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Review: Ribble Aero 883

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With the completion of the record breaking Iron Century endeavour, we take a look at one of the bikes used by the team, the Ribble Aero 883. 

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The internet has brought us many exciting innovations. It allows us to connect to loved ones on the other side of the world in real time, we are able to access volumes of previously inaccessible knowledge, Youtube allows us to waste hours watching old music videos or cat videos if that’s your thing. We can meet and engage on line with like-minded people on internet forums or we can use it to source the best bargains from around the world and fill our homes with things we didn’t know we needed.

When it comes to internet shopping bike “bits” have generally been the staple for most of us, however  “direct to market” bike sales have hit the spotlight of recent times with Canyon pushing the barrow.  Now Ribble are also making a concerted effort to push themselves into this space. While for many of us in Oz, Ribble is best known as being one of the originators of the internet cycle shopping revolution, their roots actually go back way beyond the internet. The art of bike building has always been an integral part of their business and they are rightly proud that riders such as Chris Boardman and Bradley Wiggins have spent time aboard Ribble bikes.

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Just as Ribble’s retail strategy has changed with the times, going from a bricks and mortar high street store to a more on line strategy with warehousing and “click and collect” shopping, their line of bicycles has also evolved. Hand built steel frames have now been replaced with a range of carbon fibre frames to suit most cycling applications, however one part of Ribble’s business remains constant; the ability to have “your bike your way”.  With Ribble you are not constrained to a set build for any of their bikes. You, the customer, are free to tinker with the build as much as you like to get either the spec or the price point that best suits your requirements, and that is no different to the test bike I have had the opportunity to ride for the last few weeks.

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The Aero 883 road bike is Ribble’s aero road rocket, a bike that looks fast standing still. In my opinion the frame looks as good as any aero frame on the market. But it seems it was not just the stylists who had a major hand in designing this model. The UK is home to almost all of the worlds Formula 1 engineering factories and Ribble have taken full advantage of this convenient fact. The Aero 883 frame was designed with the assistance of Performance Engineered Solutions in Sheffield who are involved with F1 and Moto GP and if experience tells us anything, bringing these big budget players into the cycling sphere can only have huge benefits for our sport. 

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The Aero 883 also makes judicious use of Kamm-tail shapes, predominantly on the seat and down tubes, which give the effect of larger aero tubes without the additional material or area. The seat post is also a neat match for the seat tube and has a simple yet effective and very clean clamping mechanism. Without a wind tunnel it would had to verify any claims, although Ribble don’t actually stick their neck out and make any, but if the eyeball aero test is anything to go by the 883 certainly appears to be a slippery sucker from all angles.

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When I picked up the Ribble Aero 883 I was pre warned that it was a stiff ride. Having been reviewing bikes for nearly ten year now I have heard lots of claims and generally take them with a grain of salt, but maybe the decal on the fork that reads “Race Rigid” should have been a bit of a giveaway that they were serious, and they couldn’t be more correct. From the first pedal stroke the Ribble Aero 883 shows it has the build to match its racy looks. It is stiff, impressively so, which equates to an immediate forward trajectory. While sitting on the couch typing away one night a repeat of a Mythbusters episode came on the TV. It was the one where they used the rocket sled to completely destroy yet another car. (If you haven’t seen it Google “rocket sled car” it’s awesome)  Watching this clip reinforced to me what happens when you get maximum power transfer with minimal resistance and point it in a straight line and this is just how the Ribble feels. Of course that degree of energy transfer does not come without a compromise of some sort.

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The stiffness of the Aero 883 translates to a greater degree of saddle feel than many would be used to. This is not a “comfort bike” or an “endurance geometry” bike this is a point and shoot weapon. But, let’s face it, you don’t buy a Porsche to carry groceries and you don’t buy an Aero road bike and not want to ride it fast. If your idea of a Sunday ride is cruising coffee shops and chatting with mates then then the 883 may be a bit too much for you, but if your idea of a Sunday ride is punching off the front, trying to put your mates into the hurt box and racing at road signs for sprint points then the 883 may be right up your alley.

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The steering of the Aero 883 is also in line with what you would expect from a top flite racer. While not slow or lazy the steering does feel like it needs definite and purposeful input at which point it responds accordingly with dependable accuracy. This, I believe, is where this bike falls squarely into being reviewed on a Tri site. The steering lends itself nicely to the addition of some clip on bars for those that want a tri bike for hilly courses or simply a cost effective single bike tri strategy. Unlike many aero bikes which use generic brakes the 883 comes equipped with Shimano direct mount brakes. Often aero mounted brakes accompanied with funky cable outing can lead to a less than effective brake, the Shimano direct mounts are a great brake and work as well as standard brakes, although the bottom bracket mounting can leave them susceptible to getting gunked up. 

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Our test model came equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2, which is without doubt one of the best bang for buck groupsets on the market. The 2nd tier electronic groupset has been virtually faultless on any of the test bikes I had over the years and on my own bikes. The 883 comes standard with an internal battery setup which keeps everything neat and tidy and also helps keep the aero lines nice and clean. However if you are not an electronic kinda person, or just want to save a few dollars then that’s where the beauty of the Ribble comes into play. The Ribble websites bike builder allows you to spec the frame how you like. In its lowest spec an 883 complete bike can come in as low as $2,249, or if you have your own fancy wheels you can get the 883 specced with Ultegra Di2 and Shimano’s entry level RS010’s for $3,868.

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With the Mavic’s as tested the 883 currently runs at $4,544 and tips the scales at a pretty respectable 8.08 kgs. When I say “currently”, it is worth noting that as these bikes are shipped from the UK the price can fluctuate a bit depending on the current exchange rate. (When I started reviewing this bike it was listed at $5,009, thanks Brexit). Ribble are however, trying to keep fluctuations to a minimum and holding prices for a month or so before revising the exchange rate. There is also the additional issue that firstly your bank may sting you for a foreign currency transaction and also the fact that you may be up for additional costs as the bikes come through Australian customs. Although this is estimated to be only a 10% chance of being picked up, it is worth doing your homework and being prepared just in case, however I have been told that Ribble are looking to work towards an all-inclusive “landed” price in the near future.  However even with any possible customs impost the Ribble 883 is still a pretty good deal.

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Ribble bikes arrive well packed and 90% assembled with only a few bolts to be tightened before you are on your way. Di2 also makes any fine tuning a doddle. For those not accustomed to tinkering with their own bikes and not keen on assembling their own bike there are a multitude of boutique mechanics getting around now that will happily work on any bike from any source or with some help from Youtube it may be time to get learning.

The quality of the Ribble 883 and the ability to customise your own build certainly make this bike one worth investgating

Specs as tested: 

Frame: Ribble AERO883 Di2 Carbon Road Frame

Chain: HG701 (6800 Ultegra) Chain - 11 Speed

Crankset: Ultegra 172.5 34/50

Gear Levers and Shifters: STI Levers Ultegra 6800 11Spd

Cassette: Ultegra 11-28

Front Derailleur: Ultegra 6800 11Spd Dble Front Gear Braze-on

Rear Derailleur: SS Short (max 28T)

Brake Set: Ultegra 6810 Direct Fit Brake Set

Bottom Bracket: BB71 Road Press Fit BB Cups 86.5x41

Wheelset: Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon 25mm WTS Wheelset

Tyres: Continental Ultra Sport 2 Rigid Tyre  700x23mm

Handlebars: Deda RHM 02 Bars

Stem: Deda Zero 2 Stem

Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Flow (Manganese)

Weight 8.08 kg’s excl pedals (Large)

Price as tested $4,544.00 (may include additional charges)

 

 

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