An all rounder that's aggressive enough to be fun whilst maintaining comfort
Ridley is a no nonsense, Belgium born race brand. They offer a concise selection of road, cyclocross and mountain bikes – each model family designed to fit a clear purpose, and on the road side race tested by pros at Lotto-Soudal and Lotto Soudal Ladies teams.
The key models within the women’s range are the all-out racer, Jane (sister to the men’s Noah), the climber’s bike Aura (like the men’s Helium) and the Liz. The Liz is an endurance race bike, like the men’s Fenix. It’s designed to be comfortable for all day riding – even on the cobbles of the classics – whilst remaining light enough to enable rapid climbing and racey enough for a sprint finish.
The Liz is available in carbon, higher grade carbon on the SL, and in an aluminium frame option. We primarily focused on the carbon Liz SL Ultegra, but we also took the Liz Alloy out for a few spins around the country lanes of Surrey to compare the two.
Geometry of the Ridley Liz
Whichever Liz you look at, it’s clear that though this is an endurance bike, it’s an endurance race bike. Where Ridley are concerned, the racing heritage stays high on their priority list
The stack and reach on the Liz Carbon SL (530/375 in an XSmall) doesn’t differ a great deal from the Ridley Jane (527/374, also XSmall) – which is the all out racer. The Liz Carbon and Liz Alloy differ slightly (492/370) which will make the bike that little bit lower and shorter. Regardless of the minor distinctions – these are bikes that you can get low and aggressive on.
At around 5 ft 5, I was happy on the XSmall once I’d lengthened the reach with a longer stem. Over the course of around two months I experimented quite a bit with the drop, testing the bike ‘as standard’ with all the spacers below the stem, eventually dropping it to around two thirds of the way. I never even got as far as ‘slammed’ and I don’t think I’d be able to without working on my core strength. What I really liked was that there was a huge amount of adjustment available – which means most riders would probably be able to get their Liz set up just right for their style of riding.
The 4ZA Stratos E2 handlebars on my XSmall Liz felt wider than those I’m used to, and long term I’d probably look to swap in a narrower pair. I also noticed that when riding in the drops, the brake levers seemed a little further away from the bar than I’d like. On the Shimano Ultegra set up in question, it’s actually really easy to wind these in to obtain a better fit. The Liz SL goes down to an XXSmall – suitable for a rider ‘under 160cm’, which makes it a touch smaller than the men’s XXSmall Fenix. It’s good to see Ridley have made an effort to cater for those on the shorter end of the spectrum, but I’m not sure how much below the guideline of ‘under 160cm/5 ft 2’ you could go.
Achieving comfort without losing power on the Ridley Liz
Whilst the stack and reach of the Liz SL isn’t a million miles off that of the Ridley Jane race bike, the frame is a world apart in terms of layup and tubing, and it’s these differences that achieve the comfort required for all day rides and bumpy British roads.
Ridley have fitted the Liz with a 27.2mm seatpost, which lessens the vibrations transferred to the rider’s derriere. The seatstays are skinny, which limits the transmission of bumps, whilst the wheelbase is longer than the Jane, providing greater stability, which will come in handy on rutted ground.
Our test bike was fitted out with 25mm tyres, but the Liz can cater for up to 28mm rubber, which will of course provide added squish over rutted roads. In the case of the Liz SL Ultegra on test, these were Continental Ultrasport Folding tyres – a fairly ‘all purpose’ tyre that’s fast enough for summer miles but has enough puncture protection for winter rides (well, I didn’t get any punctures).
The Liz SL is the lightest of the family, using a higher grade material than the standard Liz Carbon. In terms of power transfer, the diamond shaped downtube is pretty chunky and the BB86 bottom bracket used is wider and means there’s room for stiffer chainstays.
Spec and finishing kit on the Ridley Liz SL Ultegra
The Liz SL starts at £1,799 with a Shimano 105 mix, and goes up to £5,000 with SRAM Red eTap. Prices in the family start from £949.99 for the Ridley Alloy with Sora and the Carbon model starts at £1,549.99.
The SL Ultrgra that we tested costs £1,999.99. The shifters, brakes and cranks are all Ultegra, with a Shimano 105 cassette. The chainset is a 52/36 – which is a ‘mid-compact’ and therefore a bit racier than nearly all bikes we see at TWC, which mostly come with a 50/34 compact. I didn’t find this to be an issue at all, even riding some of the 20 per cent climbs around my home town – partly aided I imagine by the 11-28 cassette which offers plenty of gear range.
The saddle, seat post, wheels and handlebars all come from 4ZA. I was particularly impressed by the 4ZA Cirrus Pro Lady saddle. It’s not often I get on with the saddle fitted to a bike as standard, but this one suited me just fine. I imagine a wheel upgrade would make the bike feel a little punchier, but the 4ZA RC23 SL set did the job and have a high spoke count which will make them sturdy.
The decals are a little bit marmite. Nearly every man I rode with whilst out testing this bike (I just didn’t happen to ride with any women – the Surrey hill women’s riding crew is still pending!) commented positively on the colour scheme. Personally, it’s not my style but I know a lot of riders will love it and Ridley offer plenty of alternatives. I’m not sure the coloured portions of the paintwork are massively resilient – I did scratch one of the decals on the top tube, very slightly, but quite easily and I’d worry if this was my long term bike I’d be constantly concerned about damaging the aesthetics.
All the detail aside – what really matters is the ride.
I started out on the Liz Alloy. I was immediately surprised by the geometry – I felt like I could get long and low on this bike which is unusual in an entry-level aluminium platform. Cornering felt expertly pointed and I could trust this bike to take me pretty fast on the descents. Riding at a leisurely pace I enjoyed the mixture of comfortable compliance coupled with a more aggressive fit. However, when it came to jumping out of the saddle to accelerate or increase the speed to a fast paced tempo – it kind of felt like I was hitting a roadblock.
It took quite some analysis to understand what it was I was struggling with. It was almost as though the frame in Alloy was just too stiff and too heavy for me to power up to speed. Essentially the Liz Alloy was fine enough when taking it steady, but I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say I was excited by the ride.
Of course, you’d expect a more expensive bike to be more enjoyable to swing your leg over – but moving on to the carbon SL model – my experience improved dramatically.
The Liz SL had all the aggression I wanted in the frame set up – once I’d added a longer stem and dropped a couple of spacers – but it was light and nimble, easy to power up the climbs and infinitely less rattle inducing over bumpy UK roads.
Over long, climb heavy rides across Surrey and Kent, I felt the comfort on offer was beautifully blended with performance. The road bumps were still transmitted through the handlebars and I was well aware of changing surfaces, but not in an unpleasant way. There are bikes on the market that offer a great deal more compliance, and if you hate being bumped around and want a silky smooth ride then the Liz might not be for you – but if a little bit of road buzz makes you feel alive, you’ll get it here.
It’s no surprise of course that the carbon bike, in a higher spec, was significantly lighter and felt faster on the climbs, but even compared to others in its class I’d say this bike climbs with ease. When it came to going back down the other side, the same sureness of handling I found in the Alloy model shone through and I felt the level of control the Liz offers meant I could hand over much of the responsibility to the bike.
The only time this all-rounder disappointed me a bit was when seeking an additional surge of speed. I still couldn’t find the ultimate ‘top gear’ to sprint or smash up a short climb. This said, I could ride it hard for a few hours without feeling fatigue (well, no fatigue as a direct result of the bike!) – which in the long run is probably faster, certainly for those with all day adventures on their bucket list.
Verdict on the Ridley Liz SL Ultegra
A great all round endurance bike that feels smooth enough to iron out fatigue over long rides, though you should still expect to feel a fair amount of road buzz on rough country lanes. Plenty of adjustability means it’s easy to set this bike up to suit your goals. It’s not a comfort cloud, or a sprint demon – but if you want a little bit of both then you’re on the right track.
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