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The Ribble AL e Hybrid Electric Bike – Stylish and Lightweight
Electric bikes have undergone a big transformation over the last few years. Initially e-bikes were considerably heavier than their non-assisted counterparts – most weighed in the region of 25kg, which wasn’t a problem as long as you had the e-assist. However, if you ran out of battery power a few miles from home you would be left struggling to pedal a very heavy bike. For this Ribble AL e review, Ribble cycles have kindly lent me this great e-bike for a few weeks to test. The AL e is one of the new-generation electric bikes that focus on lightweight design and motor/battery integration.
Why buy a lightweight electric bike?
There are many benefits to owning a lightweight electric bike, the main one being you can ride it like a normal bike without any significant weight penalty over a regular bike. Another less talked about advantage is you can carry the bike if necessary without risking a hernia!
Another consideration is many buyers who want to transport their e-bikes for leisure cycling will find that most bike racks fitted to cars have a weight limit, meaning that two (or more) 25kg electric bikes will be potentially hazardous to carry.
There are some disadvantages to a lightweight electric bike, the main one being reduced battery capacity. The other being a small hub motor will not give the same level of assistance as a mid-drive like the Bosch or Shimano Steps motor. This reduction in performance is somewhat offset by the significantly reduced bike weight though.
The Ribble AL e hybrid electric bike is currently one of the lightest e-bikes in its class, weighing in at a mere 14.5kg. This is for the test model which has mudguards, integrated rack and Schwalbe Marathon puncture resistant tyres. This weight could be reduced even further by going for the basic model.
I’ve had the pleasure of using the AL e for a couple of weeks and it’s a joy to ride with or without the assist – it’s nimble, comfortable and if you only rely on the e-assist for hills you can squeeze quite a few miles out of the small 250Wh battery.
Just like it’s more expensive siblings, the Ribble AL e uses the excellent x35 ebikemotion assist system – this comprises of a small rear hub motor and frame-integrated battery pack. The main benefit of this particular system is weight, but another big plus is integration – at a glance the AL e is indistinguishable from a regular bike.
The M1 hub motor used in the x35 ebikemotion system is small – not much bigger than an internally geared hub. Despite its size it provides a very useful boost when negotiating steep hills. I have ridden this bike wearing a heart rate monitor and the effort when riding one of my local steep climbs is significantly reduced.
Electric assist is delivered very smoothly via a small sensor ring installed at the end of the rear gear cassette – this is much more sophisticated than the more common cadence-based pedal assist sensors found on cheap e-bikes. When you start pedalling the assist comes in very smoothly, if fact it’s very subtle – riding the AL e with the assist on feels like you always have a strong tailwind, and the subdued hum of the motor is barely perceptible.
The electric system is on this test model is controlled by a single button mounted on the top tube near the steerer. This simplified design negates the need for a clunky display. The surround of the button has a colour-coded LED which changes colour according to how much battery range you have left and the assist level you are in.
If you prefer there is the option of connecting your smartphone to the bike using the ebikemotion app – this turns your phone into an excellent display and provides information like battery range, speed, cadence, navigation plus you can connect a heart rate monitor and upload activities to fitness tracking apps like Strava. For mounting your phone safely to the handlebar I would use something like a Quadlock.
The Ribble AL e uses a 250Wh (watt hour) battery pack that is neatly concealed inside the down tube – the highest quality Panasonic NCR18650GA lithium cells are used, ensuring good longevity and performance. The battery cannot be removed for charging, but can be accessed through a cover near the underside bottom bracket (for servicing).
The battery charging port (pictured) is easy to access, and the charger connects via a multiplug – it’s always recommended to charge and store e-bike batteries in a comfortable environment as exposure to extremes of temperature can effect performance and long-term reliability. Charging takes 4-6 hours.
Battery range will really depend on a number of different factors – I weigh around 107kg and found that on a short and very hilly ride (14 miles) using high assist mode, half the battery was depleted – I reckon a realistic range using a mixture of low, medium and high assist should be around the 40-50 mile mark. If you only ever use the assist on steep climbs and ride it without the assist on the flat then it’s possible to extend this range even further.
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The Ribble AL e is very high quality e-bike and as such has excellent components fitted, from the SRAM gearing through to the Shimano hydraulic brakes and Mavic rims.
The drivetrain is provided by SRAM’s very reliable NX 1 x 11 system, this uses a 42t front chainring with pressfit bottom bracket and a wide-range 11-42 rear cassette, giving the important 1:1 low gear ratio. This will be more than adequate for most riders, however if you have a lot of steep hills in your area I would recommend a Sunrace 11-46 cassette – this will give you an extra low bail-out gear.
Shimano MT200 levers serve UR300 flat-mount hydraulic calipers – these are good, reliable brakes that provide safe and assure stopping power. My own personal e-bike has the same brakes and I’ve never had a problem with brake fade on long, steep descents.
Wheels and tyres
The wheels are excellent Mavic Ksyrium, which are very tough and designed to handle a multitude of terrains, they are equally at home on smooth tarmac or canal towpaths. The tyres are equally as tough – Schwalbe Marathon tyres are a favourite of long distance bike tourers, and they provide excellent puncture protection
Frame and finishing kit
As with all the Ribble e-bikes I’ve tested to date, the AL e oozes quality from every angle. The 6061 alloy frame has smooth welds and is finished off in either a metallic blue (pictured) or nice metallic copper paintwork. The fork is full carbon fibre.
The finishing kit is all excellent quality, from the Level carbon seat post through to the very neat integrated handlebar and stem. Another very nice touch is the leather grips and very comfortable Selle Royal saddle – finished off in a natural brown which gives the bike a nice retro touch.
This featured review model has the ‘fully loaded’ specification which includes full-length mudguards and pannier rack.
Who is the Ribble AL e aimed at?
The Ribble AL e is aimed at anyone who wants a lightweight, stylish hybrid electric bike. Its frame geometry is closely influenced by the CGR AL e gravel bike which means the AL e is designed to cope with a multitude of terrains. If you wanted to ride gravel tracks or light forest tracks then the Ribble will cope just fine.
I can see the AL e being popular with both recreational cyclists and commuters, simply because it’s so lightweight and versatile. It’s also a great e-bike if you want to incorporate cycling into a fitness regime – if you want to do lots of cycling but are put off by steep hills, the AL e is perfect!
Ribble AL e Review Conclusion
I’ve really enjoyed my time with the Ribble AL e, there’s not really anything to dislike about the bike. It looks gorgeous, it’s versatile , comfortable and importantly very light for an e-bike. There’s a growing market for lightweight electric bikes as a lot of consumers are looking for the best of both worlds – an e-bike and regular bike all rolled into one neat package.
Weighing in at just 14.5kg for the ‘fully loaded’ model and under 14kg for the regular version, there really isn’t a lot of competition for a hybrid electric bike in this weight category. The closest rival I can think of is the Boardman HYB 8.9e and that weighs over 1kg more.
I have put the AL e at the top of my list of best lightweight electric bikes as I believe if you’re looking for a light e-bike that’s easy to ride and transport the Ribble is one of the best available.
Buy Now: Ribble AL e Hybrid Electric Bike
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions please feel free to comment below – I usually reply within 24hrs.