The day after I picked up the Ridley Noah SL, the weather forecast was truly shocking for the middle of May; mid thirties, rain and high wind. Despite this, I convinced myself to harden the fuck up, and headed out. Twenty minutes later, snow was driving horizontally and visibility was about fifty yards, the Belgian bike had summoned spring classic weather to the desert southwest. After waiting out the worst of it in a café, I headed out onto the wet windy road and started my dirty, lustful five-week love affair with the Noah SL.
Slotting in between Ridley’s Lighter Helium series and the fully aero Noah Fast option, the Noah SL incorporates a host of aero features into a bike suited for all-around racing and hard, fast riding.
It incorporates all the modern go fast aero features you would expect on a pro team ride, and Ridley takes things a step further with aero technology they claim shaves an additional 7% of wind resistance from the frame. Dubbed F-Surface, Ridley grooves the smooth surface of the downtube and seatpost to more efficiently channel air, like dimples on a golf ball. They also split the fork, directing air away from the turbulent front wheel.
While this 7% claim is impossible to verify without a wind tunnel, a freshly shorn man in a skin suite and a gaggle of Flemish engineers, the real world riding is convincing. Compared to a non-aero bike, the Noah SL is simply faster at speed. Jumping out around a group into the wind or the first few seconds of a fast pull are noticeably less painful. Let the road tilt down even a little, and its hard not to smile. Long hard exertions in the drops are more satisfaction than suffering. This bike makes you want to go fast.
The overall ride of the SL is decidedly race. My 165 lbs creates little or no flex thanks to the chunky tubes and BB junction. Out of the saddle efforts are rewarded with a satisfying pop of acceleration, this bike loves to be hammered. Of course, this is no gravel grinder and all that stiffness comes at a price. Rough road sections are keenly felt, but surprisingly, small bumps are nicely absorbed by the Noah as long as they don’t come in rapid succession. With clearance for 25mm tires, comfort can be increased if that’s your thing. There is a slight weight penalty for all that stiff sleekness, but its still just a nudge over UCI limits.
For an aggressive bike, the handling is predicable and confident. My second date with the Ridley was a 106 mile mixed road sufferfest. There was a long dirt road mountain climb, a 40 mph descent on twisty drenched asphalt, big wind, miles and miles of fast dirt road descending and a high-speed Hail-Mary bunny-hop over a very broken cattle guard. It felt like we had known each other for years.
If you do your best work on the steeps or spend more at the chiropractor than the bike shop, this is likely not the bike for you. If you like it at the pointy end of the group and enjoy your time working in the drops, you should take a long, hard, shameless look at the Noah SL.
If you’re the kind of person who does their bike shopping online, check out the Ridley Noah SL on Competitive Cyclist.