Ribble Gran Fondo 2011 - First Impressions / Review

Avezius Posts: 132
edited December 2012 in Road beginners
I did a lot of web/forum searching over a period of 3months for my new bike & posted various questions where I couldnt find specific answers. I thought that collating the info together might help future searchers.

Previous Experience / Bike

As everyone else, I rode bikes through childhood (BMX, Racer then briefly a road orientated MTB) until Uni in '95. All of the bikes would have been budget - modest background & wasnt into "cycling" as a sport. Bike was pinched in first week of University (I didnt know how rubbish cheap D-locks were!!!) which meant rollerblades were primary mode of transport around Pompey for 3 years. Fast forward 15 years - Damaged knees (snapped ACL's & other associated knee issues from footy) & change of circumstances (no more lunchtime gym sessions) meant I was pretty unfit. Considered cycling as low impact fitness & new colleagues all cyclists of some form or another. After a few months of using an old heavy MTB, I picked up a bargain "ebay special" Alu 105 cyclocross bike - with 35mm knoblies for offroad (about 5% of the time) and 28mm slicks for road use (Durano S). If I'm honest, I Went cyclocross essentially because I was scared of skinny road wheels! For a year I rode 12mile sprints about 3-4 lunchtimes a week (8.5 mile TT in the middle). Now I know I like cycling & I can keep up the training, its worth getting something more suitable.

Here's the old bike:

New Bike Requirements

- Relatively relaxed geometry (sportive rather than race) because I like comfort & I'm not that bendy for full aero positions.
- A sideways or upwards step in tech from current bike (> 105).
- Bang for Buck. I'm a surfer who knows nothing about cycling history so I'm the opposite of a brand snob!
- Sexy looking. Current bike is ugly & I fancy something nice to ride.
- Within CycleScheme £1000 budget (most efficient way for me).

Despite me almost exclusively cycling short sprints (< 20miles) I was worried about a big outlay on an agressive bike & therefore thought a "sportive" bike was the right style to go for me personally. I also excluded the main brands based upon "bang for buck" compared to online stores. *DISCLAIMER WARNING Most people advise to ignore the write-ups & try bikes out, then pick one that fits best. I didnt do this & it was a significant (but calculated) risk.* Anyway, I looked at various models from different companies but was blown away by the Ribble's - specifically the Gran Fondo.

I'm in between 5'10 & 5'11 with 33" inside leg. I think this means I have relatively long-ish legs & therefore a slightly shorter body for my height. I opted for a "large" (54cm) based upon the ribble calculation for sloping top tubes and picking the brains of proper cyclists after printing out the bike geometry. It's on the website, but my calcs are:

33" inside leg = 83.80cm
Ribble sloping top tube fudge factor = 0.64

83.80 * 0.64 = 53.63

This is a lot closer to 54cm (large) than 51cm (medium), hence my decision. Their website does say "if you are in between, we reccomend you go for the smaller of the two"...


I requested my voucher for the new tax year in April but didn't actually have the voucher in my hand until 21th April. That's 3 weeks - which included all of the HR & cyclescheme admin & me requesting the voucher online. I don't think that was too bad (obviously part of this is company specific). Using Cyclescheme cost me an admin fee with Ribble. For me personally, it still made sense, despitre the extra cost.

Regarding cyclescheme T&Cs - their extended 36month loan period deal makes it still worthwhile. You still pay a nominal fee at the end of the period (7% for £1k) - but the bike isnt actually yours until you complete the 36monthly payments of £0 after the salary sacrifice finishes. This is fine for me - Cyclescheme are unlikely to screw you over because the info woudl get around immediately & it would end their business almost immediately I reckon.

Dealing with Ribble

Unfortunately the double bank holidays conspired to extend my waiting time (took ages for my voucher to get processed for obvious reasons) but took just over 3 weeks to arrive from order confirmation (5 weeks from original order).
I don't think this was bad (although it seemed like ages).

They were fine on the phone, but pretty inconsistant by email. I found using their "sales" email address usually resulted in a delay of 1-4days. IF you emailed one of them directly, response was quite quick. You often find out how good a company is when something goes wrong - well I made a mistake on my delivery address. 4 or 5 emails later, it was actually dealt with by 3 seperate people & it doesnt seem that joined up. However, bike was delivered when they said, to the correct address. The web tracking/invoicing is wildly out of date however.

I ordered a special edition with SRAM Rival, ITM wheels & white deda finishing kit.
I recieved a special edition SRAM rival, itm wheels, deda seatpost (sexy but SOOO heavy) & a white ITM finishing kit. I presume this was due to stock issues - if they contacted my & asked, I would have agreed but I wasnt. Might annoy some people.

I read all of the comments about Ribble & I went in with my eye's open to the potentially suspect communication - they must run tight margins & somethign has to give at those prices. I accepted this. I got the impression that they are snowed under with orders due to their competitive deals. Not very scientific but my impression is that they are fundementally actually quite good as a company. I would buy from them again.

The Bike


First Impressions

I have now ridden it for 3 x 10mile sprints & a total of about 60miles. It's so worth it - I love it.

It's really stiff & power transfer feels great. It's so comfortable & just soaks up all of the road buzz compared to the harshness of my beaten up ali cyclocross frame. Not sure if i'm any faster as my usual TT loop is closed for road repairs, but it certainly feels easier & more comfortable for the same speed. Size-wise, it feels good. The big suprise for me was that riding on the hoods feels almost too comfortable & I can stay in the drops for extended periods with no comfort issues. I know it's a sportive frame & designed with this in mind but I was still suprised by the comfort. I do have 3 x 10mm spacers under the stem so I think I will drop at least 2 of them out so i'm slightly more aero on the hoods.

Wheels look good & appear fine to my undiscerning eye. Tyres (Nitro something - cheapest option) are actually fine - I was going to go straight to posher 25mm but will now wait until they wear out.

Groupset is great - I love the gears & converted easily from 105. I love the positive click-clunk of the change so well impressed. Brakes are a revelation over my cross ones!

Even the saddle is fine (despite being scarily hard initially!).

If I had the choice again, I would probably only change the seatpost to a carbon or ITM one - despite it looking great as it is. I DID choose white tape tho.... (very comfortable too, but hardly practical!!!)

All in all, I love this bike!

Hope my LONG writeup was informative for anyone looking to go down this route.



  • carbon337
    carbon337 Posts: 414
    Cranking forum post and a good read - wish my company would run cyclescheme so i could get one :( will need to wait a while before i can find 1k sitting around.
  • FoldingJoe
    FoldingJoe Posts: 1,327
    Hmmmm, maybe I should have gone Gran Fondo.

    I went for the Sportive Bianco, and although it's a great bike it looks a little bland all in white!! :)

    When I ordered mine I spoke to them a week after I had paid my admin fee and they explained to me that they were having trouble getting the Deda parts, so switched mine to ITM (although they did ask me).

    I must say, I do love the bike, and would definitely by from Ribble again (probably with next years CS voucher)!!! ;)
    Little boy to Obama: "My Dad says that you read all our emails"
    Obama to little boy: "He's not your real Dad"

    Kona Honky Tonk for sale: http://www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=40090&t=13000807
  • dodgerdog
    dodgerdog Posts: 292

    Glad you like it. Have the same bike :D but equipped with ITM post, stem and bar as well as luciano wheels. Looks fantastic 8) , superbly comfortable and brilliantly stiff.

    Great post and enjoy the rides.
    Allez Triple (hairy with mudguards) - FCN 4
    Ribble Gran Fondo
  • Avanti Roman
    Avanti Roman Posts: 189
    Good post & nicely specced bike. :wink:
    Ribble Gran Fondo
    Boardman CX Team
    Trek 8000
    Sirrus framed 'special'

    Prev: Avanti Corsa, Routens, MBK TT, homemade TT bike, Trek 990, Vitus 979 x 2, Peugeot Roubaix & er..Raleigh Arena!
  • Richa1181
    Richa1181 Posts: 177
    I think it's a great bike for the price. I did hear the customer service wasn't great from Ribble from a few people when it came to bike builds but I only bought the frame and forks so didn't have to wait at all.

    Glad you're enjoying the bike though. Have you done any climbing on it yet? I think it climbs like a dream! I bought my frame as a first carbon frame intending to move up to something flashier in a year but I've had this for that long and no intentions of replacing it any time soon because it really is nice to ride!

  • Avezius
    Avezius Posts: 132
    Thanks for comments!

    No climbing yet - I cycle from Peterborough out across the fens mostly (where I work). I in Rushden (beds/northants/cambs border) & you might say it had a few rolling hills if you were being kind! :wink:

    Have done a couple of 22.5mph 10's this week (albeit with a much better rider!) and managed 20.5mph solo today in good conditions but very tired legs (without getting stuck at junctions I think it would have been a 21+). Pretty pleased.

    Carbon bikes are so comfortable arnt they!
  • Avezius - excellent post. Really informative. And I am exactly the same height as you, so useful size wise.

    The bike looks amazing! When you think that would get you an alu Spesh Secteur with (part) Apex, it puts it into perspective. I am currently waiting for my C2W voucher - £1K, so given the lack of flexibilty, I think I'll go for a very similar spec to you on the 'special edition'. Ideally I'd like some lighter wheels...I was considering (given the C2W price restrictions) getting the Pro-Lites with the build, buying some decent wheels online and swapping them over and ebaying the pro-lites. But that seems wasteful and a hassle...so I might not!

    Thanks again - you have helped me make my decision.
    Never mistake motion for action
    Trainerroad - GMan69
  • Avanti Roman
    Avanti Roman Posts: 189
    With the special edition bikes I think it's worth the extra £28 to upgrade to lighter ITM Aero 2.4 wheels.
    Ribble Gran Fondo
    Boardman CX Team
    Trek 8000
    Sirrus framed 'special'

    Prev: Avanti Corsa, Routens, MBK TT, homemade TT bike, Trek 990, Vitus 979 x 2, Peugeot Roubaix & er..Raleigh Arena!
  • hokum
    hokum Posts: 30
    Hard to tell from that picture but your bars look quite wide on the tops, can you take a close up?
  • Avezius
    Avezius Posts: 132
    Here's a quick update on the first 3 months of Ribble ownership if anyone is still interested.

    I have now done around 800 miles on the new bike & the headline is: I still love it!

    Apart from a little clean every now & again, a little tweak of the rear gears & a couple of chain cleans, the points of interest list includes:

    1). Headset adjustment. Last week it developed a creak, so I took the oppertunity to move the headset down a spacer while adjusting. Creak gone after play adjusted. My cycling guru tole me I should have removed forks to check bearings, but I didnt. Will next time I'm doing maintenance.

    2). New Tyres. Initial plan was to replace the Nitro's immediately - they are cheap & therefore obviously rubbish...

    Well - it rode so well & they were new so I thought I would see how it goes. The result is they worked fine for me - I ended up really liking them. Nice & responsive & no P******* in 600miles. Well - I then went through a couple of weeks with 4 punctures & figured it was time for new ones. Rear does look like it's worn, with gaping holes in some places.

    After much deliberation, the ITM wheels now sit on Krylion Carbon 25mm rubber (for£22ea - CRC). First impressions are that they feel "wide" but more comfortable. Certainly feel "safe" - maybe a little less "feedback" & the feel a tiny bit slower. Obviously none of this is quantifiable & entirely likely that I am influenced by other peoples comments!!! Overall I am VERY pleased with purchase, considering the roads I ride.

    Note - Judging by times & sprinting this week, I don't believe they are actually slower!

    3). The white bar tape didnt stay white for very long. I knew this, but couldnt resist!!! Havent replaced it yet but it's torn up in sections too - probably getting in & out of car everyday.

    4). Rear wheel felt like it had a bit of play yesterday - will need to look at it more closely. Might need some work.

    5). Saddle - no change. I was expecting it to be rubbish, but it isnt. It feels fine, albeit not as comfortable as a more expensive selle italia ive got on my cyclocross. At some point I'll probably whack a charge spoon (or one of the other cheapy copies - whichever colour works best).

    A couple of good purchases since then:

    Carbon bottle holders from china. Love them & only £15 inc delivery (arrived in under a week).

    A topeack wedge medium saddle bag to hold all my bits & bobs:


    A mini pump that easily pumps enough to get you home (70-80psi) but fits inside my wedge saddle pack so it doesnt get covered in cr@p! Now tried 4 or 5 times & pleased I went for this one.


    Note - I' definately getting faster on my predominately short sprints (10TT).

    Last year, a benchmark average for our 10 route was 18mph. In the spring, the benchmark was up to around 20-21. Now regularly getting over 22 & ocassionally mind 23mph averages in favourable conditions.

    Is this down the the bike? I doubt it. Is it a pleasure to ride? Definitely.
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    The Nitro tyres are best avoided if at all possible. They are extremely difficult to remove; I ended up putting a hole in the sidewall of one after a puncture.

    My Gran Fondo is presently on about 2760 miles. The main bother is slightly brittle lacquer and paint cracks around the rear dropouts. I think they are just the paint but I will be dropping Ribble a line about them.
    Faster than a tent.......
  • Paul057
    Paul057 Posts: 167
    Anyone know if they allow a top up on the £1000 C2W limit?

    Nice bike by the way
  • luv2ride
    luv2ride Posts: 2,367
    Really interesting post and thanks for the update. I was going to go for the Gran Fondo myself but chickened out of buying online (got a Roubaix on a close-out deal from LBS instead).

    If you wanted to change the bartape, I noticed Wiggle are doing a SRAM hoods and bar tape combo for only £15. The red would look sweet on your bike, picking out the red details on the frame.

    Also, those chinese carbon bottle cages look just like non-branded Boardman ones. THey got good reviews but RRP at £29.99 each...! You got a bargain there (think I'll get some for the Roubaix!)
    Titus Silk Road Ti rigid 29er - Scott Solace 10 disc - Kinesis Crosslight Pro6 disc - Scott CR1 SL - Pinnacle Arkose X 650b - Pinnacle Arkose singlespeed - Specialized Singlecross...& an Ernie Ball Musicman Stingray 4 string...
  • Avezius
    Avezius Posts: 132
    RE: Nitro's being a PITA to get on/off....my bike guru friend delighted in telling me what a girl I was until he tried getting one of mine off!! The tyres themselves seemed fine while on however.

    RE: Bottle Cages - there are about 30 different designs on ebay (001, 002, 003, etc) so loads to pick from. Also noticed loads of resellers in ebay now obviously buying in bulk & adding a few quid on!!! Cheeky!!!

  • Really useful post. I was on the point of buying a GF but had some reservations about Ribble customer service. I visited their 'showroom' after phoning them beforehand and was distinctly underwhelmed by their attitude; everything seemed such an effort for them even though I was the only person in the shop on a rainy weekday. In the end, like Luv2ride, I went for a discounted, end of season Roubaix which is nowhere near as good value but I just didn't want to chance being another dissatisfied Ribble customer. Glad it all worked out for you, though.
  • Evil Laugh
    Evil Laugh Posts: 1,412
    The SRAM bartape is garbage btw.
  • Great write up fella and I think I might just have to purchase that very bike now!

    I'm a complete newbie to road bikes so after a bit of advice. I'm also 5'11" with slightly shorter inside leg so thought the 54cm would be fine?!?! I tried a Boardman 55cm and it felt pretty good.

    Only upgrades I've got on the builder are the SRAM Apex (best option for price?) and the RS10 wheels which I liked on another bike.

    Any advice would be much appreciated
  • Wow, great read. Thanks for the post because I am thinking of either getting a Gran Fondo or the Sportive Bianco. I am a 5´4 female with a short torso so I have no idea which bike would be better despite both have such great reviews!

    I am wanting to do touring and racing too.
  • rolf_f
    rolf_f Posts: 16,015
    SpeedFræk wrote:
    Wow, great read. Thanks for the post because I am thinking of either getting a Gran Fondo or the Sportive Bianco. I am a 5´4 female with a short torso so I have no idea which bike would be better despite both have such great reviews!

    I am wanting to do touring and racing too.

    The GF is likely to be a better fit. It has very similar geometry to my Look 585 Optimum (which is the sportive geometry version of the racier 585 Origin) - but the Optimum frame was used by Look for their women specific 585 Origin!

    The above might sound a bit confusing but the gist is that the GF should actually be a good female geometry race bike and a good blokes sportive bike!
    Faster than a tent.......
  • A guy from Ribble had recommended the sportive bianco more than the GF though It´s between the two of them for sure. I am looking to use my bike for long tours and racing. I just measured my inside leg and it´s 27". I think my reach is going to be short too :?
  • I've had my Gran Fondo since Nov 2010, the most miles I'd done in a year prior to 2011 was probably a few hundred.
    This year I've done over 2200 miles, that includes the Dragon Ride - 124 miles, Etape Caledonia 83 (i think) several other sportives and an Ironman Triathlon -112 mile bike. I ran a 4hr10 marathon on the Ironman. All that should tell you all you need to know about the capabilities of the bike - I love it.

    My set up is the same, cheapo ITM 2.4 Wheelset, which are still true despite several hard knocks and one minor crash.
    The Nitro tyres are best avoided if at all possible. They are extremely difficult to remove; I ended up putting a hole in the sidewall of one after a puncture.

    My Gran Fondo is presently on about 2760 miles. The main bother is slightly brittle lacquer and paint cracks around the rear dropouts. I think they are just the paint but I will be dropping Ribble a line about them.

    I've had exactly the same experience as the rider above with regards the tyres and the cracks. The tyres are fine until you get a puncture! Dont use em, I've replaced them with Continental Gatorskins now which are easy to get on/remove.
    Was concerned the cracks might be crash damage but Ribble have assured me otherwise.

    Will be racing more circuits and stuff on it next year, maybe get some new wheels, but it is a cracking bike for the money and for personally to have done so many miles, with no injuries or aches and pains, says how comfortable it is.
  • Great posts - thanks

    I too am thinking of getting a Ribble and was thinking of the New Sportive Racing. Just wondering why the OP chose the Gran Fondo or the Bianco rather than the New Sportive. They all appear to be a 'sportive' type bike and is there any real difference between them?

  • okgo
    okgo Posts: 4,368
    I've done probably 6000 miles on my New Sportive since May this year and its been a good bike, however the biggest improvement you can make to their stock kit is to ditch the rims and tyres. Once you have done that you have a capable bike at almost all levels I think. I've been racing on mine at cat 3 level and its been fine!

    Upgrading to probably a Canyon this next season though as the ribble isn't that stiff.
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing - www.firstseasonracing.com
  • pete8uk
    pete8uk Posts: 63
    Thanks to Avezius for taking the time to write a very informative review, both of bike and the company. And to everyone else for throwing in their opinions.

    I'm considering going for one of the Ribble Sportives rather than the "safer" option of a bike from LBS, and this thread has given me that bit more confidence in Ribble :)
    Weekend: Orbea Orca SLi2, Shimano Dura Ace C50s & Conti GP4000s
    Week: Boardman CX Team, Shimano RX31s & Conti Gatorskin Hardshells
    Twitter: @pete8uk, Strava: 1277229
  • Fantastic write up and commentary, so much so that I took the plunge and got one myself a couple of months back... swayed by this post info from a couple of club members and the reviews from a couple of the mags... sad but hey as a novice you have to start somewhere.

    The 2012 bike I went for on the XL (58) frame came with some spec changes to the one listed here, new full carbon front fork and I went for Tiagra compact 2x10 and Rodi Evo wheels (inflation has eaten into that £1k ctw budget) but in fairness the finishing kit seems very good quality.

    The Tiagra stuff is bullet proof and now 10 speed (yes I know the cable routing isn't quite as neet on the bars as 105 etc) and works perfectly with minimal fiddling.

    The Rodi Evo's are strong (I'm 6' 2" and 95kg riding on potholled roads so that matters!) and with cartridge bearings run smoothly and are easy to maintain though they're not the lightest rims they look smart and have been trouble free so I can put up with a couple of hundred grammes marginal weight penalty.

    The bike came with Deda bars and stem and I added an FSA carbon seat post to the surprisingly good Superleggra saddle.

    If you want the full specs and weights you can download these from the Deda website as the Italian firm makes this bike (I think they even call it the Rebelle... which sounds a lot like Ribble).

    To ride it's been fantastic, stiff enough to get the power down when climbing but comfy enough for 50 and 60 mile runs and the handling is not much short of perfect, quick and responsive without being too edgy and nervous, you can descend at a massive pace on this thing and it feels totally in control... we have lots of big hills round here :-)

    Ribble have been fine (took a while to build and they over promised on delivery windows) but when I do get responses they have been helpfull and informative.

    Overall I love the bike, it looks great, is light responsive and comfy and fantastic value thanks for pointing it out! :mrgreen: