Ribble Cycles is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, with the Ribble 125 Campaign. A series of year-long events, and special edition bikes that celebrate the heritage of the brand. As part of the campaign they have recently added the Ribble 725 to their award winning gravel bike range which is a nod to their steel forging roots, with a modern twist.
The 725 features a comfortable and sleek steel frame crafted (as the name suggests) using Reynolds 725 steel tubing and gives the bike a timeless look that only steel tubing can offer and is paired with a full-carbon fork. It's suited for any style of gravel riding, thanks to the forgiving quality of steel, and it comes with a multitude of mounting points, so can be used for the best gravel adventures. I found it more than capable of handling a blast on the rough stuff, with the 650b wheels making it a super nimble and fun ride.
Having ridden the titanium Ribble CGR Ti and loved the luxurious feel, timeless looks of the raw titanium frame and the super comfortable ride that had me pining for my Marin Team Edition titanium bike from the 1990s. I was excited to get on board the steel 725, especially with the 650b wheels, and was looking forward to trying a smaller wheelset on a gravel bike, maybe reliving the halcyon days of mountain biking and 26-inch wheels.
Design and geometry
The Gravel 725 is ideally placed for all kinds of gravel riding, whether it be big days or short blasts. Its geometry is designed to provide a more stable ride on uneven terrain, and has a longer and slacker frame. The 725's side profile shows a long and low stance, with the medium size tested having a wheelbase of 1,052mm, a top tube of 570mm, and a relatively short head tube height of 150mm.
It felt slightly long, but certainly not uncomfortable or that I was overstretching, with a reach of 397mm (on medium tested), but with everything mentioned added into the equation I found it worked well, helped by the short stem length. My body weight also felt like it was distributed nicely across the bike, highlighted even more on fast downhill sections. On rough sections at speed, the bike just flowed smoothly and it felt secure and confidence-inspiring.
The frame can take both 650b and 700c wheels (which can be specced when ordering from Ribble) and has plenty of clearance up to 47mm on the 650b and 45mm in the 700c version. There are three sets of bosses for water bottles in the frame and bosses on the top tube for a top tube bag and ample mounts for the best bikepacking bags. The bike also features full internal cable routing, which will make mounting bikepacking bags and other accessories easier.
Ribble has increased the strength and stiffness of the frame's slender tube profiles by adding extra welding at the head tube. However, an additional section of material has been welded at the bottom bracket junction between the down tube and seat tube, which appears bulky and slightly out of place, but again added to improve strength and stiffness in a crucial area. The bike also features full internal cable routing, which will make mounting bikepacking bags and other accessories easier. It weighs in at a claimed 10.8kg, but on my scale weighed in below that at 10.5kg, which for a steel-framed bike is pretty decent.
Components and build
The Ribble 725 comes currently in two different stock build options – Pro and GRX 600, there is a host of spec options on the Ribble online Bike Builder available too. I was testing the Pro with SRAM Rival AXS XPLR which is fitted with Mavic Allroad 650b alloy wheels. While they may not be the particularly lightest wheels around, the Mavics are certainly sturdy and provide a smooth ride, matched up with Halo GXC 650 in 47mm width tires with tan walls. There is a selection of tires to choose while ordering and although the 725 comes ‘tubeless ready’, with taped rims, they’re not set up tubeless. I also had a 'How to set up tubeless' feature to write so I used the Ribble as my test bike for that and changed to the Challenge Gravel Grinder 650b x 46mm tires.
The ultra-dependable and top-rated SRAM Rival AXS XPLR groupset shifts like a dream with continued reliable shifting and chain retention, comfortable hoods, and excellent braking performance from the Rival HRD Hydraulic Disc brakes.
The 725 comes with in house Level finishing kit – the Gravel Riser flared bar (top 42cm – bottom 51cm), Level Embossed Bar Tape, an 80mm Level 2 6061 alloy stem, Fizik Taiga Saddle with a Level 1 alloy seat post, although the model tested here had the upgraded carbon version.
Ride, handling and performance
As mentioned, the 725 is based on the Ribble Gravel Ti, which I was super impressed with. The bonus of the 725 is that it comes as a far more affordable option than titanium but with a similar ride quality. It's also worth noting the alloy version with the same spec is cheaper at £2,299, so Ribble offer plenty gravel bike options to choose from.
The 725 delivers confident handling when things get rough, with a flowing feel through the corners, and able to jump over big trail holes and chunky tree roots, easily crossing the line between a gravel bike and a mountain bike.
The downside of the smaller-nimble wheels and larger tires is that the 725 feels a little labored on long stretches of flat or rolling tarmac roads, especially when riding with friends on bigger wheels. However, I was happy to sacrifice the road speed when it got onto off-road trails, as the 725 felt superbly capable on singletrack. It climbed well on short, sharp inclines and was also efficient on longer stretches of climbing, but it's still a fairly heavy steel framed bike, so grabbing KOMs will take more effort on the 725. So for anyone looking for a pure race-ready gravel bike, it's perhaps better-looking at the other options in the Ribble gravel range mentioned.
On descents, the combination of the big tires and the compliance of the skinny steel frame soaks up plenty of the trail sting on rutted and rocky surfaces with the steering feeling precise and stable.
When testing and riding bikes, I always ask myself if I would pay to own the bike. In the case of the Ribble 725, the answer is a definite yes. It provided a fun, confidence-inspiring, controlled ride on loose gravel especially at high speeds and climbs well on all manner of surfaces. On steep gravel descents, it stuck to my chosen lines and again provided the necessary confidence to attack, with 650b wheels, giving responsive and easy control. If you're fancying a steel-frame gravel bike that can compete with the best gravel bikes, the Ribble Gravel 725 is well worth a look.
- Terrain: Gravel, farm tracks, woodland singletrack, fire road, road
- Conditions: Tested in most conditions from dry dusty trails to muddy and wet
- Temperatures: 50 to 77 F (10 to 25 C)
Tech specs: Ribble 725 Pro
- Price: $2,685 / £2,599 / €2,512
- Frame material: Reynolds 725 Triple-Butted Steel
- Fork: Carbon with Carry All Mounts
- Size: XXS - XL
- Weight: 10.5kg (medium tested)
- Wheel size: 650b
- Chainset: SRAM Rival XPLR AXS 1x12 Speed
- Rear mech: SRAM Rival XPLR AXS Rear Derailleur
- Cassette: SRAM XG 1251 Cassette D1 XPLR 10-44
- Brakes: SRAM Rival Hydraulic Disc
- Rotors: SRAM CenterLine XR CL Rotor 160mm
- Tires: Halo GXC (tested on Challenge Gravel Grinder 46mm)
- Wheels: Mavic Allroad 650b
- Bars: Level Gravel Riser Bar Flared (top 42cm - bottom 51cm)
- Stem: Level alloy
- Seatpost: Level Carbon
- Saddle: Fizik Taiga
- Color: Air Force Blue
- Available from: ribblecycles.co.uk