The Sportiva Carbon Frame
The Ribble Sportiva Carbon Women’s bike is designed to be a comfortable enough ride for all day adventures, but the geometry and carbon lay-up have been manipulated to provide enough stiffness and liveliness to ensure the ride isn’t deadened by the extra compliance.
Ribble describe the wheelbase as being short to provide extra nippiness. Any such claims will always need to be placed on a scale – but the 48” size I tested had a wheel base of 982mm, about the same as my own fairly quick footed race bike.
The top tube tapers nicely as it reaches the seat tube, and skinny seat stays meet fairly low beneath the seat tube, creating a wide junction which would certainly go a way to dampening out road buzz. The downtube is still pretty chunky though, as is the area around the BB86 bottom bracket, offering assurance of a sprightly ride.
Ribble have also built the bike to suit a female form. We cringed a little at the description on their website: “Women have proportionally longer legs but shorter torso and arms than your average male.” The whole long legs/short torso argument is pretty outdated. However, when we asked for more information, we were got a much more detailed explanation and one we’re pretty on board with.
James Dove, a director at Ribble, told us: “It’s not that long ago that a ‘women’s bike’ was simply a bike with a step through down tube. Those women looking for a ‘serious’ road bike typically would end up riding a men’s or unisex bike. While riding a unisex bike is in most cases no means a problem for women, there are a few instances where it is harder to get the fit right. From fitting a large number of customers over the years – we still do so in our Preston shop – we typically find women have a shorter reach than men – especially in the arm length.”
This explanation marries up to what we’ve been told by Specialized and Canyon, both of whom claim to have carried out extensive research. Jim went on to say: “Traditionally this [shorter reach] was simply solved by fitting a shorter stem and moving the saddle position slightly. However, the Sportiva carbon features a shorter overall reach. What this means is we don’t have to a compromise handling performance when fitting a shorter stem to the bike. There comes a point where a shorter stem can deliver a twitchy ride which isn’t the sort of riding experience you want for the customer.”
This explanation made sense to us, and we were excited to see what the frame would offer in terms of ride quality. As you’d expect, the frame and fork are both carbon, and we’re told different grades of carbon – Toray T700 and T800 – are blended to offer stiffness where it’s wanted and compliance elsewhere. All cable routing is internal, and the frame has clearance for 25mm tyres as well as being compatible with both electronic and mechanical gearing systems.