Fenix SL Ultegra Complete Road Bike
As much as we would all love to have a different bike for every type of riding occasion, most of us can't afford to house a lightweight climbing rig, endurance mile grinder, and super stiff criterium racer without some serious financial repercussions. The Fenix SL Ultegra Complete Road Bike is for cyclists who want a bike that's competent in competition, but doesn't sacrifice ride quality in pursuit of weight loss or stiffness and aerodynamics. Put through its paces on the grueling cobbles of the spring classics, the Fenix SL is a proven jack of all trades that will revel in any road environment without punishing you for riding anything less forgiving than smooth tarmac.
This Fenix SL carries over Ridley's updates to the venerable frame that was updated in 2017, and is built from the same 30t and 24t high-modulus carbon fiber as its predecessor. Ridley claims this version of the Fenix SL is 15% lighter and 18% stiffer, and any number of reviews and the fact that Team Lotto-Sodual campaigns the spring classics aboard this frame assure us that these gains don't come at the cost of cobblestone-worthy comfort. It's a rare mix of race-bred endurance geometry for long-mile comfort, a high-modulus carbon lay-up for sprint-worthy stiffness, and an overall lightweight package that can soar—or at least not hold you back—on the climbs.
The Fenix SL maintains that plush ride in a lighter, stiffer package than the previous Fenix thanks to a few design updates. These include narrower, flat-section seat stays that absorb power-sucking road noise while maintaining lateral stiffness. The stays feed into a seatpost that's reduced from the previous model's 31.6mm to a more compliant 27.2mm. The flat, curved top tube is another significant redesign, serving as a leaf spring of sorts that works in conjunction with the seatstays and slimmed-down seatpost to disperse bumps. The net result is a system-wide increase in vibration damping and compliance for a more forgiving ride across everything from rural chip seal to the stones of Belgium where the Fenix was born.
The top tube and down tube feature a unique, multi-hexagonal shape, which is undoubtedly partially responsible for the claimed increases in torsional rigidity. At the front, Ridley utilizes a tapered head tube that's considerably shorter than the notably tall head tube of the previous Fenix. This makes for increased stiffness while torqueing on the bars and exceptional handling and cornering capabilities while sweeping through descents or diving through the final turn before a finish sprint.
For an extra dose of stiffness, Ridley opts for a beefy PressFit BB86 shell instead of the PF30 model featured in the previous Fenix. The wider bottom bracket shell anchors the oversized drive spine, solidly transferring power to the drivetrain while reducing bottom bracket wag. While this frame isn't billed as specifically aerodynamic, it does boast an integrated fork crown for a smooth transition between the head tube and fork that at least offers the appearance of aerodynamics. You'll enjoy some drag-reduction benefits over frames without the integrated fork crown, and it just plain looks cleaner.
Ridley caps off this Fenix SL with a trustworthy Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset. Ultegra gets high praises here in the office because, besides its few grams of added weight, it's functionally equal to Dura-Ace. We'd gladly pocket the difference and buy a powermeter to train more efficiently, get some speedy carbon wheels, or simply plop down on some race entry fees. Ridley doesn't skimp on the rest of the build either finishing it off with house brand Forza with cockpit components which, in our experience, matches or exceeds those from aftermarket brands.
- An endurance road bike for riding and racing on challenging roads
- Geometry blends confident handling with long-mile comfort
- Lightweight carbon fiber construction yields responsive pedaling
- Over-sized BB86 bottom bracket shell efficiently transfers power
- Shimano's Ultegra R8000 drivetrain provides precise shifting
- Ridley's bikes are born and proven on the unforgiving stones of Belgium