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Ridley Helium SL
The Ridley was born to climb, but is no slouch between the peaks either
Mountain-climbing special from Belgium
This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
At the heart of this bike is Ridley's Helium SL frameset, a daily choice for the Lotto-Belisol team riders. Helium is a much-used name in cycling, with its lighter than air connotations, and this sub-800g superlight SL frame sheds 150g from the previous Helium, weighing just 1050g with its fork.
• Highs: Efficiently rapid, superlight and with floaty comfort
• Lows: From the saddle you can't see that glorious groupset…
• Buy If: You have deep pockets and want something very special
The Helium SL doesn't trade strength and stiffness for lightness – its monocoque front triangle, slimmer head tube, specifically placed high modulus carbon and nano resin ensures less material, less weight and greater rigidity. Ridley claims 20 percent more lateral fork rigidity, plus 4 percent and 8 percent greater stiffness at the head tube and bottom bracket respectively.
Impressive as all that sounds, the frame is overshadowed by its Campagnolo 80th Anniversary groupset. Campagnolo treated Super Record's carbon components to a micro-sanded finish and the alloy parts to a new opaque finish, with a new process ensuring that the special anniversary logo doesn't wear off.
Campagnolo 80th Anniversary brakes and wheels
It looks stunning, though functionally it's unchanged from any other Super Record groupset – which is, of course, unlike any other groupset. Incorporating more carbon than the competition, Super Record is virtually in an artistic league of its own, with ergonomics and performance to match. The matching wheelset is a similarly finished, astronomically priced pair of Bora Ultra Two 50mm tubulars that weigh 1310g.
So, is the gulf in price between the Helium and your 'average' high-end road machine reflected in performance? In short, yes. As a financial consideration, this bike purely for the deep of pocket, but when day-long performance really counts, the Helium's reactivity and comfort are invaluable.
With its longer head-tube there's no need for spacers – meaning maximum steering accuracy – and allied to the stiff fork, the front end tracks superbly. The rigid PF30 bottom bracket and rear wheel are braced by asymmetric chainstays for instant power transfer, and the slim seatstays and 27.2mm carbon seatpost provide cosseting comfort.
As you might expect, the Helium excels at climbing, but its all-round abilities are what makes it truly memorable
For a 50mm wheelset, the Bora Ultra Twos are incredibly accelerative, surpassing the response of many shallower rims. Shod with Continental Competition tubular rubber – a frequent choice of the pros – they have superb feel and grip in all conditions. The tubulars contribute to the floaty ride quality too, and over rough surfaces the Ridley feels like a suspension bike, absorbing vibration – which in turn enhances control. The 4ZA finishing kit differs from the pros' Deda and San Marco spec, but it's all light and effective, the slim seatpost in particular.
It would be wrong to pigeonhole the Helium SL as a climber's bike at the expense of all other aspects of racing. It's as efficiently stiff when sprinting and as confident handling as almost any other equivalent top flight machine, but boasts impressive comfort levels and, of course, climbs like a goat. Its docile character makes its extensive performance envelope very accessible, with refined manners that seemingly allow you more time to think, however fast you're travelling.
Name: Helium SL (14)
Built by: Ridley Bikes
Brakes: Campag Record 80th Anniversary
Frame Material: Carbon
Front Tyre: 22mm Conti Competition
Handlebar: 4ZA Cirrus Pro
Head Angle: 73.5
Rear Tyre: 22mm Conti Competition
Saddle: 4ZA Cirrus Pro
Seat Angle: 73
Seatpost: 4ZA Cirrus Pro
Shifters: Campagnolo Record 80th Anniversary
Stem: 4ZA Cirrus Pro
Weight (kg): 6.26
Wheelset: Campag Bora Ultra Two
Weight (lb): 13.8
Seat Tube (cm): 54
Top Tube (cm): 56.5
Wheelbase (cm): 99
Frame size tested: 56cm