The Ribble HT 725 has a mainframe that's UK-designed Reynolds heat-treated chromoly steel hardtail featuring slack and long geometry.
The Ribble HT 725 has a mainframe that’s UK-designed Reynolds heat-treated chromoly steel hardtail featuring slack and long geometry.
Ribble HT 725 need to know
- Built around a 150mm travel RockShox Revelation suspension fork
- Customisable spec and colour accents via Ribble’s direct-sales BikeBuilder
- Three models to choose from, all based around the same frame, from £1,199 for the Sport Build to this Pro Build sitting at the top of the range
Hailing from Preston in Lancashire, Ribble Cycles has been at the heart of British cycling for decades, but since it hasn’t produced a mountain bike of note for almost 20 years, you would be forgiven if it’s a name that has passed you by. Following a complete rebrand, Ribble is aiming to broaden its ‘hardcore roadie’ image into the off-road arena, and it’s doing that by releasing two genuinely hardcore hardtails.
We’ve already ridden the first of those creations – a Ribble HT Ti titanium model with modern geometry and a reasonable price tag that looked every bit the hooligan, but lacked stiffness and backbone in the heat of battle. So it’s this model, the honest, down-to-earth steel HT 725, that we’ve really been waiting for. Why? It’s more affordable and the ferrous frame material should bring some much needed precision to the handling.
Ribble is a direct-to-consumer brand – nothing unique there – however it has attempted to create a buying experience a little bit different from the rest. Enabling you as the consumer a little more customisation if you so desire via its BikeBuilder website. Here you can cherry pick the spec level and customise components and finishing colours to make your HT 725 a little bit more special. As standard the frame is only available in grey, but six different finishing kit packages – consisting of decals, headset and seat clamp – provide a subtle pop of colour. But I digress, let’s get back to the bike itself.
Ribble’s mountain bike division has opted to build the frame out of Reynolds 725, which is a heat-treated chromoly steel tubeset. This gives the HT 725 the classic, whippet-thin frame outline we associate with proper steel bikes. There is nothing traditional about the design of the frame though and Ribble has managed to encapsulate plenty of modern thinking with regards to how a mountain bike should be built and the features that are required.
Take the geometry – one look at its stance and you can see Ribble intends the HT 725 to be pushed towards the extremes of what a hardtail should rightly ride. It has one of the slackest head angles of any normal hardtail at just under 63.5º and a long 1,229mm wheelbase that screams downhill stability. The seat angle is not bang up to date in terms of steepness, giving the HT 725 a roomier seated position at the slight expense of steep climbing prowess.
All cable routing is fully internal and I really like the fact the rear gear cable runs inside the top tube and seat stay, keeping the cable as straight as possible for improved reliability.
The frame features a reinforced gusset at the bottom bracket and a simple extra triangle brace at the seat tube/top tube junction to create a really low slung frame for ample clearance. Tyre clearance is fine around the 2.6in rubber fitted, but there are bikes with a little more if you still hanker after larger volume rubber. Finally, being a proper British hardtail, there’s a threaded BB.
How it rides
I’m going to jump straight into how it rides as, quite frankly, it’s a blast. I’ve always been wary of riding my committed local trails (Risca) on a hardtail, preferring the reassurance of a 150mm+ skill compensator, but the HT 725 has made me re-evaluate exactly what a hardtail can do. With the stretched out, limo-like wheelbase and DH slack head angle, it made riding steep and chattery trails almost as enjoyable and rewarding as on a full-sus. The RockShox Revelation proves a decent foil to the frame’s personality, especially with 150mm of travel to play with. We mentioned in the titanium version review that you could run the fork with less pressure to really get the front to bite and this rings true for the steel version. In fact it’s a trick that gets the best out of the less sophisticated Motion Control damper-equipped Revelation.
Unlike the titanium version, which we felt was just a little too soft and flexy, the steel version is taut and accurate. It’s stiff enough to avoid unwanted deflection and enables the HT 725 to plough straight and true along your line of choice. Of course, line choice is still something to be hyper aware of when piloting the HT 725, but the low slung frame and smaller wheels make flicking it about and shifting position so much more natural and impulsive.
One thing you do notice about the Ribble HT 725 is the front wheel tends to wander when cruising and especially when climbing. A degree or two of steepness on the seat tube would go some way to placing a little more weight over the front wheel, but then this is a bike that follows more of the sit and winch technique for getting climbs done – an XC racer this is not.
Value is something that needs bringing up with the HT 725 and Ribble bikes in general. Thanks to its direct sales approach, the HT 725 is remarkably good value for money, even in this top-end Pro Build spec – arguably it even eclipses similar builds from the likes of Vitus and Ragley.
Granted there are a few cost saving measures, mainly centred around the wheel spec. Ribble’s in-house component brand Level 35 wheels come with a standard HG freehub rather than a SRAM XD driver body, so it gets the cheaper and heavier 11-50 tooth Eagle cassette. This also restricts potential future upgrades, unless you switch freehubs. The rims also lack suitable tubeless rim tape and are a pain to seal, plus I had a struggle after a few gritty rides getting the dropper post to operate reliably. The final speccing point that seems at odds with the intended use of the HT 725 is the tiny 160mm rear rotor. Granted the basic but powerful SRAM Level T brakes proved to be up to the job, but I’d rather see a 180mm rotor for sustained descending.
The Ribble HT 725 certainly surprised me with its capability and provides an addictive and grin-inducing ride. I’d happily put this steel version down as one of the better hardtails to have come out of 2020, and at this price my only gripes are easily glossed over.