• Help

Ribble Ultra TT/Tri R&D

The brief for the new Ribble Ultra TT was to develop a superfast and versatile platform to give TT and Tri riders a World Class product capable of excelling at the very highest level.
We exceeded that brief.
- Andy Smallwood, CEO of Ribble Cycles
The Ultra development story

The rigorous, multi-stage research and development process for the two Ultra racing platforms – the Ultra TT and Ultra Tri - began with the brief to create a versatile world class time trial and triathlon bike that would give our customers and Ribble Pro Cycling team riders a clear aerodynamic advantage over the opposition.

Our bike research and development team enlisted multi national champion, aerodynamicist and Ribble Pro rider Dan Bigham as our test pilot and set the project’s ultimate benchmark target. We had to develop a bike that would be faster than the one Dan raced to multiple national titles in 2017.

Dan would input his extensive aerodynamic experience and knowledge and also become the project’s main test rider both in Velodrome and real world testing. Dan and his Ribble team mate John Archibald were also selected by England and Scotland respectively for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games which provided the final project deadlines. Both riders would travel to Australia with fully developed, UCI-approved Ultra TT final prototypes with custom paint finishes to challenge for medals.

Over the winter the various stages of prototyping and component selection tests were carried out the team with Dan to identify the base frame and components that met the exacting performance criteria.

The benchmark for the base frame and component selection was always the bike that Dan rode to such success on in 2017.

Dan Bigham, 7 Times British National Time Trial Champion
Dan Bigham, 7 Times British National Time Trial Champion. Initial aerodynamic testing revealed that the initial prototype was averaging within 0.8% of the benchmark across a range of speeds.
Continued study of the results and airflow around the bike and rider then identified areas where further aerodynamic improvements can be made to improve the figures from initial testing and drag analysis.

The next development phases identified gains could be made around the headtube and better integration of the braking system into the main frame profile. CFD analysis was used to optimise the shape and design of the changes with the numbers showing a significant gain vs the original design. The new parts were rapid prototyped for real world testing to verify the CFD results as well as test the functionality.

Rapid prototyping and re-testing process.
CFD analysis of bike and rider gives highly specific detail on where aerodynamic gains have been made and by ensuring that the rider is also taken into consideration ensures that the gains are translated into an actual real world gain.

The final rounds of testing highlight the critical role played by small design innovations in reducing drag and managing airflow. The final CFD results show an up to 30% aerodynamic improvement for the frameset being achieved across a +15 to -15 degree Yaw sweep at the test speed of 29mph.


The final round of real world and CFD testing indicated that we had achieved a drag saving of up to 2.2% over the benchmark bike and ultimately created a bike faster than the platform Dan Bigham raced on during 2017.

Calculations indicate that this saving equates to up to 23 second gain based on our test rider racing a flat 25-mile (40.2km) at 29mph (46.6kph).

The development project had drawn to a close in the satisfaction that we had produced a platform that was faster than the 2017 bike it had been pitted against and that our riders and customers would start the new season onboard... OUR FASTEST BIKE EVER.

The back story to the Ultra project

Renowned aerodynamic expert Dan Bigham had swept all before him during the 2017 UK time trial season and his performances had caused waves at British Cycling HQ who, realising his unquestionable talents, co-opted him into their plans for the World Track Championships.

Over the summer of 2017 Dan claimed four National time trial titles at 10, 25, 50 miles and circuit TT and a team time trial title took his medal haul to five. He also made the long selection list for a spot in the 2018 Commonwealth Games time trial. Dan’s Ribble Pro Cycling team mate John Archibald had also been a dominant time trial force north of the border in Scotland taking the 2017 Scottish title and gaining Commonwealth Games time trial selection.

So, the guiding target for the new Ultra was set. For 2018 we had to provide Dan, John and the Ribble Pro Cycling team with a bike faster than any other TT bike they had raced before – not forgetting our sponsored triathletes and our customers competing in the UK and across the world. As a rider obsessed with aero advantage, only an uncompromising solution that pushed the needle to faster would satisfy Dan Bigham (and, of course, all others riders).

In Dan Bigham we had the ultimate test pilot as well as the wealth of his aerodynamics focused experience to add to our vastly experienced in-house R&D team. The team identified the optimum frame design and cockpit to test on the Ultra frame prototypes.

For maximum fit flexibility to suit all types of time trial and triathlon riders, the final Ultra frame selected is compatible with all aftermarket stems and bars, opening it up to a wide range of build options, should a rider only want to upgrade their frameset.

For good measure, the Ultra project’s wider aims have ensured that we have: a competitive platform for both time trial and triathlon racers; a choice of frameset package as well as range of recommended full bike builds; and, to add to that, bikes with complete adjustability and compatibility with any chosen cockpit and fit position.