Probably best known for their cyclocross race heritage, as well as a deep line of road & gravel bikes, Belgian bike maker Ridley is expanding their mountain bike offerings to cover a wider range of XC racing with their first full-suspension bike. The new full carbon 100mm travel Sablo aims to take the same stiff, race-ready character of their CX race bikes and evolve it into a cross-country bike to take on everything from the tougher crop of XCO race courses while being comfortable and durable enough to tackle the extremes of multi-day adventure races like the Cape Epic. We had a chance to get a bit of ride time on the Sablo over some technical alpine trails and came away feeling fast. Check out the full details of the new bike – including pricing, spec, weight & availability – plus some updates to Ridley’s alloy XC hardtail all after the break…
Ridley says that when they started the Sablo project, the goal was to build a light & agile cross country race bike, but they really wanted to prioritize “a focus on performance and durability” to handle the technical conditions of modern XC racing. Much like their cyclocross race heritage, Ridley wants the bike to stand up to the rough & tumble life of a race bike where it will get ridden hard through the worst of weather and trail conditions.
As a race bike light weight was important, and at a claimed medium frame weight of 2050g with all its hardware the Sablo is competitive with other 100mm bikes, but ability to withstand a bit of racing abuse took first priority. That meant that Ridley opted for wide-set, well-supported, and well-sealed Enduro bearings at all of the bikes pivots. It also was the driver of the chosen suspension design with Ridley choosing to use a faux-bar four-bar with proper bearings at each pivot instead of a flex stay design that they felt was more of a compromise in rear end stiffness while also losing a bit of suspension suppleness.
The suspension itself was designed and optimized in a close partnership with Fox, with a regressive shock tune specifically developed for the Sablo. Ridley also sees that suspension as a critical element of a race-ready XC bike, so all of the different spec levels will benefit from the same top Factory-level Float DPS shock with its Kasihma coating and a single remote lockout paired with the fork’s lockout.
Interestingly enough for what seems more like a road & cross company, Ridley had built-up an experienced mountain bike design team a few years back with their carbon hardtail development, so they had been anxiously waiting to get to work on the full-suspension bike.
The Sablo is a move for Ridley to offer more in the off-road segments, but they aren’t trying to rebrand themselves as a mountain bike brand. It is more the case that they very much have the CX race heritage, and see a lot of cross-over and potential in the XC race category, both for their riders and their network. Don’t expect to see a Ridley DH bike (not many Belgian downhills), but they definitely see a lot of opportunity for more traditional mountain bike racing to build off of their race pedigree.
The Sablo is a Boost spaced bike with 15mm front & 12mm rear thru-axles. It gets full internal cable routing for any drivetrain setup you want – 1x or sideswing double, mechanical or Di2 – plus internal dropper seatpost and that remote shock lockout routing.
The carbon bike comes in four frame sizes, three color options, and three spec levels that all share the same premium carbon layup and same 29er big wheel platform.
The gloss on matte black with gold detailing will come exclusively on the limited edition top-spec bike with a complete XX1 Gold Eagle 1×12 groupset with a retail price of 7000€.
The next two builds will be available in either of the two paint schemes that we had a chance to ride a matte green frame with orange details, or a gloss black bike with red highlights. The middle spec will be the 5900€ X01 Eagle complete that also sticks with the wide range 1x drivetrain, while for 4700€ you’ll get a Shimano XT 11 speed mechanical double. Each of the new 2018 year bikes will be available in Ridley shops later in the fall, around November 2017.
We caught up with Ridley on their new bike in the Italian Dolomites at the Eurobike Media Days. While there is plenty of lift-served terrain in these Tyrolean Alps, we took the Sablo to the slightly less technical, but equally steep cross country trails that wind up and down the lower steeps of the big mountains. With a faux-bar, effectively single pivot suspension design and a shock designed to be supple, the bike benefits from the specifically tuned Fox suspension.
In the full lock mode the rear end of the bike packs all of the power transfer stiffness we could hope for, with no real discernible lateral flex. On smooth climbs it rocketed up the ascents like a race hardtail, yet on more technical climbing, the middle platform position of the rear shock still felt efficient and bob free, while tracking the ground and staying well-planted over rough stones and a number of wet slippery roots. Then fully opened on the descents the suspension was happy to eat up trail bumps, root steps and rocks without being overwhelmed.
For sure our tests are limited in scope, but with a couple of loops on a technical 10km track with 300m of climbing we came away with a feeling that the bike climbed exceptionally well, while remaining comfortable and predictable on the techy descents. We rode the bike in both the base 2x & middle 1x Eagle configurations both of which worked well with the bike. The Eagle was lighter, but the XT double did offer tighter gearing jumps for those more sensitive to a perfect cadence when climbing. It definitely feels like a first full-suspension effort from Ridley, and goes to show that they’ve made a solid transition from the race tech in their CX bikes to the XCO/XCM side of things.
Ridley’s cross country hardtails are also getting some new updates as well. The affordable alloy Ignite has gotten an overhaul for next year, with a move to Boost spacing, a longer modern geometry, plus new spec with more 1x setups. The Ignite Alloy gets an XT double for 1500€, a GX1 1x for 1500€, and a Deore/SLX double 1100€.