Ribble Cycles' first mountain bike in 20 years blends the old and the new with classic titanium tubes and modern geometry
The Ribble HT Ti is Ribble Cycles’ first mountain bike in 20 years and it blends the old and the new with classic titanium tubes and modern geometry.
Ribble HT Ti review
This is Ribble’s first mountain bike in almost 20 years, but you’d never guess looking at the beautifully crafted titanium frame with its fancy gussets and swoopy back end. The geometry is far from dated either – the HT Ti boasting the slackest head angle and longest wheelbase on test.
It’s light too. The smoothly welded 3Al/2.5V triple-butted titanium frame weighing a scant 2.1kg in size medium. Plus, with the frame option costing £1,800, Ribble’s complete package looks decidedly good value compared to the Pace RC 627 and Cotic Bfe with equivalent parts.
It’s the only frame on test with internally routed cables, trading a cleaner look for occasional cable rattle. This also makes it harder to plumb in the rear brake if you go with the frame-only option. Mud clearance isn’t as plentiful as its rivals, but it’s adequate for foul conditions, even with 2.6in Maxxis tyres.
The 2020 RockShox Pike on the Ribble is the Select+ model, rather than the Ultimate version found on the Pace. It gets a Charger 2.1 damper inside though, just minus the independent high and low-speed compression adjustment. The new DebonAir air spring on the Pike has a tweaked negative/positive ratio, and combined with the low-friction SKF seals it’s super-supple off-the-top. It’s also over 200g lighter than the Cane Creek Helm on the Cotic.
Just like the Cotic and Pace, the Ribble is rocking 150mm travel, where the slack 63.3° head angle and 1,229mm wheelbase help mitigate any adverse swings in geometry as the fork compresses. An added bonus of the slack geometry being you can run the suspension fork a little softer for extra grip without negatively impacting the steering.
The Race Face Chester 780mm handlebars and forged 40mm stem are flex free, but the remote for the Level 150mm dropper post isn’t, so it feels soft and mushy in use; a trait that got worse when the anodising on the post got scratched by grit, making the action even more sluggish.
Weighing over 2.3kg, Hope’s Fortus 30 wheels are heavy. Granted they were designed for downhill racing, with the bonus of being totally bombproof, but there’s no ignoring the rotating weight of the rims. So even with smooth, reliable Pro 4 hubs, the wheels feel noticeably harder to accelerate. The 30mm internal rim width does support the fatter 2.6in Maxxis Minion 3C DHR II tyres nicely at lower pressures, laying down a smoothing footprint of grippy rubber for enhanced traction on, and off, the brakes.
Yes, the SRAM Guide R disc brakes aren’t quite as smooth to the touch as the RS model with its swinglink cam, but modulation is still good, even if the smaller 160mm rear rotor is not the best for killing pace rapidly when you’re really going for it.
With the most relaxed steering geometry, Ribble’s HT Ti can hold an impressively straight line through rough rocks and chunder at speed. It’s also roomy enough to shift your weight freely about the bike to correct line choice errors and adjust body position as the terrain dictates.
When you’re not dropping your heels and hanging off the back, the elevated 322mm BB height makes the bike feel too tall. So it’s not as reactive to the kind of flicky, darting moves required to avoid obstacles or bounce from one side of the trail to the other.
This might also be due to flex – the frame exhibiting that titanium hallmark of being a little softer and more compliant than steel or alloy. Even with a gusset between the curvy seat stays and extra reinforcement at the bottom bracket junction, flex is noticeable leaning hard into corners, and also when stomping on the pedals.
Unfortunately this flexier feel doesn’t translate to a smoother ride when trails get more chopped up and rocky. Both of the steel bikes in test feel more damped, and isolated the rider better from vibrations. In fact, even though Cotic’s Bfe is pretty chunky and solid, there’s still less feedback transmitted to your hands and feet.
Ribble’s new HT Ti hardtail has modern geometry, beautiful welds and looks fantastic. With sorted parts, the price is good value too, especially considering the standalone cost of the titanium frame. When it comes to ride quality, however, Ribble’s rig is good, but other brands with more experience tuning frame tubing offer more dialled handling, and a sweeter balance between stiffness and compliance. So while Ribble’s debut shows promise, and we wouldn’t bet against the brand improving fast - especially with a steel version coming soon - the wonder material hasn’t delivered the ride quality to match its progressive attitude.