Ridley Helium SL - 2014 $3,695.00
Lighter than Air
Every frame company wants to tout that it has the lightest frame in the industry. And yet, constructing an ultra-light frame just to be ogled by blogs and techies doesn't serve much of a purpose unless the ride is also something to behold. Ridley Bikes has constructed the Helium SL, which sits squarely at the front of the market's low-weight road frames. And it's rideable to the Nth degree.
So how light is light? And, how does it ride? These are the two questions we'll address. Starting with the weight, the SL is a mere 1050grams, frame and fork. With the 300gram fork, this leaves just 750grams for the frame. This was achieved through the use of a sophisticated carbon selection, utilizing a strategic placement of 60, 40, and 30 ton high-modulus carbon fiber. Before the SL, the Helium featured a predominantly 30 ton carbon composition. Why is this important? Well, the 'ton' designation in '60 ton' refers to the carbon's ability to withstand 60 tons of pressure per square millimeter. So, basic logic tells us that a stronger carbon fiber requires less carbon to be used. In addition, on top of the carbon, Ridley bonded a nano resin. This decreased weight and increased strength.
Not surprisingly, Ridley wasn't done yet. To further reduce weight, Ridley constructed the front triangle of the SL with a monocoque design. This means that the entire front triangle (head tube, down tube, seat tube, and bottom bracket lug) is made in one piece. How does this save weight? Well the seatstays, chainstays, and dropouts are bonded to the existing triangle by applying resin and then over-wrapping the bonding points with more carbon fiber. With the SL, this application only occurs once, and you can imagine the added weight of repeating this process at every tube juncture of the frame. Furthermore, Ridley shaved grams by giving the SL a slightly smaller head tube dimension than the Helium, with a 1-1/8 x 1-1/4in tapered design instead of the Helium's 1-1/8 x 1-1/2in.
The SL has also received a new tube shape design. The SL takes its design inspiration from the circle. Yes, the circle. You've probably seen this on the Helium, but the SL does away with the massive, oversized tubing. It features rounded tubing emanating from the seat tube juncture, which slowly becomes box-shaped as it approaches the head tube and bottom bracket junctures. As Ridley puts it, this system creates a clean transition from stiffness to comfort. Supporting this ideology, the rear triangle has been designed to intermix the two. The asymmetric, flat chainstays provide a stiff platform for power transfer to the rear wheel. Meanwhile, the ultra-thin seatstays create a vertically compliant ride quality without sacrificing rigidity.
And on the subject of rigidity, even though it's a lightweight, Ridley says that the SL is actually stiffer than the Helium. To be exact, Ridley's testing has concluded that the SL is 8% stiffer at the BB30 bottom bracket, 4% stiffer at the head tube, and the new fork design not only weighs 90 grams less, but it also has a 20% increased side stiffness. How does this translate to speed? In rudimentary terms, ride quality hinges on what's called a stiffness-to-weight ratio, or specific modulus. And while the mathematics behind the determination of specific modulus are too complicated to explain here, it's not a complicated notion to grasp that a frame with low weight and higher stiffness will efficiently transfer power.
Ridley has also made the SL what it calls 'future ready.' This is a fancy way to say that its 100% internal cable routing has been designed to accommodate both electronic and mechanical shift systems. And in the case of the seatpost, the SL's features a 27.2mm post. This moves away from the ever popular integrated seatposts -- saving weight and making packing easier.
The Ridley Helium SL is available in the color Matte black and in five sizes from XX-Small to X-Large.
Effective Top Tube
Head Tube Length
Head Tube Angle
Seat Tube Angle
|Bottom Bracket Drop||Chainstay||Wheelbase|
Reviews & Community
What he said...
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
Interestingly enough, Trevor helped me out with my Helium SL build. Definitely contact him if you're in the market for one! I'd have to echo most everything he stated in his review below. With full SRAM Red 22 and Reynolds Assault SLG's, this thing practically begs you to get out of the saddle and hammer away; especially when the road points upward. There's an immediacy to forward momentum that can only be achieved through the combination of lightweight and bottom bracket stiffness. It somehow holds speed very well for a "non-aero" frame too; average is up ~1 mph overall. My other bike (that I've been truly happy with up to until now) is a Cannondale Hi-Mod SRAM Red Synapse. While comfortable and fast enough on group rides, the Cannondale now feels almost lazy and sluggish when compared to the Helium SL. Another pleasant attribute of the Ridley is comfort. Put in a 75 mile day my second day with it, and it was easily as comfortable as the old Synapse. Now, the poor old Cannondale will likely end up on the sale block...
As always, be sure to confirm your measurements! I ended up sizing down on the Ridley to a small from a 54 on the Cannondale. Build ended up weighing in at 13.6 lbs minus water bottles and saddle bag.
Stiff, Light, All-Arounder
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
Helium SL: lighter than air, stiff and light.
Yep, that about describes it perfectly.
Our copy goes into great technical detail on how Ridley has made this frame so light and stiff, but with personal experience with it, I'll just stick to how it actually rides.
This rides like a race frame. Responsive, stiff when heavy power's applied, fast when any acceleration is needed, and nimble but stable when cornering at speed. Even with these characteristics, it it is still incredibly comfortable. Found it very easy on the body on rough roads or long treks in the saddle, and it has a geometry that is not overly aggressive nor perfectly matched for an endurance frame only. It's a frame you could take to your local crit races during the week, and ride for hours on end on the weekends.
I felt it was best suited for climbing with ease and descending with finesse, but also found it more than capable at speed on the flats. A very capable all-arounder in my book, a great bike to do it all.
If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ridley Helium SL
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Three words: buy this frame. Light, stiff, and stable with beautiful workmanship. Can climb, descend, and sprint without any issues. It's a real, non-tricky race frame without all the crazy tube shapes or aero ostentation found on the latest models. Will build up easily to 13.5 pounds with standard group sets, 12.5 (ish) with sew-ups. But unlike some other superlights, it's not jittery or unstable. Ridley has had years to refine the Helium and they've done a great job with the SL. This is about the 20th race bike that I've owned and it's one of the best.