Firmly established as one of Belgium's leading brands, Ridley have been raising both their game and their profile outside of their home country with a broad range of quality bikes designed to satisfy most riding styles.
Depending on your sources, Asteria is either a name derived from the Greek root for star, or a mythological female figure who turned into a quail to escape Zeus's advances. Seeing 'Female Passion, Female Position' written on the frame as part of the swooshy graphics, we were left scratching our heads in mild confusion before even turning a pedal.
Based on Ridley's Sharp Edged Design concept inspired by forms in nature, the high-modulus carbon monocoque frame features angular tube shapes that are multi-faceted in appearance: a short hourglass head tube and essentially triangular top tube merge with a hexagonal profile down tube, which then morphs into a boxy bottom bracket area containing minimalist threaded alloy sleeves with a standard English thread.
Unfortunately the sophisticated shape of the tubes is somewhat concealed under a rather 'busy', albeit luxurious, black and white paint scheme with pink highlights and angular graphics. Overall weight is 8.4kg (18.5lb), with the frame a very light 1,120g (2.47lb) and the chunky, no-nonsense fork tipping the scales at 530g.
Despite Shimano's 105 groupset being well proven, here its relationship with the Ridley just didn't seem to gel. Shifting was often vague, with ghost shifts the order of the day; new concealed cabling tightly bound alongside the curves of the bar is partly to blame, but additionally, a radical chain line hampered our big ring/big sprocket hill-climbing sprint efforts.
Shifts were laboured and, frustratingly, a couple of chain drops under load occurred at the worst possible moments. Not exactly confidence building. The 4ZA aluminium wheelset features a sturdy rim and sealed bearing hubs shod with Vredestein Fortezza tyres. With standard spoke construction, the middleweight wheel package provides a decent level of comfort, helped in part by a wide and generously padded saddle that's more cushioning than sporty.
One of the drawbacks with 'women specific' designs is the requirement of a shorter top tube and reach, often resulting in an overly slack head angle as designers try to maintain adequate wheelbase and toe clearances; this characteristic is particularly apparent on the Ridley. Combined with a substantial amount of trail, it means the bike has a tendency to want to stay pointed in one direction only: forward. Although it's great at inspiring high-speed confidence, we often found it difficult to modify a line halfway through a bend.
If you're looking for a sportive-friendly ride then the Asteria won't disappoint. Those in search of a racing thoroughbred, though, should probably look elsewhere. As an out-and-out racer the Ridley doesn't quite hit the mark, whether attempting fast group runs, hard hillclimb reps or solo training sessions.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus