Lighter and brighter.
The Ridley Helium SL Ultegra Complete Road Bike continues the pedigree of low-weight, high-comfort, and an unyielding pedaling platform that made the original Helium one of the Belgian brand's most popular, versatile bikes. As the SL initialism implies, it's just a bit lighter than its predecessor. Shimano's latest Ultegra 6800 drivetrain enjoys a similar drop in weight over 6700, so pairing the two together makes for a bike that's equal to multi-peak epics, endurance centuries, and coffee shop loops alike.
Of course, weight savings are the key here, and a medium SL clocks in at a claimed featherweight of 1,110g for the frame and fork—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, as built here, and electronic shifting systems.
- An airy race bike with Shimano's workhorse racing drivetrain
- Lives up to its namesake gas with a frame weight of 1,100g
- Lighter and stiffer than the standard Helium
- Thin seatstays help to dissipate road noise and bumps
- Blend of carbon contributes to weight loss and stiffness
- Monocoque construction creates a more durable main triangle
- Internal cable routing keeps frame lines clean and tidy
- Shimano's Ultegra group is a favorite among the self-sponsored racing crowd