After cycling with friends on my previous folding bicycle and seeing how they fly over the streets on their drop bar race bikes I decided it is time for me to upgrade as well. Turns out I wanted a grown-up’s bicycle after all! Although I could do any ride on my folding bicycle, I was quite disappointed by the fact that it does not fold down so small after all. After deciding to get a drop bar bike and some research, I found that a gravel bike will suit me best. I do like to ride on all kinds of surfaces after all and a gravel bike seemed like a good compromise. Further research narrowed down my choices (geometry, brands, etc.) and after speaking to staff at a local bike shop my choices were limited even more—thank you COVID19!
At last I settled on a Ribble CGR SL due to the awesome bike builder on their website that allowed me to spec the bike however I wanted. I even threw in a custom paint job because I am not a fan of the stock blue. So here is my beauty.
Although my experience here might be mistaken as a review, I want to emphasize that this is not a review at all. I simply do not have enough expertise to be reviewing bikes. I have ridden bikes all my life, but until about 2 years ago they were simply a means to an end and I did not pay enough attention to what I was sitting on. If you are interested in a full-on professional review of this bike, albeit with a different drive train, then I advise you to head over to Gravelcyclist and read the review by Jom.
my Ribble CGR SL configuration
In the beginning, my journey to receive the bike might be considered a little rocky. Communication by Ribble was quite minimal and it felt that it was my duty to request updates from them. If you read the reviews they link to on their website you will find a common theme among them—bike is great, communication not so much. However, once I got the bike and did minimal assembly (stem, bars and saddle) I could see that what I received was a work of art.
In terms of components I went with the “new” GRX Di2 drivetrain (1×11). I had to do some minor adjustments in the beginning (which took some getting used to because it is my first non-mechanic drivetrain) but after that it shifted really smooth. As you can see the disc rotors are Shimano Ultegra. Performance so far has been flawless for me and all the minor kinks in the beginning were due to my own incompetence.
In terms of wheels, you can see the Mavic Aksium with WTB Byways (650bx47c). They are not included in the base configuration and require a small amount of extra money. When I ordered these my thinking was that I would not know which wheels are the default ones and with Mavic I at least know I have wheels from a reputable brand. I guess they should also be stiffer and lighter and better and awesomer. With these wheels I have ridden everything from group rides with my university’s club to solo gravel rides. Although I was riding at a snails pace due to the type of gravel and my lack of experience, the wheels performed without any complaints on my part. Give the Japanese terrain and geology the gravel was a broad mix of sharp babyheads, smooth gravel, washed out forest roads, etc.
As you can see in the image above even with 47c wheels there is still a lot of clearance for even bigger tyres if you so desire. The 47c Byways have been plenty of grippy for me and I since bought a second wheelset for more road oriented riding. Jom also mentioned in his review that the Ribble CGR is a fast machine that has no issues with being a road bike. As I said, even with the gravel tyres I had no problem keeping up with my racer friends. Naturally, I had to push a little harder than them but I viewed that as an additional training effect. The reason I decided to get a second wheelset is that during the week when I am pursuing the edges of knowledge in my work, I do a lot of shorter, high intensity road only rides. Additionally, years of watching Rides of Japan’s weight obsession finally broke me and I also wanted to try something really light. I will do another post on the wheels I got for road riding but as a small teaser, they are the Farsports Feder in hookless.
Getting a full carbon gravel bike did not necessarily make me go longer distances, but it certainly made riding more enjoyable. It is difficult to convey the difference but having a bike that fits my size, and is just pure enjoyment to ride, makes me ride more often. Also, when you do these all-day rides in the range of 150km and you start to get less enthusiastic after 120km on the way home, enjoying the bike more makes this less of a turn off.
The small irregularities you might spot in the picture above are protective tape I put on the frame in exposed areas to make sure the paint does not get chipped off so easily by stones flying around. Unfortunately, the frame already has a few scratches from crashing two times at super low speed. One time because my gearing was not enough, or rather the super steep road on Mitake-san was slippery, and the other time when my front wheel slid into a washed-out crevasse on a forest road.
Since getting the bike, I already had to replace the brake pads in the front caliper. I only did that after I got the horrendous metal-on-metal cacophony. As this is my first bike with disc brakes I still have to learn how to do proper maintenance on them and how to know when it is time to change the pads before damaging the rotor.
The picture above shows the rear axle and a less than perfect white/silver disc rotor. Once the white Ultegra rotors have been used up (I need to do more mountain passes), I will get the black Dura-Ace that are lighter and prettier. Another small detail in the picture that is very good for the utility of the bike are the mounting holes for fenders or a rack that you can see above the thru-axle bolt. Although I have not mounted anything yet, I am thinking of getting a Tailfin apparatus for bike packing.
To sum it up, the Ribble CGR SL is a beautiful and capable machine that has increased the enjoyment of riding my bike tremendously. The Di2 1by11-42, so far, is plenty to ride up even the steepest hills—disclaimer: only if you really, and I mean really, want to get up some steepest hills. Kazahari Rindo and Mitake-san have been a b*tch to get up. But still, I managed to get up there with my configuration. However, once I am back in Austria (for a visit) I will get a Garbaruk cage and a more climby cassette. The custom paint job done by Ribble is also beautifully executed and flawless. The only complaint I have is the Prolog saddle that was on my bike by default. Now I know that my “soft tissue” is not made for it—but this is something I would not have known beforehand anyway because I am still in the process of finding my saddle. Thanks to the bike builder you can really get the bike you want. I wish that more vendors would provide something like that as it allows you to get the bike you truly want from the get-go. No need to get something else and then change components on a new bike.
I wanted to write this post because when I bought the Ribble CGR SL, I could not find much information about it online. Since then, Gravelcyclist has posted his review, but I thought additional information about the experience of riding this frameset might help others with their decision. This post is not a recommendation as I am not experienced enough—but if you want my opinion, I am very happy and satisfied with the bike and I would get it again. For additional experience with the bike in a road configuration (road-ish wheels), stay tuned.
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