The 2016 Ridley Helium SL Road Bike Frameset is a featherweight among giants, ready to fly up the mountains like a stage-hunting falcon. While some may express concerns about an ultralight frameset's ability to transfer power and handle descents, rest assured that this frame boasts a near-unicorn mix of minimal weight, stiff power transfer, and the ability to rail corners and bomb descents with the best. This rightly well-loved frameset is back for 2016 with classically inspired colorways to light up any ride.
Aesthetics aside, though, the Helium's main job is dropping grams. A medium SL clocks in at a claimed featherweight of 1,110g for the frame and fork, which is a staggering 800g lighter than a similarly-sized Noah FAST aerodynamic machine. This was achieved with smaller, less aerodynamic tube shaping and a strategic arrangement of 60, 40, and 30 ton high-modulus carbon fiber to create a frame that efficiently transfers power.
Ridley also incorporates an ultra-strong nano-resin into the frame's lay-up, which allows the Belgian manufacturer to use less carbon, decreasing overall weight while boosting durability and stiffness. To further reduce weight, Ridley constructs 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, saving weight by eliminating the extra material needed to reinforce frame junctions in multi-part triangles.
The SL 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 with a blend of the two shapes. The asymmetric, flat chainstays provide a stiff platform for power transfer to the rear wheel, while the ultra-thin seatstays create a vertically compliant ride quality without sacrificing rigidity.
Although the Helium SL falls solidly in the lightweight climber category, Ridley claims that it's stiffer than the original Helium. Its testing shows that the SL is 8% stiffer at the bottom bracket, 4% stiffer at the head tube, with a 20% increased side stiffness in the fork — all of which is a very mathematical way of saying the SL transfers power more efficiently than the Helium for a snappy ride. To cap things off, Ridley finishes the Helium SL with internal cable routing for clean lines and compatibility with both mechanical and electronic shifting systems.
- A lightweight race frame for attacking on the climbs
- Traditional geometry and tube shapes made for racing
- Lives up to its namesake gas with a claimed weight of 1,100g
- Lighter and stiffer than the standard Helium
- Thin seatstays help to dissipate road noise and bumps
- Blend of carbon modulli contributes to weight loss and stiffness
- Monocoque construction creates a more durable main triangle
- Internal cable routing keeps frame lines clean and tidy