Ribble is aiming high with its new Endurance SL R road bike, and it delivers. I found it to be a speedy aero race bike with good handling and enough comfort to live up to the endurance name, and packing some serious equipment for the money.
Pros: Fast, comfortable, good spec for the money
Cons: Endurance name is misleading
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Ride and handling
With impressive speed and good handling, the Ribble Endurance SL R is as fast and capable as its looks suggest.
But first, we need to clear up some confusion. The name suggests a relaxed mile-munching armchair of a bike, but the geometry numbers suggest otherwise. The geo chart shows that the Ribble falls very much into the race bike camp. Let's compare and contrast.
This size large (one of five sizes) has a 562mm stack, 396mm reach, 999mm wheelbase, 170mm head tube and a 73-degree head angle. Those numbers are very comparable to a 56cm Specialized Tarmac, very much a race-bred bike, though the Ribble does have a slightly longer wheelbase and head tube to tease out a bit more stability and a less aggressive position.
What transpires is that Ribble has sought to create a race bike that can compete at the highest level, but also be comfortable and stable for riders who do want to bang out epic distance rides without being beaten up by a harsh riding bike. So race bike handling and speed, but endurance bike comfort. Check.
Fortunately, if it's a mixed message on paper, it's not a mixed bag on the road. This bike is quick. There's excellent power transfer with nary a hint of flex. Get up to speed and you feel the aero benefits: it maintains momentum exceedingly well, though it's not in the same league as something like a Specialized Venge when it comes to shoving you along the road, but then it's not a pure aero bike.
When it comes to dealing with rough roads and light dirt tracks, the Endurance SL R manages to mop up vibrations very well.
I found the riding position comfortable, too; even the stock handlebar suited my reach requirements and bar width preferences.
There's noticeable flex coming from the seatpost, and those dropped stays are intended to help benefit the amount of flex that can be produced at the saddle. It's not sofa smooth like a Specialized Roubaix or Cannondale Synapse, but it's very good. There's ample space for wider tyres as well.
Handling is best described as neutral. It's not the most exciting, lacking a bit of crispness to make it enticing to sling into corners, but it's predictable and consistent when lacing together high speed turns and dealing with technical descents. It's a very calm experience at a range of speeds and in many situations.
The Endurance SL R is a bike I was as happy taking to my local chain gang, where I spend an hour furiously trying to keep up with faster and fitter cyclists, as I was going out for a solo five-hour ride at the weekend, measuring my ride in climbing altitude on the many hills around the Cotswolds.
If pumping out long-distance rides in relative comfort and at speed is your thing, the Endurance SL R is well up to the task. Equally, if pounding around a race circuit is your ideal way to spend a Sunday morning, then fill your boots, the Ribble performs here too.
Ribble has been busy overhauling its range of bikes and the Endurance SL R has been subject to a complete redesign, with a focus on aerodynamics that has led to a claimed 28.5 per cent reduction in drag compared with the previous bike. It's not pitched as a pure aero bike, but an all-round and lightweight bike with some aero benefits.
It's been designed in-house, with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) testing used in its development and time in the wind tunnel to validate the aero improvements. Those have been achieved via a new truncated tube profile used on the down tube, seat tube and seatpost, aero fork blades and the now mandatory dropped seatstays, with Ribble applying a generous kink where they meet the seat tube.
The fork blades are bowed out away from the wheel, as much as the UCI rules allow, to decrease turbulence in this area.
The profile of the down tube has been designed to best balance stiffness for power transfer with comfort considerations.
It's disc brakes only, with full internal cable routing, flat mount brake callipers and 12mm thru-axles with flush fitting ends. One benefit of the disc brakes is ample tyre clearance, with space for up to 30mm tyres. The Endurance also lives up to its name with mudguard mounts, making this a really good year-round option. There aren't many carbon-framed endurance bikes with mudguard mounts, let alone race bikes, so top marks Ribble.
With the frontal surface area being so important to aerodynamic efficiency, Ribble fits a Level 5 one-piece handlebar and stem. It's made from carbon fibre and allows internal routing, the hydraulic brake hoses entirely routed inside, including into the frame, for maximum drag reduction and clean appearance.
The frame is constructed from a mix of Toray T1000 and T800 carbon fibre. Besides all the obvious aerodynamic aspects of the frame, there are clear signs of additional stiffness. The bottom bracket section has been oversized and accommodates a press-fit BB to provide maximum power transfer, while the head tube and fork steerer tube are similarly oversized.
Balancing all the aero and stiffness demands with the desire for comfort is a tricky challenge for frame designers. To ensure a level of smoothness on rough roads, Ribble has carefully developed both the shape and layup of the seatstays, seatpost and handlebar to help dissipate vibrations that can cause an uncomfortable ride.
Ribble builds each bike to order, and as well as a range of stock bikes, it allows you to configure the build to your budget and preference. This includes everything from changing the wheels to speccing crank length, bar width and stem length. There is also a choice of paint jobs for an extra £300 so you can go to town and customise your new bike.
The SRAM Red eTap AXS-equipped bike on test costs £6,399, although the range starts at £2,899, and there is also a rim brake version as well. If you're on a tighter budget you could take a look at the Endurance SL Disc, which has the same frame design but is made from more affordable carbon fibre. That model starts from £1,799.
SRAM's Red eTap AXS is the US company's brand new range-topping 12-speed groupset, with a novel approach to gear ratios based around 48/35-tooth chainrings and a 10-33-tooth cassette, designed to provide a wider range of gears with smaller steps. You can read a full in-depth review of the new groupset here.
The gearing range worked well on my local roads and climbs, helping me ascend the most savage gradients I could find. The quality of the shifting and braking is top-notch, though the chain did despatch itself to the bottom bracket shell at the bottom of one very steep climb. It never happened again and I wasn't able to repeat this incident.
The wheels are also from the SRAM family, a pair of fancy Zipp 302 DB carbon clinchers wrapped with 28mm-wide Vittoria Corsa Control tyres. They're a relatively new budget offering from Zipp, featuring a 45mm-deep carbon rim made in Indianapolis, laced to Zipp's 76/176D Centerlock hubs with Belgian CX-Sprint spokes and brass spoke nipples. The rear hub uses an XDR driver compatible with the new SRAM groupset.
The wheels are loosely based on Zipp's highly regarded 303 Firecrest wheels but have a smooth exterior surface; doing away with the iconic dimples helps to keep the cost down. The downside is an impact on aero performance, but you'll be hard-pressed to notice in the real world with all its variables. Of bigger concern is the lack of tubeless compatibility for future upgrading.
The Vittoria Corsa Control tyres are excellent, with a lovely road feel for lots of control in different situations. Grip in the wet and dry is top-level, puncture resistance is good, and durability seems decent.
The one-piece Level carbon handlebar and stem does limit easy fit adjustment, but you can spec a different size bar or even a non-integrated one on the Ribble website when you buy the bike. That's more than other direct-sales brands offer.
It's a nice compact shape with short-reach drops and aero tops, a comfortable place to rest the hands. There's a hint of flex in it, too, contributing to the smooth ride.
The drops are wrapped with Ribble's own cork ribbon bar tape.
Completing the build is a Fizik Arione R5 Kium saddle, which I found very comfortable.
An obvious rival to our test bike would be the Canyon Endurace CF SLX Disc 9.0 SL, which is also equipped with SRAM's range-topping Red eTap AXS groupset and nice carbon fibre DT Swiss wheels, and comes in cheaper at £5,699.
Also selling direct to consumer is German brand Rose. Its Team GF Six Disc will set you back £5,847 plus £35.90 shipping costs.
These two are outliers when it comes to bikes equipped with the new SRAM groupset. As this article shows, most brands are putting the new groupset on their top-of-the-range bikes with big price tags to match.
> Buyer's Guide: 18 of the best and fastest 2019 aero road bikes
Brands that sell through dealers struggle to be as competitive. If you want the new Trek Domane endurance bike with a similar spec you'll need to empty your bank balance to the tune of £9,650.
A Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc is similarly expensive, setting you back £9,500 with the latest generation Tarmac frame, Roval CLX 50 Disc wheels and Turbo Cotton tyres.
Both of these make the Ribble look like a bit of a bargain, and although the Canyon and Rose are ahead on pure price, it's worth factoring in the customisation available with the Ribble too. For some people, buying British will be an added value too.
The new Ribble Endurance SL R is a very good bike, a looker with some very sensible design features backed up by good handling and an abundance of speed and comfort. It has a spec/price ratio that kicks most of the competition out of the water, too.
But I'd consider a name change, Ribble. Speed SL R perhaps? Something that better relates to the ride experience and all the talk of pain and ecstasy and power transfer and performance advantage on the website.
Great ride, great spec, great price
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Make and model: Ribble Endurance SL R Series Disc SRAM Red eTAP AXS
List the components used to build up the bike.
SRAM Red eTap AXS - 12 Speed
Shifters - SRAM eTap 12 spd
Brakes - Cane Creek EE Brakes
Chainset - SRAM Red 37/50T
Bottom Bracket - Press Fit DUB 86.5 x 41
Cassette - XG-1290 10/28T
Chain - SRAM Red 12spd
Rotors - SRAM Centreline 6-Bolt 180/160
Front Derailleur - SRAM Red eTap AXS D1 Braze On
Rear Derailleur - SRAM Red eTap AXS D1
Wheels - Zipp 302 Carbon Clincher XDR, White Decals
Tyres - Contintental GP5000 700x25c, Black
Frame - Toray T800/T1000 Full Carbon Monocoque, Direct Mount Rim Brakes, 9mm QR Axle.
Forks - SL R Series Full Carbon Monocoque, Direct Mount Brakes, 9mm QR Axle.
Bars - Level 5 Carbon Integrated
Stem - Level 5 Carbon Integrated
Bar Tape - Level Cork Ribbon, Black
Seatpost - SL R Series Carbon, Black
Saddle - Fizik Aliante R5 Kium Rail
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?
The SL frameset is manufactured from a carefully selected blend of Toray's T1000 and T800 carbon layered to an exacting specification using an advanced monocoque mould technology incorporating an EPS inner core system which ensures complete consistency of the structural integrity of the fibres and resin throughout the frame. This system also eliminates excess material on the inside of the frame.
Aerodynamics have been a major consideration in the development of the new Endurance SL with the new frameset generating up to 28.5% less drag compared to the previous generation.
Truncated aerofoil down tube
Aero fork blade profile
Truncated aerofoil seat tube and seat post
Internal cable routing
Optional aero one piece cockpit enabling all cables to be routed internally and away from the airflow generating over 40% less drag compared to a conventional bar and stem set up (disc brake version has all cables completely hidden and caliper brake just the front brake cable).
Power transfer and torsional stiffness have been taken into account through the tapered downtube, oversize BB area and box section chainstays ensuring that your power wattage is efficiently transferred to forward motion. The tapered fork steerer, oversize headtube area and fork profile ensure that front end stiffness is taken care for out of the saddle efforts.
Comfort through road surface impact and vibration absorption is very important in an Endurance bike and the specific shapes and profiles of the seat stays, seat post and carbon cockpit ensure that the Endurance SL is smooth and comfortable over rough road surfaces and long distances.
The SL R frameset has discreet mudguard mounts and tyre clearances for up to 30c tyres ensuring that the Endurance SL R can be ridden in all season and weather conditions.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
It sits at the top of the Endurance SL R Series Disc range, but prices do start at £2,499. There's also the Endurance SL Series which uses the same frame design but a cheaper carbon and that starts at £1,799.
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Build quality and attention to detail is extremely good.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Ribble says: "The SL R Series frameset is manufactured from a carefully selected blend of Toray's carbon using more of the T1000 grade than the standard SL and layered to an exacting specification to reduce weight without compromising stiffness and strength. The frame is crafted using advanced monocoque mould technology incorporating an EPS inner core system which ensures complete consistency of the structural integrity of the fibres and resin throughout the frame. This system also eliminates excess material on the inside of the frame."
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It might say Endurance in the name, but the geometry chart indicates a typical road race bike akin to a Specialized Tarmac.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The height and reach numbers are fairly typical of a race bike so if that's what you're used to, you'll get on just fine with the Endurance.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfort over my rough local roads was very good.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Get out of the saddle and give it the beans and there's next to no flex to detect.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very efficient for sprinting and covering attacks in a race scenario, or just helping you to beat your mates to the town sign finish line.
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? Quite relaxed.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling is quite relaxed and not as flickable as some race bikes, so it's a good choice for fast distance riding.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The tyres gave good comfort and traction in all conditions and are a highlight of the spec.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The handlebar does limit easy adjustment for width and length but you could easily change that in the bike builder configurator.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
There's nothing I would rush out and change.
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Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
Good wheels but lack tubeless compatibility.
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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
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's cheaper than most other bikes with SRAM's new Red eTap AXS groupset, only beaten by the usual rivals, but factor in the customisation afforded by Ribble's online bike configurator and it's a good deal.
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Use this box to explain your overall score
The Endurance SL R is very good; it's impressive value for money and it offers a cracking ride.
Age: 31 Height: 180cm Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
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