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Pro bikes, December 18, 2007

Bart Wellens' Team Fidea Ridley X-Night

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Photo ©: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com

Strength, courage, and invincibility

By Gregor Brown in Koksijde, Belgium

Strength, courage, and invincibility.'
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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Titanium dropouts are new on this year's bike.
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Now this is a slick little feature:
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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The fat 34mm-wide Dugast Pipistrello tubulars
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The matching PMP front hub
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The carbon fiber rims of 4ZA's T50 wheelset
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The high-profile CB2 aluminum cantilever brakes
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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Bart Wellens is among cyclo-cross racing's elite tier with two World Championship titles and three Belgian Championships to his name. The 29 year-old Fidea rider has raced on Ridley's all-carbon X-Night model since at least early 2004 but was seen on a brand-new version of the Belgian company's top 'cross offering at the World Cup round in Koksijde, Belgium.

The new model is still all-carbon but wears a slightly softer look overall as well as a newly integrated seatmast capped by a polished aluminum head. "New for this season is a monocoque frame, with an integrated seat post. This is a new model for 2008," said team mechanic Joris Vinex. "This year, with the monocoque... well, it is different. We need to saw off the integrated seatpost, and we will see how to the frame holds up over the years."

Developing a replacement for the successful X-Night was apparently no small task for Ridley, as Wellens is a rider known for his attention to detail: "He just wants perfection," said Vinex, and the frame and components all have to live up to Wellens' personal motto: 'Strength, Courage, and Invincibility.' "Everything must be in the highest quality material," Vinex continued. "He wants his parts strong, but light; he wants the best combination between the two."

Part of that goal was accomplished with the addition of new titanium replaceable dropouts. These are admittedly slightly heavier than the aluminum ones they replaced but offer improved strength and a stiffer platform for the rear derailleur to enhance shifting performance. The frame is clearly still light, though: painted in Belgian national championship colours, Wellens' new X-Night weighs in at just 7.85kg (17.3lb).

Most of the finishing kit is supplied either by Shimano or its PRO subsidiary, or Ridley's own 4ZA house brand. The Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control levers were notably scuffed from a few crashes and mounted to relatively narrow 42cm PRO PLT aluminum handlebars and a matching PRO PLT aluminum stem. "He is a small rider," said Vinex (Wellens is 1.75m tall and weighs just 63kg). "Forty-two [cm] handlebars are used because of his size. He wears jerseys that would be the size for children!"

Those levers command the matching Dura-Ace derailleurs and a pair of 4ZA CB2 cantilever brakes, which are also used by USA's Jonathan Page. The Dura-Ace label is also found on the crankset, but Wellens outfits it with a slightly smaller outer chainring as compared to compatriot Sven Nys' 46T. "The front gearing is 44 and 39. In the rear it is 11 to 23."

"He is found of the Shimano components," continued Vinex. "Maybe at the end of the season he will test something like SRAM. He loves to test and to explore, so it could be that he changes if he finds something that does work better." Vinex revealed that Wellens is already currently looking into using Jagwire's line of cables and housings.

The 4ZA label also adorns the deep-section T50 carbon fiber tubular wheels. "He has been on carbon wheels for the last three or four seasons," explained Vinex. "He has been very happy with them." Glued to the rims are Dugast's 34mm-wide Pipistrello semi-slick tubulars, which Wellens favoured on the sandy West Flanders course.

Top 'cross riders will often show up to races with four or five bikes, all of which have to be in top condition and ready to go at any moment in the race when a rider needs a bike change. Considering the amount of work that is required to maintain such a fleet, Wellens is somewhat unusual as he personally preps every bike that he brings to the races.

"He does the building of his own bikes," said Vinex. "We give him the frames and the gear, and he puts it all together. He has five bikes that he builds up. He wants to do this, he says 'it is my thing, I know the best.' He loves to do it, it is his passion. He went to school for mechanics, and I think that he worked at a bike shop for three or four years, so he knows a lot about them."

So Wellens maintains a rigorous training schedule, is one of the top performers on the world 'cross stage, builds his own machines, and maintains them, too? That's plenty to ask of any rider, but the Belgian seems to be handling it well. Either way, Wellens will likely be looking forward to doing well at the upcoming UCI World Championships in Treviso next month. In the event of a mechanical, though, we'll apparently know whose conscience will be lying heavy that evening.



For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Ridley X-Night, monocoque carbon fiber with integrated seatmast and titanium dropouts
Fork: 4ZA Python, monocoque carbon fiber
Available sizes:

Critical measurements
Rider's height:1.75m (5' 9")Weight: 63kg (139lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 520mm
Seat tube length, c-t: N/A
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 750mm
Tip of saddle nose to C of bars: 530mm
C of front wheel to top of bars: 580mm
Top tube length: 540mm (horizontal)

Cranks:Shimano Dura-Ace Hollowtech 2 FC-7800, 172.5mm, 39/44T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7801
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-7800-F
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-7800-SS
Brakes: 4ZA CB2 cantilever
Levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7800
Rear sprockets: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-7800, 12-23T
Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace Hollowtech 2 SM-FC7800


Tyres: Dugast Pipistrello 34c
Wheels: 4ZA T50 carbon tubular

Handle bars: PRO PLT Round OS, 42cm (c-c)
Stem: PRO PLT OS Road, 120mm x -6°
Headset: FSA Orbit IS CX
Tape: White cork

Pedals: Shimano XTR PD-M970
Seat post: Integrated
Saddle: Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow Trans Am
Bottle cages: N/A
Computer: N/A

Total bike weight: 7.85kg (17.3lb)