Ridley’s Helium is the company’s take on a climber’s bike, built to be light and stiff. The range-topping SLX frame weighs just 750g, and this X version uses exactly the same design but a more modest blend of hi-mod and unidirectional carbon fibres for a 900g frame weight, which is still impressive.
- The Ridley Helium X 105 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
The geometry is Ridley’s tried and tested race numbers, and it’s subtly different to some of its rivals. The steep 74-degree head and 72.5-degree seat angles combine with a 1,012mm wheelbase. It’s all just a bit taller, longer and steeper than I’d expect, but comes together in one of the most balanced handling bikes in this year's Bike of the Year testing.
The X has a superb pick-up and accelerates with ease; the steering is sharp but never twitchy, making it easy to speed through tight turns with pinpoint accuracy.
The frame and matched straight-legged slender fork look unassuming and understated with their blend of ovalised and round tubes, and the slightly squared-off profile of the down tube.
The seatstays are pencil thin, as I’d expect from a lightweight race bike, but aren’t detriment to the bike’s impeccable power transfer. I love the way the X carries itself over poorer road surfaces. The frame is super stiff, which is great for when you’re sprinting, but it never feels harsh or chattery over broken up, frost-scarred tarmac.
The X has character and gives you a real sense of engagement when onboard; it’s exciting without feeling nervous and hard without being harsh, everything about the chassis screams class and I couldn’t help but be impressed.
Where the Helium doesn’t measure up quite so well is in the finishing. The in-house lineup of Forza components all do their job well; the plain alu compact drop bar, stem, seatpost and actually very well shaped and very comfortable saddle.
The Forza RC23 wheels are nicely built, run smooth and have stayed straight. The Forza Cirrus brakes are fine, their dual-pivot design works and they come with decent cartridge pads, they just lack the subtlety of feel you get from their Shimano 105 equivalents.
The same goes for the FSA Gossamer chainset, it’s stiff enough and shifting between the rings is smooth too, but it doesn’t look as polished as the 105 unit it replaces here. I don’t have such an issue with 105, as in recent years the performance of 105 has been as good as its pricier stable mates, it just carries a few more grams.
A bike at £2,400 / $2,499 with a predominantly Shimano 105 finishing kit, with two noticeable cost-cutting measures doesn’t exactly scream value. I’ve already seen a significant shift in prices, so where a bike with this sort of equipment a couple of years ago would have been around £1,500, it’s now more around the £2k mark.
No matter how much grace I give Ridley for the inflation in prices, or that Ridley is a premium brand and relatively small scale manufacturer, it still comes across as a pricey proposition. It’s a real shame because the Helium X chassis is one of the stars of 2018.