Ribble Sportiva – Women’s Road Bike Review

I think we could all agree, the only thing us British people seem to be good at is cycling. Since the Wiggo inspired revolution of 2012, we’ve seen British Cycling grow and grow. Boris Johnson introduced major cycle lanes in to the heart of London and Saqid Kahn looks to extend the cycle route with the new plans of CS11. Each morning I cycle to work, there seems to be more and more cyclists enjoying the commute in to the office.

Over the last 12 months, British Cycling have been able to draw up the following stats:

  • 2,069,200 adults in England now cycling at least once every week
  • 3,628,400 adults in England now cycling at least monthly
  • Over half a million regular cyclists are women, an increase of 2% in the last 12 months.
  • 385,600 young people now ride bikes frequently
  • Frequent cycling among people with an impairment is now at 184,000

Considering such a boom, certainly in the male market, it would be natural that the female market would follow suit. However, it seems to be that, even though there is a large proportion of female riders and enthusiasts, the help, bikes and tech may not be there for women as it is for men.

My wife – she wouldn’t of even cared for a bike race or event before she met me, in the years I’ve been with her, she has now; been to see three stages of the Tour de France, watch Wiggo go around a track for an hour and attends regular spin classes to keep fit. I know I’ve done a wonderful job. On the sofa the other night though I caught something in her eye, it was a reflection on from the iPad… She was looking at bikes and she admitted it. She wanted to take on the open road, feel the wind through her helmet on the country lanes and experience cycling on the roads. I was made up. Obviously, I started with all the questions to which I got a blank expression, talking about groupsets got me no where and when I mentioned the length of the handlebar stem I got a roll of the eyes as if I was putting in some sort of sorry cycling innuendo.

So it was a bit of a challenge as to which manufacturer to choose. However, the guys over at Ribble stepped up to the plate. They got in touch, as they too are keen to get involved with the cycling boom. One of the biggest online bike dealers in the UK, Ribble specialises in using quality, thoroughly road-tested frames from the far east as the basis of their customer-specced bike packages. They offer exceptional value, with fully built carbon bikes available for under £800. As an entry level bike, they offered up the Ribble Spotiva, an introduction to the Sportive range of Ribble bikes. With a 7005 frame, an aluminium alloy with amazing strength to weight ratio. It’s the same alloy used on the men’s frame, the only difference is this is set up for female geometry. Meaning it has a lower stand over height and a shorter top tube.

The handle bars are slightlu pointing backwars, but that is what my wife finds comfortable

The guys at Ribble were really good, what they didn’t know, you don’t need to know. They chatted my wife through all the selection options and even the length of her pedal arm. Of course when someone else starts talking to you about it, it’s then interesting isn’t it?! I could have sworn I’ve bored her to tears over cycling subjects for years…

Pedal stem chosen and handle bar tape changed to Celeste colour, the bike arrived in super quick time.

After ordering, my wife is a lover of reviews so we both did some digging to see if this outlay really meant this was the bike for her. However, the only review we could find of the bike was in The Good Housekeeping Institute. I find this slightly off, so here we go, here’s my attempt!

The bike arrived in almost one piece, all it needed was the handlebars fitting on, the saddle height adjusted and the pedals screwing on. All of which we did together, not even an issue – we were ready to ride.

While she uses SPD cleats in her spin class and is used to them, using them out on the road is another thing! They’re really good pedals to get used to a new bike and also riding on the road in cleats in. I picked them up on Wiggle for £28.99. With a couple of up charges – Tiagra Groupset, R501 wheels, Continental Ultra Sport tyres, a white handlebar steam and the all important Celeste handlebar tape – the total cost of the bike: £678.89

Even a bike which was ordered online and got delivered in a box to me, the gears didn’t need and fiddling with, changing down and through them wasn’t an issue, each gear changed was met with a satisfying ‘thunk’ in to gear.


First off, the transition from spin class to road brings in different factors; road surface, wind, weather conditions and other road users. The perfect place for us to start the full test and transition was down at the Olympic Velodrome where they have an outdoor mile long circuit, for cyclists only. For £6 you can cycle around pretty much all day, there’s toilet and water facilities on a circuit which has everything but a mega long climb (it is only a mile after all) but it does have a couple of short upward kicks.

Back to the bike – well, in short, it performs fantastically. Not only does it have fantastic weight for it’s price but upgraded the Groupset from the 105 to Tiagra gives miles better performance for only £39.99 on Ribble, it’s well worth it.


For a first time rider who is wanting to tackle road cycling head on I think its a great introductory bike. The balance of the bike is something which is very noticeable, it really gives you the confidence to ride the bike.

Gone are the days of a women’s bike just having a Top Tube which is easier to step over, Ribble have changed the geometry slightly so rather than just shifting the saddle forwards and fitting a much shorter stem, all of which could make for a twitchy, uncomfortable ride. Ribble have made the overall reach so that handling is not compromised. This is super noticeable because on the mile long circuit there are some tight twisty bits which the Sportiva glides through, with ease. Theres no mid corner twitch or worry, you can really get in to the corner at speed with confidence. To this improved handling setup the addition of a carbon front fork and you have a smoother ride that (slightly) reduces bumps and stones which may make you worry on the corners.

On this short and punchy circuit the bike performed admirably, it seemed to eat up the sprint, feeling stiff and ridged and that every pedal stoke had a purpose, to put as much power through the chain as possible. Flat out sprints were strong and sharp rising out the saddle to hammer down the power isn’t an issue and neither is negating a small bump in the road, up and out the saddle the pedals feel light enough underneath you to tap through your cadence with confidence of tackling the climb.

To a slightly longer ride – as the frame shares its build with the mens 7005 Sportive, you get the same sort of no messing from this frame. It’s great for a Sportive or leisure ride. Longer days in the saddle are comfortable and I’m pleased to say that uphill climbs are almost a joy. Almost. Having the bladed forked Shimano R501 wheels also helped here, while they’re not super light and the raciest of wheels, they are solid and they bring the weight down a bit. They’re durable and replacement spoke are easy enough to come by, they’re a welcome addition.

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To sum up, its a great first time bike, it brings together many elements; looks, durability, set up and low weight. it’s perfect for an entry level bike which will help you to decide whether you want to start taking things a little more seriously in a year or so. Easily enough to add stuff on to like better wheels, pedals or even electronic gears, we couldn’t be happier with it. Well done Ribble!

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RideLondon – Surrey

So there we have it, my first RideLondon and I’m pretty chuffed with myself to be honest.

100 miles completed in 5 hour 43 minutes. Rode the whole way with my brother alongside me – no cramping up and feeling like I was going to explode, until the last 50 metres when I realised I couldn’t sprint for the line!

I have to say, it was a really enjoyable ride, once it got going – it was a bit of a stop start morning for me, I didn’t think I’d make it to the start line! Here is why, my brother had come down from Birmingham with his partner on the Saturday, they had endless delays and didn’t get down here until late. We made a dash to the Excel, to register, missed Poplar tube stop where we had to change for the next tube to the Excel but got there with half an hour to spare to have a quick look around after registering. Here was me hoping that that, was it. No more bad luck please, Nice easy ride to the start and a safe ride around in sub six hours, please! However, my brother had other plans.

Not only did he struggle to get himself up in the morning for the ride but as we were carrying our bikes down the stairs (I live in flats, it’s only one flight, what could go wrong? Done it a hundred times) he somehow manages to slip and find his middle finger pointing in the wrong direction.

A sharp pull and with a satisfying click, it was back in place. Both looking at each other and thinking, ‘you are fine to ride. We are not going back, or to the hospital. You are doing this.’

The stream of cyclists on the way to the start was enough to get anyone ready to ride. It was exciting to see that many people in the cycle lanes of London and finally, the dream come true cycling London on closed roads. I have to interject myself here and say, well done to the organisers for getting everyone going pretty much bang on time! Amazing achievement.

I’ve never been from East to West London so fast, the combination of the closed roads, excitement and an ever changing peloton made sure we whipped through. Finally through Richmond Park and on to Kingston I was happy to leave London behind and get out towards the dreaded climbs…

One thing I did find is that there wasn’t that much chatter between riders, in sportives I’ve competed in of old, there is a good nitter natter, passing the time. The only thing I heard people do in this one in generally bitch and moan about other riders on the road. It’s the biggest sportive in the country, there’s going to be other riders on the road and yes, some of a different ability to you. So shouting “LEFT! LEFT!” at someone who is already riding in the gutter when there’s loads of room on the right just makes you look silly.

I did get slightly disgruntled at how seriously some people took this, everyone has their own agenda and that’s fine. Everyone wants to get around as quickly as possible, but please, give those going slower than you a break and enjoy yourself! It’s a sportive, not a race. At the bottom of Leith Hill, we pretty much came to a stand still, the bleep off Garmin’s going in to Autopause almost managed to drown out the amount of people complaining. Two chaps to my left summed it up, one was just getting really angry and almost started doing a Froome by running (this time with his bike) up Leith Hill, the other just started laughing and thought it was brilliant. I’m in the latter camp, however, starting Leith Hill from pretty much a standing start was not a laughing matter!

Then, came the descent, two completely separate incidents – and again a bit chapeau to the marshals here – ended with two people who were both being put in a neck brace and both of which needed the fantastic medical attention that such a sportive brings. Again though, people were getting annoyed that they were being told to slow down and stop. Bigger picture guys.

On a less moaning note though, the support! Wow, riding through Dorking, I sat up and had a look around at everyone lining the streets, cheering, getting excited at a load of completely unknown cyclists pedalling through their village. It was fantastic, I wanted to pull over and buy a burger and have a beer! My brother wouldn’t let me though, said it would slow us down for going up Box… Pft. The beautiful Surrey Countryside ahead of you and a wonderful looking town, thank you so much to every single supporter. Your support was greatly appreciated and helped, a lot! Not just in Dorking but along the whole course!

It’s amazing how your mind finds the smallest things funny when you’re out on a long ride. Short of my brother dislocating his finger, the thing that really tickled me was a conversation I overhead while going up Box Hill. A very short conversation between what I think was a couple. He wasn’t getting up as easily as her, the conversation went like this:

Her: “Just put it in a lower gear and spin it out.”

Him: “Yeah. Thanks, love.”

Just the advice you need as you’re struggling to get along.

The ride back in to London was so very enjoyable, I even enjoyed Wimbledon Hill! It’s true, I knew that after that, it’s plain sailing straight to The Mall. However, I think I was praying for it too quick as every time I glanced down at my Wahoo ELEMNT (blog coming on this shortly) the distance rarely seemed get closer to the magical 100!

A really enjoyable day, and then as I type this out, there is also the very sad news of Robin Chard suffering cardiac arrest around the 25 mile mark. My thoughts go out to his family and friends, such a tragedy. The money which Robin raised and continues to raise on his Just Giving page is fast approaching the £30,000 mark. Chapeau Robin.

See you again soon RideLondon.

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Spotive Panic Buys!

With the “worlds greatest sportive” (not my words, the words of Prudential RideLondon) coming up, I thought it was a good time to have a look at what you might be thinking of for that all important ride. It doesn’t have to be the RideLondon 100 miler, it could be any cycling sportive you’ve got planned to train, push your fitness goals or even, push yourself for something you’ve never done before.

Clothing

With it being good old British summer time, it’s probably best to start with something… Weatherproof. I don’t think you’ll go far wrong than with a good gilet. These things are great if you’ve an early start time on a chilly winter morning with a day that will heat up or even a muggy day with rain showers. The chaps over at Huez* sent me their flagship gilet. The Starman Windproof Gilet. Fancy sounding, isn’t it?

Huez* 2
The fancy of this gilet though goes beyond the name. It packs down neatly it to its own carry bag, in my opinion it could probably pack down even smaller than its bag.

It’s windproof and even more than showerproof and will give you a brilliant extra layer in the changeable weather. But wait, what’s this, the gilet has an extra trick up its sleeve – if it were to have sleeves that is. It’s pretty nifty, you can whip this gilet off in seconds by simply hooking your fingers in to the tabs either side of the zip and tugging outwards. The zip simply peels away and you’ll be the first in the peloton to have you gilet off. Providing you can take both hands off of the handle bars that is. The slightly annoying thing about this is though, you have to have the zip done all the way up for it to work effectively. So, you could just unzip…

Huez*.png
It’s great, it really is but coming in at £115 it’s certainly got a big price tag. But you can be safe in the knowledge you’ll get plenty of wear out of it. While the fabric feels flimsy, it’s pretty darn durable and something you’ll get plenty of use out of.

Fuel

Now, you have your clothing sorted, let us talk nutrition. One of the biggest things people forget to do is feed effectively and feed well when riding a big sportive. Do not underestimate it. Personally, I would rather come home with pockets full of food than halfway round cramping up wishing I had another energy bar or gel!

The power of Science in Sport (SiS) and their rapid growth has been extra-ordinary, now supplying Team Sky they always have discounts and their stuff is super tasty and well known across the sporting world.

SiS 1

Maybe it’s just my body and how it breaks down the substances but the SiS stuff is fantastic, plus when you sign up to SiS they’re giving away gels. Their stuff is far superior to any out there, with SiS also supplying Team Sky this year and I think we could all agree their performance and recovery powers at the Tour de France this year was nothing short of outstanding.

SiS 2

SiS actually sent me over some figures; the nine-man Team Sky team consumed over 3,000 SiS products during the 23-day challenge. In a breakdown that is:

  • 570 GO Energy bars
  • 580 GO Isotonic gels
  • 180 GO Electrolyte gels
  • 240 Go Energy+Caffeine gels
  • 940 GO Electrolyte servings
  • 180 REGO Rapid Recovery servings
  • 210 Overnight protein servings
  • 300 GO Hydro servings

You may think that that’s all they eat on the bike, somehow during the stages they also have time for rice cakes and whatever else their chef cooks up for them!

If it’s good enough for Team Sky over 2,197 miles, it’s good enough for me over 100!

SiS 3

Ready to race? 

Hey there, hot shot. Are you race ready? Well, here is my little secret… Secret Training. I’m not on about sneaking an extra ten miles on the bike before you meet your club mates for a ride. I’m talking STRIP, or, Secret Training Race Informed Products.

STRIP 1

This little pack might set you back £50 (special introductory offer) but my god is it worth it. It contains:

  • Hand sanitiser
  • Start oil
  • Anti chaffing cream (chamois cream)
  • Hygiene wipes
  • Lip balm
  • Post race wash
  • Sun screen
  • Micro fibre cloths
  • A tin of pins

Let’s pick up on a few of those things, start oil, what’s that? Well it’s a muscle rub to put on pre ride. Word to the wise, apply after the chamois cream, it is similar to deep heat. You do not want to get that where your chamois cream goes! It also puts a protective layer between your skin and the elements, so you can keep going come rain or shine.

The sunscreen is SPF30, the size is perfect though, slip in your back pocket / saddle bag and help keep those tan lines sharp and cultivated (rule 6 of cycling).

The post race wash, many of you won’t need this as it’s for when there are no showers around. More for the racers and races this one but it is good stuff! Same with the micro fibre clothes, for personal use after a race.

STRIP 2

While the pack is too big to carry on the bike during a sportive, the essentials are perfect size and great for the ride. They all fit in the travel case perfectly and neatly. Great to give to a family member to meet you at the finish. It really is great; I am really impressed by this pack of secrets and can’t recommend it enough. It smells good and the chamois cream is a good performer for long days in the saddle.

Go get ’em

The biggest thing to remember on your sportive is to have fun. Don’t go under prepared and it’s not a race. The only person you are racing is yourself, challenge yourself but don’t ruin yourself.

It’ll be tough, you’ll probably ask yourself why you’re doing it, you’ll probably question why you’re even doing it and then before you know it, it’ll be over. You will be elated, proud and be able to say you did it.

Now, go get ’em.

 

You can buy the Starman Windproof Gilet here

You can buy the SiS Team Sky Bundle here

You can buy the STRIP Race Day Personal Car Kit here

You can follow me on Twitter

And read my other blog posts