The Ribble Gravel SL Pro is the brand's race-ready gravel machine and, with its full carbon construction, it offers an efficient ride for those that love speed - without compromising on comfort. The Gravel SL Pro sets itself apart among the best gravel bikes with its versatility that makes it equally capable on race courses as on multi-day bikepacking adventures.
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According to the brand, the Ribble Gravel SL Pro is aimed at the serious gravel racer who views every gravel ride as an opportunity to charge down trails at blistering speeds. In essence, the bike is an upgraded version of the CGR model, with gravel-specific touches.
Ribble Gravel SL Pro - Design and aesthetics
Looks-wise, I think this bike is rather beautiful in its eye-catching Satin Copper colourway and subtle Ribble branding. Apart from the colour, the Gravel SL Pro looks very much like the Ribble GCR - and that is because the two share the same frame. The frame has aerodynamic, larger tube shapes, and dropped seat stays for extra stiffness.
Despite still being very race-orientated, the Gravel SL comes equipped with copious mounting points; two typical bottle mounts on top of the downtube, and one underneath. The carbon fork has three mounts on each side for fork cages, and the top tube has bolts so you can attach a top tube bag, yet that is not all. The bike can also accommodate full mudguards or a pannier rack, which I bunged on for my European bikepacking adventure.
By adding those mounts, Ribble has not really compromised on anything - apart from the looks for those who are concerned about those - but has simultaneously added value. With full mudguards, it makes a great winter bike and by swapping the gravel wheels to road ones, this could make a good endurance road bike with its relatively relaxed geometry.
The Gravel SL Pro has tyre clearance for up to 47mm with 6500b wheels, and less with 700c hoops that the frame is equally able to accommodate. It has a modern gravel bike geometry, with a relatively long wheelbase, slack head angle and steeper seat tube angle.
In terms of numbers, my size XS bike has a 520mm top tube, a 70.5-degree head angle and a 74.5-degree seat tube angle - which is steeper than for example, on a Canyon Grail (in similar size). This angle is not unusual for a race-orientated gravel bike, though, as it offers a forward position to get the power down. The seat tube gets slightly slacker in larger sizes, with the XL coming with a 72.5-degree seat angle. And lastly, the bike comes with a 69mm bottom bracket drop throughout the range - which is a relatively small drop for a gravel bike.
And talking of sizes - this bike comes in five sizes ranging from XS to XL, accommodating riders from 5'4" to 6'4" tall. According to Ribble the weight of the bike in size M is 9.08kg - my size XS with pedals, bottle cages and computer mount came in at 9kg on the dot - so although it's not the lightest out there, it is still very easy to get up hills.
Ribble Gravel SL Pro gravel bike - Components
At the cockpit, Ribble has taken its inspiration from its existing top-of-the-range SL models and introduced a gravel-specific, integrated carbon cockpit. This is a flared version of the Level 5 integrated road bars Ribble offers. But because I am only 5'4" tall, I needed a shorter stem and thus, opted for the LEVEL gravel alloy handlebars and a 70mm stem instead.
Making this swap is as easy for a consumer as it was for me, as Ribble is known for its customisation options - and each change you make is reflected in the price. The more traditional handlebar setup I got would shave £280 off the asking price.
The integrated handlebar setup is neat, but as someone who travels with their bike, I somewhat prefer the more traditional bar and stem combo I got on the bike, allowing for easy attachment of accessories, as well.
It's worth mentioning though, that for this bike, your handlebar options are all 42cm wide - whether you choose the integrated cockpit, the alloy bars or the riser bars. With the integrated Level 5 gravel setup, you’re even more limited, with the 42cm wide bar coming only with a 90mm or 110mm stem.
Continuing with the finishing kit: the bike comes with a Fizik Taiga saddle which I swapped to another one quite quickly, as although the Taiga is off-road specific, its solid and flat construction just did not fit my bottom at all.
The bike is rolling on tubeless-ready, LEVEL DB650 carbon wheels wrapped in 47mm Halo GXC tyres. The wheels are light, and with 28 spokes they're off-road and bikepacking suitable. Last but not least in terms of components, the Gravel SL Pro comes with a threaded bottom bracket, making the home mechanics' life easy.
Ribble Gravel SL Pro gravel bike - Groupset
The Gravel SL Pro comes equipped with the high-end, gravel-specific Shimano GRX825 Di2 groupset, which gives a crisp, electronic shifting. The hoods are specifically designed for off-road riding with a little more texture and more aggressive hood rise than Shimano's road Di2 shifters. I really like the shape and added grip these hoods offer.
The bike comes with a 40T chainring at the front and an 11-42T cassette at the back, giving plenty of easy gears for hills and flats alike. The GRX 810 crankset only comes in 170, 172.5 and 175mm lengths, which again, doesn't bode well with shorter riders. As a shorter rider, I personally would want to ride 165mm cranks and that is simply not an option with this groupset but the Gravel SL does come in various Shimano and Sram builds so there's the option to choose something else.
The stopping power was consistent with the hydraulic GRX RX810 flat-mount disc brakes and, although the Shimano RT64 CentreLock rotors didn't affect the performance, I would have liked to see some higher-end disc rotors such as RT99s.
Ribble Gravel SL Pro gravel bike - Performance
The first ride I did on the Ribble Gravel SL Pro was the Sisters in the Wild bikepacking weekend which consisted of three days of riding over around 110 miles in beautiful Devon over a variety of surfaces. Since this initial baptism of fire, which the bike survived with flying colours, I’ve been putting it through its paces on my local gravel roads, and even on a brief bikepacking trip in Europe.
The Ribble Gravel SL Pro is stable enough on the downhill and on that rough gravel stuff, and also efficient going up the hills and bombing down flat gravel highways. The long frame geometry, and even more importantly, the wide tyres, have been excellent on long rattly descents but the bike does have a slight twitchiness or unsettled feeling to it when it comes to the technical stuff.
I have two suggested culprits for this: the bottom bracket drop (the vertical distance from a line intersecting the axles of each wheel down to the centre of the bottom bracket) which at 69mm is higher than for example on a Liv Devote (80mm) or Specialized Diverge (80-85mm). This results in a higher centre of gravity, affecting the bike's stability on technical, rocky stuff. The other explanation is the handlebar-stem combo - at 70mm, the stem is on the shorter side and, while this does provide more direct steering in singletrack situations, the downside is a more twitchy front end.
Overall, I think the geometry of this bike is well-balanced. I found that it was best suited for open gravel, rather than technical narrow singletrack. The dropped seat stays and d-shaped carbon seatpost add comfort as they allow the seatpost to absorb some variations but, overall, I found the ride feel was more akin to that of a road bike.
In terms of performance, the was zero flex when it came to sprinting and it climbed beautifully - power transfer through the pedals is efficient. The steeper seat tube angle places you over the BB and the bike's 9kg weight helped it fly up the climbs, while the longer wheelbase calmed the handling on descents.
Although the wide tyres make the bike comfortable, the Halo GXCs were a letdown. I punctured on the first handful of rides on thorns, then set them up tubeless which resolved the issue with flats. Yet I was still not convinced of their performance as at 47mm they’re a little sluggish on anything but hardpacked gravel. Although better on the rough stuff in low pressures, I think the bike would benefit from slightly faster rolling and grippier tyre; in fact, they performed well in dry conditions but the shallow tread pattern meant they struggled when things turned muddy and kept slipping on wet grass, too.
Although the Halos are the stock tyres for the bike. Ribble offers other tyres as part of their customisation options when buying a bike, so you can easily change them to suit your riding conditions.
Ribble Gravel SL Pro gravel bike - Value
Throughout the testing period, I wondered a lot about where to place the Ribble Gravel SL Pro in the gravel sector, especially when I was riding it through the Netherlands with a pannier rack attached to the back. It's not a pure race bike unless you are thinking of multiday-self-supported races but it is a bit too much of a bike for just pottering about your local gravel trails for fun. It's a performance bike, but by adding the numerous mounts, including mudguard compatibility, Ribble has transformed it into a do-it-all bike-packing bike.
So should I compare it to performance gravel bikes or those that are even more bikepacking-oriented? Both, perhaps. And it's not alone in this category, as for the same price, you could get Trek Checkpoint SL 6 eTap (£4,450) which offers similar cargo capacity, but also has Trek's own IsoSpeed technology that is good if you're after maximum comfort. Similarly, the 2021 Salsa Cutthroat Carbon GRX 810 (£4,700) that Matt reviewed and praised is offering the same performance as the Ribble, with even more luggage capacity. There is also Lauf Seigla Weekend Warrior (£4,180) that again offers extra cushioning in the form of a suspension fork.
Even though it might not fit the smallest of riders, overall the Ribble Gravel SL Pro offers a decent bang for your buck in terms of components, and its performance is on par with many pricier gravel bikes.