Ribble's CX5 offers very good value for a full-carbon bike with a quality mid-range specification. We were left a little confused by Ribble's claims that it's "comfort orientated", because of the quite aggressive geometry, but for those who want a cyclo-cross racer they can also use for commuting or mixed-terrain riding, it's a sound choice.
This is version two of the CX5, and it now comes with the latest flat mount disc callipers, 12mm thru-axles on the front and rear, and 35mm tyre clearance. It also comes with mudguard mounts for the commute so you can really make the most of this bike.
Using Ribble's Bikebuilder you have a variety of components to choose for your build – ours came with a full Shimano 105 groupset with 50/34t compact chainrings and 11-32t cassette, 33mm Challenge Grifo clincher tyres, Mavic Aksium disc wheels and Deda finishing kit. It's an acceptable build for the money, and although an overall weight of 8.76kg certainly isn't the lightest, it's within the realms of what you'd expect for a cyclo-cross bike.
The CX5 looks like a pretty standard mid-level cyclo-cross build and geometry on first inspection, with a slightly higher bottom bracket than an adventure bike and plenty of clearance for 35mm tyres – until you get to the head tube and stack/reach. Both are pretty aggressive, which suggests a bike more suitable for a racer who wants a do-it-all bike, rather than a commuter who wants something more relaxed than a race bike.
Heading towards the back and the bottom bracket area, on this size medium test bike the seat tube is the same length as the top tube for a traditional, quite square appearance, which helps to add some comfort by putting you a little more upright.
The bottom bracket is press fit and oversized – easy to maintain and change, and very stable to help when you're really putting some power down on hills.
Usefully, the top tube of the frame is nice and flat to help with carrying in race situations, and cables are internally routed to keep things clean.
Stu Kerton mentioned the firm ride and lack of compliance in the Ribble Sportive Racing disc road bike frame, but I found the comfort offered here acceptable on long mixed-terrain rides. That geometry will potentially be a backache for those who want a more relaxed ride, but you do get a generous number of spacers at the front to give you a more upright position if you so desire. For commuting I kept all the spacers underneath the stem, and then moved two up for a cyclo-cross event to get down into a racier position.
As such, the bike does offer versatility, but Ribble's marketing of the CX5 as a "comfort orientated, all-round bike" seems a little off the mark. I'd say it's definitely best for racers, and if you're expecting a plusher ride than an endurance road bike with wide tyres, this isn't it.
The 33mm Challenge Grifo tyres are designed specifically for cyclo-cross and they eat up the mud, rocks and stones well when you're riding off-road, offering very decent grip. I was happy with their performance, and they're probably the best pure 'cross option available on Ribble's Bikebuilder. Not surprisingly, they're not great on the road, where cornering is compromised, and I would opt for a tyre with a shallower tread such as the Michelin CX Jet if I wanted one set for both commuting and cross.
Mavic's Aksium wheels are solid and light enough for racing and I was happy with this upgrade from the default Fulcrum Racing Sport wheels on the Bikebuilder.
What I would change is the Deda Zero 1 bar, which transmits a lot of road buzz; I felt it especially at higher tyre pressures on my commute. I'd be inclined to swap it for Deda's Zero 100 instead, costing you £67 more but saving you 55g in weight.
Although my rear isn't particularly fussy, it didn't get on too well with the budget Selle Italia X1 Flow saddle. It has what looks like a pressure relief channel, but it's so shallow and a bit harsh so you don't really get any of the benefits. You can get a Fabric Scoop for £30 more, which is what I'd go for.
Shimano's 105 groupset is plenty reliable and, for me, is the lowest spec I'd choose for cyclo-cross racing when you're banking on being able to change gears rapidly and the mud is clogging up underneath you.
If you prefer 1x and want more stopping power than the 105 140mm rotors, you can upgrade to SRAM Rival for another £130.
With all my recommendations you'd be looking at £1,849 for a full build, which still represents very good value for money. In fact there aren't many full-carbon cyclo-cross bikes close to the £1.5k price point, but one that does challenge the CX5 on value is Planet X's full-carbon XLS. These start from £1,299 with SRAM Rival and comparable components elsewhere, though I can't vouch for the performance of the frame or fork. Boardman's CXR 9.4 is £2,299, but this comes with SRAM's highly-rated Force 1x groupset.
Ribble's CX5 is an ideal bike for a road racer who might dabble in cyclo-cross over winter, and who wants to use the same bike for commuting or mixed terrain riding. Likewise, for a dedicated cyclo-cross racer this will do the job and then some: it's possible to get into a very aggressive position, and can be specced highly enough to satisfy serious cyclo-crossers – upgrades to SRAM 1x or a Shimano Ultegra groupset are both options available on Ribble's Bikebuilder, and might be more suitable for racing.
Great value cyclo-cross racer that's capable of doubling up as a commuter, but it's an aggressive ride
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ribble CX5
Size tested: Medium
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAME Ribble CX5 toray carbon
FORK Ribble CX5 carbon
DERAILLEUR Shimano 105
SHIFTERS Shimano 105
BRAKE LEVER Shimano 105
BRAKES Shimano 105
CHAINSET Shimano 105 50/34
BB Shimano BB71 pressfit
CHAIN Shimano 105 5800
WHEELS Mavic Aksium disc
CASSETTE Shimano 105, 11-32t
TYRES Challenge Grifo 33 Pro Cross Folding Tyre
STEM Deda Zero 1
HANDLEBAR Deda Zero 1
SEATPOST Deda Superleggero
SADDLE Selle Italia X1 Flow
*Note: all components and finishing kit customisable on Ribble's online Advanced Bikebuilder
Tell us what the bike is for
Ribble says: "The CX5 is for fast off-road riding or cyclocross racing, with a full carbon frame. The CX5 is our new, top of the range, race ready, off-road adventure package. We've used all our 'cross experience to tick all the boxes with the CX5 including the very latest flat mount disc calipers - the new standard for consistent braking."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The carbon frame and fork are glossy and easy to clean, and the frame has proven to be strong and capable after I gave it quite a battering over the test period.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Full carbon frame and fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Raised bottom bracket, clearance for 35mm tyres, flattened top tube for easy carrying, and a short head tube. The latter suggests this is more suitable for a cross racer who wants a do-it-all bike rather than a commuter who wants something more relaxed than a road race bike.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach could put you into quite an aggressive position, although you get enough spacers to bring the front end up.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's a fairly comfortable frame; the only slight issues I had were with the tyres and handlebar.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Plenty stiff enough and no noticeable flex in the frame.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, although it's a bit heavy. Acceleration felt good.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Precise and not overly lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
I found it a little difficult to steer into very tight corners, but for all but the most extreme off-road cornering it did the job.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I'd change the tyres and handlebar to improve comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The handlebar doesn't match up to the rest of the spec and doesn't soak up all the buzz from rough off-road surfaces or gravel.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
As above, I'd change the handlebar – and possibly the tyres if I was using the bike more for commuting.
Let down a bit by the tyres, but the bike can shift.
Quite impressive for a heavier bike.
No problems on descents, very sturdy.
Not so good on the road because of the tyres.
A bit difficult to steer into extreme angles.
Weight makes climbing a bit of extra work.
Shimano 105 is tried and tested, with crisp shifting from the comfortable shifters and levers. The compact double setup did the job very well in most cases, though I'd prefer 1x on very steep and changeable courses.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
On the road no problems, but I'd prefer 1x for cyclo-cross racing on most courses. Shimano 105 is the lowest priced double chainring option I'd consider for cyclo-cross.
Wheels and tyres
Thru-axles increase stiffness, and the flat-mount discs bring the obvious benefits of better braking.
I put them through a lot but they're still solid and true.
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so
Strong and sturdy wheels that are light enough for racing; no complaints.
The tread is quite prominent and affected cornering – they're best for very muddy cyclo-cross courses.
The tread is yet to wear at all after hundreds of miles.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so
I would opt for a tyre with a shallower tread such as the Michelin CX Jet on Ribble's Advanced Bike Builder if I wanted one set for both commuting and cyclo-cross.
Quite a bit of buzz through the Deda Zero 1 bar (especially at higher pressures for commuting mostly on tarmac).
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
If I was to make one upgrade on Ribble's BikeBuilder it would be to pick Deda's Zero 100 instead: £67 more and a 55g weight saving.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The brakes give enough stopping power, but some might want rotors bigger than the supplied 140mm.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
A thoroughly enjoyable ride. I was impressed with how the CX5 performed on my commute and in a cyclo-cross race situation, although I'd like to see better 1x options on Ribble's BikeBuilder – and better clarification over what/who the bike is exactly for.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road bike (currently Specialized Tarmac) My best bike is: Ridley Chronus TT bike
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, triathlon races
After cobbling together a few hundred quid during his student days off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story), Jack bought his first road bike at the age of 20 and has been hooked ever since. He was Staff Writer at 220 Triathlon magazine for two years before joining road.cc in 2017, and reports on all things tech as well as editing the road.cc live blog. He is also the news editor of our electric-powered sister site eBikeTips. Jack's preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking (the latter being another long story), and on Sunday afternoons he can often be found on an M5 service station indulging in his favourite post-race meal of 20 chicken nuggets, a sausage roll, caramel shortbread and a large strawberry milkshake.