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On my first ride out on the Ridley Fenix Classic, about an hour in, another rider asked me how I was getting on with it. And at that point, I realised that I hadn't even thought about it once, and I knew I was going to enjoy riding it.
This is a comfortable, well mannered and quick road bike for people that aren't looking for a super-low race position. The frame feels direct and is a lot more forgiving than it looks; our full Ultegra build, similar to the stock C20, complements the chassis very well.
You might not think it from looking at the 205mm head tube on our large test bike, but the Fenix Classic is a bike that's been ridden to victory at the highest levels of the sport. A lot of people get carried away with the lightest frames and the lowest positions, but that's not always what counts. If you're fresher than your opponents come the shakedown, you might have that bit extra. And the Fenix is designed to keep you fresh. It's designed to be comfortable. And Team Lotto-Belisol have ridden this frame in classic races, to good effect.
One of the things that Ridley have done in the quest for comfort is to use a lower tensile grade of carbon. The website claims it's a mix of 30T and 24T fibres, whereas the sticker on the frame says it's all 24T. Either way, with top end race bikes being made from 60T and 65T carbon that's a lot stiffer, you need more of this stuff. And on top of that Ridley add a bit extra on the bits of the bike that are likely to get bashed, the sides of the top tube and the like.
That all adds up to a frame that weighs a claimed 1,270g in this large size, which is half a kilo more than the very lightest race framesets. Even at that weight our test bike was comfortably under 8kg with alloy finishing kit and a 7kg race build would be easy enough with off-the-shelf kit. The grade of carbon, and the thicker layup in ding-prone areas, mean it's likely to be a fair bit more resilient to knocks and scrapes than a lightweight carbon frame. If you're not one to wrap your bike in cotton wool, that could be a useful trait.
And does the lower strength carbon result in a more compliant ride? Well. There's a can of worms. We talked our friendly PhD scientist who's currently studying carbon pressure vessels. His answer? It depends. The grade of carbon could have an impact on the compliance of the structure but the layup of the frame, and even the resin used to bond it together, and the quality of the bond, all have a major influence. So it's not as simple as just speccing the right cloth and pressing go. There's a whole heap of factors.
Whatever Ridley have done with the Fenix Classic, however, has worked. It's a comfortable bike to ride, happy to transport you over broken road surfaces and jarring cobbles (we sought out a few, just to check) without beating you up too much. Don't get me wrong, it's not a sofa and it still feels like a quick and responsive road bike, but it definitely takes the sting out of the crappy tarmac we have so much of round here.
Switching out the supplied Pro Turnix saddle for my favourite Charge Spoon helped too, as did fitting some bump-munching bar tape. It'll take 25-28mm tyres (stock bikes come with 25s) for a bit of extra cushioning too, though ours came with 23s. With a frame that Ridley claim to be pavé ready, you'd expect the extra space for wider tyres; our bike is currently wearing a set of 27mm Challenge Paris-Roubaix clinchers and although there's a few tight spots there's no real issue getting them in.
There's plenty of stiffness in the bits that matter – bottom bracket, chainstays – and stamping on the pedals rewards you with a sprightly jump forward. It's not in the superbike league in that regard, but that's more down to the overall weight, and the weight of the wheels, than it is to any flex in the frame.
At the front the tapered head tube and chunky fork give a precise feel to the steering; it's not a twitchy bike at all, the steering is neutral to slow and it's very happy at cruising speeds to roll along with the minimum of rider input. You might find it a bit of a change if you're coming off a sharp, low race bike but there's nothing wrong with the steering, it's just a bit more leisurely. Point it at the apex of a downhill bend and there's no suprises, just a touch of understeer maybe but the Fenix feels solid and predictable.
The Ultegra 6800 groupset fitted to this bike is due a review all of its own, so I won't go into massive detail here, but suffice to say that it's functionally indistinguishable from Dura-Ace for not much more than half the price. It's really, really, really good. Shifting is crisp with a light action, the new slimmer levers are comfortable and easy to use, the brakes are among the best dual-pivot units I've ever used. And I like the looks, too. Your mileage may vary there. All in all, if you want a sporty groupset it's the best performance/price combination there is in the Shimano range.
The wheels are new Ultegra too, and they're also good. At a claimed 1,640g a pair and £329 retail price you could argue they're half a rung below the rest of the groupset but they're very well made and have stayed stiff and true through testing. They're tubeless ready if you want to go down that route. Like all Shimano wheels they use loose balls rather than cartridge bearings, and you can adjust the bearings without pulling the wheel to bits, which is handy.
The rest of the finishing kit is Pro Vibe 7S alloy, and it does the job just fine; more exotic kit could lower the weight, of course, and a carbon seatpost might give your nethers a bit more cushioning, but even with the 31.8mm alloy post the ride was very good. Once I'd swapped the saddle.
At £2,500 for an Ultegra build this bike is competing with the likes of the Cannondale Synapse and Giant Defy and it's similar money for a similar build. It's designed to do a job – make long rides comfy – and it does it very well. Even with 23mm tyres, an unfamiliar saddle and standard bar tape it was well up to that job. Swap those three components out for something more forgiving and you have a great bike for all-day comfort.
Impressive all-day comfort from a frame that's been proven in the classics.
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Make and model: Ridley Fenix Classic Ultegra
Size tested: 58
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Fenix C, 24t HM Unidirectional carbon, PF30, Tapered headtube, Internal cablerouting
Fork enix C , 24t HM Unidirectional carbon, Tapered carbon steerer
Brake shifters levers Shimano Ultegra 11s Dual control
Brakes Shimano Ultegra 11s
Front derailleur Shimano Ultegra 2s
Rear derailleur Shimano Ultegra 11s
Cassette Shimano Ultegra 11s, 11-25
Chain Shimano Ultegra 11s
Crankset Shimano Ultegra
Wheels Shimano Ultegra
Tyres Continental Grandprix 4000S 23mm, Folding
Saddle Pro Turnix
Stem Pro Vibe 7S
Handle bars Pro Vibe 7S
Seat post Pro Vibe 7S
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It's solidly built and well finished.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Ridley use lower strength 24T carbon for this frame, which could be a factor in its comfort. Or it might not be.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
585mm reach, 205mm head tube, 72.5° seat tube, 73.5° head tube, 602mm stack, 400mm reach.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Just about perfect with 20mm of spacers.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, it's a comfortable bike. It takes the sting out of rough surfaces without ever feeling vague.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Plenty of stiffness down the middle of the chassis through the bottom bracket.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, very efficient.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
No, not an issue.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's a fairly light bike so easy to manouever. Steering is direct without being twitchy.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Pro Turnix saddle is a long way from being a favourite, but it's not a stock bike option.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, very much.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, it's a real alternative to the more common sportive bikes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium 853
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.