What’s going on here?
Last year I rode Ridley’s ridiculously light Helium SL. I loved it, so was honestly a bit hesitant to move over to the Noah SL. Plying much of my trade in the hills, I was worried: how would the additional weight translate? On top of that, I took delivery of the Noah SL shortly before setting off for the sun-drenched shores of Hawaii’s Big Island, so didn’t have much time to acclimatize to its very different geometry and super-aero design (claimed to save 7% of wind resistance over more traditional, round-tubed designs). Truth be told, I had no idea what to expect.
How’s the build kit?
The Noah SL shipped with Shimano wunderkind mechanical groupset – Dura-Ace. With lightning fast shifting, ridiculously powerful brakes (mounted in their traditional position – as brakes should be!) and quite possibly the stiffest crank on the planet, Dura-Ace 9000 is nothing short of stellar. The Zipp 60s upped the fast ante that much more. After swapping in my own stem, seat and handlebar, I immediately felt pretty dialled.
Tell me about these aerodynamics.
At first glance, it’s evident that the Noah was built for aerodynamic slipperiness. Look closer, and you realize the devil is in the details. The distinctive F-Splitfork is a fascinating piece of bike tech: each fork leg features a small, narrow gap that improves airflow by pulling turbulent air away from the rotating front wheel. On top of that, the fork crown is neatly integrated into the head tube and downtube, with a small lip extension at the top trailing edge of the fork.
The meticulously shaped Kamm tail downtube features two narrow grooves running down its leading edge to channel air more efficiently across the frame’s surface. And that sculpted downtube leads to a big and beefy pressfit bottom bracket for stiffness.
The seat tube neatly wraps around the rear wheel to further reduce drag. An aero-shaped seat post features two channels running the length of the post, similar to the downtube. Lowered seat stays on the seat tube round shave grams, boost stiffness and further improve aerodynamics.
How’s the handling?
After logging over 700km on the Noah SL that included long climbs (Kohala Mountain Road), plenty of winding terrain, desolate stretches under full gas (Akoni Pule Highway), and frenzied sprints, I definitely put it through its paces. One thing I can say for certain is that the Noah SL’s handling is nothing short of racy; quick and razor sharp with impressive feedback, capable of carving just about any arc you throw at it.
The big question: were you faster?
Honestly, it’s hard to quantify aerodynamic efficiency – I have no real gauge of how to measure if I was 7% faster than I was on my Helium SL. I will say, however, that rolling at 45km/hr and throwing down an attack brings with it an immediate reaction and a sudden increase in tempo. The stiffness of the package offers exceptional get up and go, but it’s surprisingly comfortable: there’s no buzzy harshness normally associated with aero bikes. Bumps, vibrations and bigger potholes are nicely absorbed, always offering confident feedback every step of the way, without beating you up in the process.
Should I buy one?
If you’re looking for a race ready bike that’s just as capable ripping hair-raising crits on cobbles as it is at logging training miles with your closest buddies, the Ridley Noah SL should definitely make the top of your list. Stiff, fast, composed, sexy and surprisingly comfortable, it’s definitely a winner.