The Flemish connection.
We've been able to spend a lot of time on Ridley's road bikes, and we've certainly enjoyed them, but the Flemish brand's real pedigree lies in cyclocross. The brand is a Belgian staple; the sport is a Belgian obsession—the connection is a given. That means that, as Ridley's flagship 'cross model, the X-Night SL Disc Cyclocross Frameset is shaped by the traditions at the heart of European cyclocross. If you're after a gravel bike, then the X-Trail has the big footprint and borderline XC geometry you're looking for. The X-Night SL, on the other hand, is a pure Euro' 'cross, through-and-through.
A cursory comparison between the X-Trail, a gravel adventure sled, and the X-Night SL proves that point. The X-Night is much more compact with a slightly steeper head tube and a drastically shorter wheelbase. It's also got a higher bottom bracket, which adds to the immediate responsiveness and makes for more generous clearance. Despite that compact footprint, the frame's generous main triangle still provides plenty of room to comfortably shoulder the bike on Belgian stairs. The classic European cyclocross geometry gives the X-Night SL a fast, aggressive feel, but it's paired with a non-traditional, wide tire clearance. This adapts it for tackling everything the New World can throw at it, ranging from snowy Northeast mud to dry West Coast dirt.
As with the previous generation, Ridley builds the X-Knight SL from a mix of 30T and 24T high modulus carbon fiber. This is similar to the blend found in the cobble-stone conquering Fenix frameset ridden in Roubaix and Flanders, so it sops up fatiguing vibrations and tenaciously transfers every watt into forward motion for a fast yet cushy ride worthy of even the harshest race conditions. Its internal cable routing makes for a clean, streamlined look, with the added bonus of eliminating pesky cable pinches when shouldering your bike up a steep wall of limestone stairs.
At the front, Ridley officially bestows its Belgian benediction on disc brakes with the quick-release version of its Oryx Disc carbon fiber fork. The Oryx Disc is built with features a barely noticeable asymmetry that counters the extra torsional forces applied to the left fork leg when scrubbing speed. The dropouts include stainless steel inserts to protect the carbon from scratches and a scuff plate on the inside of the left fork leg fends off errant disc during frantic mid-race wheel changes to keep the fork free of unwanted wear. It's tailored to fit 160mm rotors with no adapter required.
The frame is built for post-mount calipers and 140mm rotors, but it can accommodate up to 160mm with an adapter. It's also built for quick-release skewers, not the thru-axles which have become the standard for new 'cross rigs. The benefits to this are immediately obvious: the frameset immediately works with your current race wheels with no adapters or hub upgrades required, and—more importantly—mid-race wheel changes are themselves virtually immediate.
If you happen to have an entire spare race bike in the pits, then a flat with thru-axles won't drastically delay you as you just have to hop on the new bike. If you only have spare wheels, though, a thru-axle swap can effectively knock you out of the race. Quick-release skewers are also emblematic of the Euro' XC scene's conservative stance on adopting new standards, a position typified by the fact that van Aert, himself a Belgian, won the 2016 world championship on cantilever brakes.
- A classically European cyclocross race bike
- Compact, traditional 'cross geometry for agility in tight quarters
- High-modulus carbon fiber construction similar to pro road models
- Combines disc-brake stopping power with quick-release convenience
- Generous main triangle for comfortable shouldering during run-ups
- Ridley epitomizes the Flemish obsession with cyclocross