I had the pleasure to check out the new Ultra SL R, the latest design miracle from Ribble, last week ahead of its launch, and ever since that meeting, I can't stop thinking about how amazingly streamlined this road bike looks. This deceivingly light aero bike is truly something else and is worth your attention if you're interested in fast bikes. And who isn't?
As it happens, I was among the journalists who got to see the Ribble Ultra SL R – a non-rideable but to-scale prototype of it anyway – last week at a meeting. It was a long meeting – went on for two hours – mainly because there is just so much innovation going on in the "Bat Bike" as to how it was called during production.
As the presentation went on, the more technical members of the journalist group asked many questions about YAW sweep results and sizing options. Still, I often found myself staring at the bike, placed tantalisingly just across the table from me. And the more details I learned about Ribble Ultra SL R, the more I desired this road bike.
And despite the bike is great value for money, especially considering the amount of innovation and tech involved, it's way out of my price range, sadly, especially my favourite Tri Edition setup. It's certainly not a road bike under £1000.
Ribble Ultra SL and SL R: price and release date
The Ribble Ultra Road launches on 19 August 2021, as a pre-order, with the first stock expected to drop in October 2021.
It is available as two models: Ultra SL R and Ultra SL – both with multiple pre-spec options and further specification customisation through the Ribble-signature Bike Builder and full personalisation through Custom Colour.
The Platform also includes a Tri Specific version: Ultra SL R Tri Edition.
Builds for the Ultra SL start from £3,199 (opens in new tab)
Builds for the Ultra SL R start from £3,899 (opens in new tab)
The Ultra SL R Tri Edition with Di2 groupset is priced at £6,599 (opens in new tab)
Ribble Ultra SL R – Tri Edition: image gallery
Ribble Ultra SL and SL R: specs
As Andy Smallwood, CEO at Ribble, explained at the meeting, Ribble's aim with the Ultra Road was to "develop the most aero bike possible." To achieve this, Andy, alongside Jamie Burrow, Product Designer and Head of Product at Ribble, as well as other members of the design team, had to rethink the basic concepts of what makes aero bikes great, which I'm sure resulted in quite a few sleepless nights during the process.
The fruit of their labour is a bike that flips the script completely and practically reinvents some of the bike design concepts that have been around for decades. A good example of this tinkering is the new Ultra Bar, a handlebar that's so revolutionary that it has three patents pending on it.
As Ribble explains, "The bars work to manage airflow upstream of the rider with the wake generating design creating a drag reduction zone (DRZ) for the rider to sit in as well as directing vortexes around the rider further enhancing the airflow. The design has also been optimised aerodynamically in the drop and the hood positions."
Crosswind optimisation has been mentioned multiple times during the Ultra Road meeting. According to Andy and Jamie, the bike was designed with a rider in mind and optimised in the wind tunnel with riders actually riding the bike.
I'll let Andy explain the process: "Bike and rider can never be analysed in isolation. It was fundamental to use a 3D digital scan of the Ribble test rider to provide complete consistency across the entire testing process (CFD, Wind Tunnel to Real World)."
"CFD allowed the team to understand the aerodynamic challenges and how to use the design to maximise and manipulate the airflow to generate a significant performance gain across a full range of YAW (crosswind) angles from 0 to an extreme 20 degrees and speeds from Pro rider 29mph and the more average road cyclist speed of 22mph."
When I get to play around with the bike at the meeting, I was stunned by how light it was: the Ribble Ultra Road weighs a mere 7.6 kg (medium frame). Aero bikes always surprise me with how light they are, compared to how robust they look, but the Ultra Road pushes the envelope hard in terms of lightness.
In essence, the Ribble Ultra SL R is an aerodynamically efficient performance bike with an improvement over the already aero-optimised, race-proven Endurance SL R (opens in new tab). In case someone is interested in crunching the numbers, with the Ultra SL R, you can achieve a 75.1-second saving over 40 km at 22 mph (cruise speed) across the average of 5 and 10 degrees of YAW and 61.4 seconds over the same 40 km at 29 mph (race speed). This equates to an approximate 3 minute saving for the Ultra SL R on a typical 100 km ride with average YAW conditions.
And, you know, the bike looks rather pleasing to the eye too. Riding the Ribble Ultra Road will make you stand out from the crowd in your riding club, especially if you use Ribble's Bike Builder feature.
For more info, visit Ribble (opens in new tab) today.