First impression Punchy, low, stiff and fast. Very fast. The Aero 883 straddles the line between a full-on mountain-goat stage race bike and an aero road weapon. There are two good reasons for this. Considering the number of bikes we’ve tested, it does take a lot to impress us from the off, but that’s exactly what the Ribble does, and then some.
On the road So, back to those two good reasons. Number one is the low weight – it’s broadly half a kilo lighter than the other bikes on test. Combine this already lightweight package with a compact chainset working on an 11-28 cassette, and you’ve a bike that positively devours hills and barely suffers on rolling roads. A false flat becomes simply flat. The low, long(ish) riding position makes every corner exit an excuse for a sprint, and forced us into an almost TT-like position to make the most of the frame’s aero benefits when presented with a long, flat section of deserted tarmac. The 50/34 chainset doesn’t adversely affect acceleration or the ability to hold on to speed – you just find yourself staying closer to the 11-tooth sprocket a lot of the time. And the sensation of connectivity between pedal, rear wheel and road is something experienced more usually on a bike costing twice the price. Yet there’s more than enough comfort on offer from the unassuming carbon seatpost and effective seatstays, while the Selle Italia saddle soaks up the rest.
Handling The shortest wheelbase of our four bikes combines with an almost endurance bike-spec, 72.1° head angle to give steering that remains settled yet direct enough to excite. There’s nothing highly-strung about this bike. Oh yes, reason number two – there’s a very good reason the Aero 883 excels in its handling and that’s the wheelset it’s rolling on. For a 52mm deep-section carbon wheelset to be the lightest on test, and on a £2,200 bike is pretty much the holy grail of hoops. The speed with which the Mavic Cosmic Pros pick up speed, and the ease with which they hold on to it, is a real joy. They enjoy crosswinds as much as any deep-section wheel, but if you can put up with that, they offer consistently high performance, and their alloy braking surface is more than adequately gripped by those direct-mount Shimano Ultegra brakes. The French firm’s Yksion Pro Griplink rubber is a clear winner here, too – although a 25c tyre would offer slightly better comfort, the Mavics supply grip, speed and confidence.
Frameset The Aero 883’s tubing is an object lesson in oversizing, especially at the key areas for reducing flex and aiding power transfer – namely the chainstays, head tube and frankly massive bottom bracket area. The seat tube uses a sizeable cutaway to bring the wheels as close together as possible while narrow seatstays project from the seat tube low to create as compact a rear triangle as possible. A fairly stout headtube is the most rock-solid on test, and features shrouds at its junction with the down tube to direct airflow around its base. A traditionally bladed carbon fork completes the picture at the front end. Everything about this set-up (with the exception of those naturally vibe-damping seatstays) screams solidity. And that just about sums up the way it rides, too.
Groupset Here’s where the Aero 883 gets even more impressive. It’s equipped with a full Shimano Ultegra groupset – lighter than 105, though similar in its behaviour and operation. Our test bike came with a 50/34, compact chainset, but the beauty of Ribble is that you can spec the bike as you wish. The Ultegra brakes are direct-mount, reckoned to increase strength and be slightly more aero, as they’re closer to the frame. An 11-28 cassette combines with the 50/34 chainset to make this a perfectly tuned climbing bike as well as a pukka aero racer.
Finishing kit Again, this can be altered to your own specification but our test bike was fitted with excellent Deda compact drop bars and a 130mm Deda Zero 2 alloy stem. Selle Italia’s moderately flexy, downward-nosed saddle sits atop an unbranded carbon seatpost.
Wheels The crowning glory of this bike’s build is its 52mm deep-section Mavic Cosmic Pro carbon clinchers. We couldn’t tell you the last time we saw a £760 wheelset on a £2,200 bike. Despite their deep profile, they’re also the lightest wheelset of the four we tested, at 1.22kg for the front, 1.54kg for the rear. An alloy braking surface offers predictable stopping power and Mavic’s Yksion Pro Griplink tyres in 23c are sticky enough for racing.
Punchy, stiff and very fast, the Aero 883 is also exceptionally good value.
Every so often, a bike blows our minds, and on this occasion it’s the Ribble Aero 883. As an exceptionally high-spec package for the price, not to mention out-performing the other three bikes in its willingness to destroy any road, it’s not only our test winner but also the winner of the BikesEtc Gold award. If you want to race, already race, or just want one of the quickest, best-value bikes on the market, this is a great choice. Even better, while our test ride worked out at £2,186.90, Ribble tell us a bike built to the same spec will be available from July for £1,999.95.