Ridley Dean

Where have you seen this bike? (Well, not this bike, pictured here. (More on the color scheme below.) You saw this bike last year, partnered with Team Katusha, and, you'll see the same this year. Yes, The Russians are Coming—Karpets, Ignatyev, Botcharov and the rest—with Deans underneath.

Ridley is a Belgian company and its sponsorship of a Russian team makes the brand just opaque enough to be desirable. And here's the interesting thing about the Ridley Dean: If Trek, Specialized, Felt, Cannondale, and Cervelo are just a little too North American for you; and a bike is not really droolworthy unless its made by a company that only marginally acknowledges anything like you (a North American triathlete) even exists; then, among the available European brands (e.g., Pinarello, Colnago, Time, Orbea, Merckx) this is the one that's actually going to fit and handle the way you probably ride.

This is what sets the Ridley Dean apart. Well, mostly apart. Wilier, Look, and Canyon all make TT/tri bikes that feature North American geometric sensibilities, but Ridley is the leader of the pack in terms of North American market penetration, at least in its highest-end bike (Look's 596 is probably the best-selling mid-priced Euro TT/tri bike in the North American market among those that fit the way I think they should).

Ridley is just getting set to unveil a program like Trek's Project One (see link below), where you can get your Dean painted every which color inside of its basic cosmetic scheme. Above is a website screen shot of the process as I went through it. If you don't like my colorset, sue me. That's the beauty of it. You don't have go with my idea of cool. Go with your own. The bike will show up in 6 to 8 weeks painted the way you prefer.

About that geometry: Why does it fit nicely? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but, it fits like Cervelos and Felts. These companies are numbers one and two in the tri market because they fit well. Most legendary Euro companies make tri bikes that fit few-to-no triathletes. Ridley, smartly, and Canyon, both did what Cervelo pioneered and Felt duplicated: They made TT bikes that can work for both their pro tour teams and be salable bikes to triathletes. It's amazing how few companies followed suit.

The Dean is going to be a little bit high maintenance in the manner of a Kuota Kueen K, Fuji D6, Quintana Roo CD0.1, Jamis Xenith, and some others: You'll have to wrestle aligning those Tektro behind-the-fork and behind-the-BB brake calipers (or, your mechanic will).

Also, like the Scott Plasmas and the Kueen K, you make like Paul Bunyan and whack the seat mast down to your size. Then you place a seat cap over the top. There are a few different Ridley seat caps to choose from, and a standard equipment "triathlon" seat post has two positions (of which one position only has any utility according to me, and, you know which one, don't you?).

Now, lest you think I'm just shining up Ridley's headbadge because that's what magazines do, Ridley makes another tri bike: the Phaeton. I'm not going to write about this bike, because you know the old saw about if you don't have anything nice to say. And that's all I'm going to say about that. Except...

I don't know how a company can make a bike as nice as the Dean, and stumble so hard on the only other tri bike it makes, especially because that cheaper bike doesn't have to conform to UCI regulations. Nevertheless, Ridley managed to do so.

The Dean comes nominally with a 76° seat angle, so, why do I like the way this bike fits? Well, because the forward of the two seat post positions is about 78°, and, if you look at the stack and reach tables we publish, the Dean is just about right in length and height.

The frame, fork; brake calipers (which have "Ridley" etched on them but they feel, taste, and smell like a set of Tektros); seat post; and headset; all sell for $3600. You pay an extra charge for the custom paint if you want to go that route. This makes the complete bike—what?—$5500? That's a fair guess, but, it just depends on how you want to spec it. SRAM Rival? Less expensive. Shimano Di2? Home equity line (oh, I forgot, banks don't do those anymore).

Me, I think a Dean just screams out for SRAM Red.

Remember when I cracked wise in the first paragraph of this review, about companies that only marginally acknowledge anything like a North American triathlete even exists? If you survey riders at the Hawaiian Ironman (which I did annually, starting in 1992, for 15 years), what you find is this: There are a very few retro countries, whose riders just haven't awakened to (in my opinion) smell the coffee, position-wise. And chief among those countries in recent years has been Belgium. If you want to find triathletes who—as a nationality—are positioned in ways like fingernails-on-a-blackboard to me, look no further than the country that Ridley calls home.

So, here's the irony: Ridley makes the Dean, a bike I can't imagine it would design for its own domestic market. I can therefore only conclude that this company does know you exist, and it made a bike for you.