model. I also swapped out the MT800 disc brake rotors for the MT900, because I just prefer the looks of the latter.
Frameset: Ridley Helium SLX
Fork: Ridley Helium SLX
Wheels: Fulcrum Speed 55 DB Carbon
Tyres: Continental GP5000, 28mm width
Inner tubes: Tubolito S-Road
Shifters and Brakes: Shimano Ultegra R8170 Di2 levers, Shimano Ultegra R8170 callipers, Shimano RT-MT900 disc rotors (160mm front, 140mm rear)
OSPW: Nova Ride Carbon Ceramic
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra R8100 (12-speed, 11-34t)
Chainset: Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 (54/40t chainrings, 165mm cranks Bottom bracket: Hope PressFit 46/24mm
Cockpit: Black Inc Integrated Aero Barstem (90mm stem, 40cm bar width)
Headset and spacers: Forza/Deda Elementi
Bar tape: Wolf Tooth Supple Lite
Bar ends: Cinelli
Saddle: Selle Italia Watt Kit Carbonio Superflow
Seatpost: Deda Superleggero (27.2mm diameter, 350mm length)
Bottle cage: Giant Gateway Carbon
Pedals: Garmin Rally RS200 SPD-SL
Bike weight (without pedals and accessories): 7.25kg
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour around my new bike. What would you keep and what would you take away if it was yours? Let us know in the comments as always.
Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.