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Ridley Helium SLX eTap review

Lighter, rarefied Helium

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Increasing pace needs a mere thought and increase of pressure on the pedals

Increasing pace needs a mere thought and increase of pressure on the pedals (Image credit: Russell Burton / Immediate Media)
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The 4ZA Cirrus Pro 30 wheelset is an additional extra

The 4ZA Cirrus Pro 30 wheelset is an additional extra (Image credit: Courtesy)
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Increasing pace needs a mere thought and increase of pressure on the pedals

Increasing pace needs a mere thought and increase of pressure on the pedals (Image credit: Philip Sowels / Immediate Media)
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No surprise that SRAM Red eTap excels on the Ridley too

No surprise that SRAM Red eTap excels on the Ridley too (Image credit: Philip Sowels / Immediate Media)
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4ZA Ursus one-piece bar and stem effectively kills road buzz

4ZA Ursus one-piece bar and stem effectively kills road buzz (Image credit: Philip Sowels / Immediate Media)

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

The Helium SLX is the most successful combination of a Ridley frame with in-house brand 4ZA finishing kit and wheels so far. It not only looks like a bike designed to romp through rolling countryside and soak up abuse, it rides like one too, only faster, and with more ease.

  • Highs: An exceptional frameset with breathtaking acceleration that is well matched by its wireless groupset
  • Lows: 4ZA's wheelset performs well, but can be a little grabby under hard braking
  • Buy if: You want a wolf in sheep's clothing, as those simple, classy looks cloak an aggressively fast, but refined ride

The 4ZA Cirrus Pro 30 wheelset is a £500 option, replacing the Fulcrum Racing 5s listed, and feature carbon rims spinning on DT Swiss 240s hubs. The internal width is conservative compared to current trends, but does expand the Vittoria Corsa G+ 25mm clinchers to a useful 26mm, creating greater volume, more usable grip and comfort.

Their shallow, blunt profile is agile and aerodynamically efficient, and the accelerative difference light wheels can make to a bike can never be overstated. Fitted to the Helium SLX's sub-1kg frameset and premium componentry, the result is impressive.

Increasing pace needs a mere thought and increase of pressure on the pedals, but it's the way this Ridley coaxes you to greater performance with seemingly minor inputs that becomes addictive.

Long, steep climbs that are usually a grind became gradients to be attacked. On a local rollercoaster stretch of road, sustaining speed over every switchback is nigh on impossible except for the days when everything clicks. On the Ridley, that was every day.

Since what goes up must plummet down, the Helium SLX is a stable descender, a little active at the front on rough sections, but nothing to be concerned about.

Flatland velocity is even easier to generate, and simple to maintain. But all this speed would be less accessible without fine ride quality, and here the SLX builds on the cosseting characteristics of the old Helium SL. With pressure at 90psi, the tyres suck up potholed roads like 35mm ones at 40psi.

One-piece bar and stem combos can be a recipe for harshness, but 4ZA has created a buzz-killing setup, with a comfortable anatomic drop, ideal hand positions, and aero tops that are grippy enough when climbing.

Fitting a screw-in BSA bottom bracket shell to a press-fit 30 shell and choosing SRAM's 24mm GXP axle is unusual, but doesn't unduly affect the Ridley's performance. It should ease maintenance though, and wider spaced bearings are always a good thing.

SRAM's eTap groupset excels again, creating clean lines and ensuring slick, fuss-free shifting, and with the 52/36 and 11-28 combinations fitted here, perfect race-ready gearing.

The hoods are beautifully ergonomic, and the Red rim calipers are still some of the best available, with great power and modulation.

Zipp carbon brake pads handle stopping duties well, with decent initial bite and progressive power, although under hard braking, I did find the rims a little grabby with some squeaking. Vittoria's Corsa tyres seem to roll fast, and handle predictably, save for the noise they make when cornering.

There are no real aero considerations here, the fork legs have truncated profiles, but the frame tubes are otherwise shaped to be laterally rigid, efficient and compliant, which is a fairly all-encompassing range of qualities, but ones the Helium SLX owns. 

Name: Helium SLX eTap
Built by: Ridley
Price: £7,400.00 / US$7,500.00 / AU$N/A

Available Sizes: XXS XS S M L XL
Bottom Bracket: SRAM GXP
Brakes: SRAM Red
Cassette: SRAM Red 11-28
Chain: KMC X11
Cranks: SRAM Red eTap, 52/36
Fork: Helium SLX, HM unidirectional carbon
Fork Offset: 3.75
Frame Material: Helium SLX, HM unidirectional carbon
Front Derailleur: SRAM Red eTap
Front Tyre: Vittoria Corsa G+ 700x25mm
Front Wheel Weight: 1070
Handlebar: 4ZA Ursus integrated
Head Angle: 72
Headset Type: Integrated
Rear Derailleur: SRAM Red eTap
Rear Tyre: Vittoria Corsa G+ 700x25mm
Rear Wheel Weight: 1370
Saddle: 4ZA Cirrus Pro
Seat Angle: 74
Seatpost: 4ZA Cirrus Pro carbon
Shifters: SRAM Red eTap
Stem: 4ZA Ursus integrated
Trail: 7.1
Weight (kg): 6.3
Wheelset: 4ZA Cirrus Pro 30
Bottom Bracket Height (cm): 27.5
Chainstays (cm): 41
Seat Tube (cm): 51
Standover Height (cm): 80
Top Tube (cm): 56
Wheelbase (cm): 98.5
Frame size tested: M