Ribble's R872 is a really solid package for anyone wanting to ride quickly without handing over life-changing sums of money. This Shimano Ultegra Di2 build just sneaks over the £2,000 mark and for that you're getting a very responsive frame and fork, excellent groupset, decent finishing kit and some okay wheels. The R872 handles really well and it's easy to get on with, save for a slightly harsh front end. For the money it's easy to recommend.
The R872 has been in the Ribble range for years but this year's bike is a new design bearing the same name. 'Our challenge was to improve our best-selling carbon road bike,' says Ribble on its website. 'How do you actually improve an already perfectly balanced bike? The R872 has been so popular with road racers and triathletes alike that we listened to their needs for an even stiffer and even faster ride.'
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Reading that, you'll not be surprised to learn that stiffness has been beefed up over the previous incarnation, and if you're a fan of percentages then you're going to like this paragraph. Stiffness gains include: Fork (in-line) 16.4%; Fork (lateral) 26.5%; Head tube 8%; Bottom bracket 15.4%; Chainstays 14%. So, then: stiffer. There are also some marginal gains in aerodynamics from a redesigned fork and head tube, and the new bike uses carbon dropouts instead of alloy inserts. The geometry remains the same.
The ride reflects the stiffness numbers. The R872 feels very solid from the get-go, and the massive press-fit bottom bracket shell and beefy chainstays transmit all your leg power to wheel rotation without any mucking about. Even properly stamping on the pedals doesn't elicit any flex. It's the same story at the front, with the fork tracking extremely well. The steering feels precise and predictable, it's not a nervy bike at all.
One of the downsides of all that stiffness is that it very efficiently transmits road shock through the bike. It's most noticeable at the front: the bike doesn't glide over rougher surfaces and you get a thorough commentary on what's going on at the contact patch through your hands. Our test bike had a standard Deda Zero 2 alloy cockpit and cork bar tape; the R872 is fully customisable through the advanced bike builder on the Ribble website and you can spec a more expensive bar and better bar tape when you order it. I'd certainly recommend fitting the nicest bar tape that Ribble offers (Fizik Performance Soft Touch would be my pick); whether spending more on a posher carbon bar is worth the extra £120+ is a bit more of a marginal decision.
Comfort at the back isn't bad at all. The frame is reasonably compact which means there's plenty of seatpost showing, and the standard issue Superleggera carbon 'post does a really good job of taking the sting out of the surface. Less so the Selle Italia Flow X1 saddle, which isn't one of my favourites – but again, there are lots of options to choose from at the point of order.
Road and race track
I've thrown the R872 at a range of riding and I've been very pleased with the way it's performed. On two 100km loops of the Mendip hills it was a very capable and reliable companion. The bike doesn't have any vices: it's happy to cruise with minimal input, and if you do want to put the hammer down will jump to attention. It's easy to keep your momentum if you're riding quickly, with the Ribble eager to respond if you put in a dig to get over a short rise.
Once you get onto a more sustained climb the R872 is very competent at clocking up the metres of ascent. Seated climbing feels unflustered and the bike is comfortable when you're keeping most of your weight on the saddle; on steeper and looser climbs the bike sometimes scrabbles a bit at the front, but it's rare.
Out of the saddle the Ribble can feel a bit skippy over rough back road surfaces but up a well-surfaced climb it's very well behaved and you don't feel like you're wasting any power. The Fulcrum Racing Sport wheels are the only thing on the bike that's really a budget option, and at around 1,900g they're stolid and dependable, rather than lively. There's nothing really wrong with them though, and if you wanted lighter wheels you might be better off buying them separately, depending on your choice: upgrading to Shimano's RS81-C24 wheels will cost you £400 when you can buy a set for about £30 more than that, whereas swapping to Mavic Ksyrium Elites is a £300 upgrade and they're about £475 to buy online. If it was my money I'd probably spec Fulcrum Racing 7s – which are £40 more than the Racing Sports but significantly lighter – and save up for a posh wheelset at a later date.
I also took the R872 racing down at the local crit circuit. I didn't do very well, but that's par for the course right now, rather than being anything to do with the bike. I had to disassemble the headset and regrease it to get rid of an annoying creak (that I thought for a long time was the bottom bracket), so I took the opportunity to slam the stem for a more aggressive position. With a stack-to-reach ratio of 1.45 in the XL size tested the Ribble is not quite as nose-down as the Boardman Road Pro SLR (1.41) that I normally race on, but I didn't feel like the position was too upright for mixing it in the bunch.
The super-stiff frame and fork respond very well to being thrown into tight corners and then punched back out of them to try to hold a wheel; the heavy wheels take a bit of edge out of the bike's response when you're mashing the pedals to try to stay in the race, but if you were planning to race the R872 on a regular basis you'd probably want to roll on something lighter and more aerodynamic than stock wheels.
Shimano's Ultegra Di2 groupset is a firm favourite here at road.cc. 'With all the performance of Dura-Ace at half the price and with a weight penalty that only weight weenies could worry about, Ultegra Di2 steals the show,' said Dave Arthur in his review of the groupset back in 2014; there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then but Ultegra Di2 is still holding its own out there. There's a new Ultegra R8000 groupset coming, but you'll still be able to get bits for this groupset for many years to come.
Functionally, the groupset gave no issues at all, shifting precisely and accurately every time, even under heavy pedal load. The front shifts are especially impressive when you're putting the power down. I don't personally think that the ergonomics of the shifters are quite as good as the other two electronic systems – SRAM Red wireless is my favourite, and Campagnolo EPS is good too – but there's no issue with the performance. The dual pivot brakes are very powerful and were a bit grabby on the shiny alloy of the brand new Fulcrum wheels, but things settled down there after about 100km and now they're both effective and predictable.
So who should look at buying the R872? Ribble's sales pitch is at the privateer racer and triathlete, and certainly if you want to race you're getting a lot of bike for the money here. If you're not interested in pinning a number on your back but you still want to go quickly at the sportive or against your mates then it's a great bike for that too: the R872 is fast and agile, with a stiff frame and precise steering.
The spec for the money is about as good as you'll find, and the Ribble Advanced Bike Builder gives you a huge range of options if you want to customise your bike.
> Buyer's Guide: 10 of the best £2,000-£2,900 road bikes
If you're looking for a bike to ride fast, and value for money is high on your list, then this Ribble should be high on your list too. You can have the R872 with a Tiagra groupset for under £1,100 if you pick the cheapest options but you'll do better to spend a little bit extra on the wheels and finishing kit for a better all-round experience.
This build, with Shimano Di2 and Fulcrum wheels for £2,065, is a compelling package. I'd change the saddle and bar tape and fork out a bit more for the next wheels up in the range.
Sporty and well-specced fast bike that's just the ticket for budget-conscious racers
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Make and model: Ribble R872 Ultegra Di2
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame and fork: Full Carbon
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2
Wheels: Fulcrum Racing Sport
Bar/stem: Deda Zero 2 alloy
Seatpost: CSN Superleggera
Saddle: Selle Italia Flow X1
Bar tape: Deda Cork
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Ribble says: "The R872 is our signature carbon road race bike. New for 2017, our next generation R872 has been made stiffer with updated tube profiles and advanced carbon layups as well as gaining increased tyre clearance.
The Ribble R872 is a performance, race-bred, road bike. It has been technically engineered to optimise power transfer, meaning less energy is lost through frame flex. With the short wheel base this keeps ride handling precise and agile.
The R872 is now available in stealthy Matt Black and a new Matt Silver colourway.
If you are looking for a fast, efficient and competitive bike for racing, targeting key sportives, or taking part in triathlons then this bike is ideally suited to your needs. Looking good and racing well - the R872 is the bike for you."
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very well made and finished with colour-matched fork.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Full carbon, with carbon dropouts; Ribble doesn't specify the grade of fibres used.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Seat tube 72.9°
Head tube 73.3°
Stack to reach: 1.45
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Just right, sporty and reasonably aggressive.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfort at the back was good, there's a lot of road shock transmitted through the bar.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The bike is plenty stiff.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Lots of core stiffness through the BB and chainstays.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
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?
Precise steering, but not twitchy. Good at cruising speed, easy to point at the apex going fast.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Needs better bar tape and possibly a carbon bar or better alloy one.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
No issues there.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Again, no issues.
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Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
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Use this box to explain your score
Great value package, and a fast riding and purposeful frame. A bit harsh through the front end, but it's designed to go fast and it does that very well.
Age: 43 Height: 189cm Weight: 92kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
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