Amy Dombroski's Ridley X Fire. © Matt Roy
by Jamie Mack
Amy Dombroski has charged into, through and to the top of the US ’cross scene over the last few seasons. Currently putting the finishing touches on her team for 2011, the diminutive Dombroski has established herself as a force to be reckoned with. Dombroski has changed teams and bikes several times over the last few seasons, but has settled on the Ridley X-Fire as the bike that will carry her through the World Championships in St. Wendel, Germany.The X-Fire is one step down from the top-of-the-line X-Night that other top ’cross pros can be found on (see Ridley’s entire 2011 line-up of cyclocross bikes in our Interbike coverage). Dombroski’s use of a lower-tier frame is not necessarily a signal of her ability, but rather a logical choice for a simple reason – size. As many other riders in the five-foot range (Dombroski is 5’1″) have found, there are limited options available that fit well. This is further evidenced by Dombroski’s last two ’cross bike suppliers being custom builders Richard Sachs and Primus Mootry. The X-Night is available as small as a 48cm, but the X-Fire goes even smaller, with a 41-cm offering. According to Ridley’s website, the 41-cm frame is designed for a rider just Dombroski’s size, with the recommended height being just about 61 inches. Dombroski’s enthusiasm for the fit of the frame is confirmation that Ridley has done well in offering this uniquely small size.The frame itself is constructed of 24-ton high modulus carbon fiber and is matched with a 4ZA –Ridley’s in-house component brand – full carbon fork. The dimensions of the frame seem to indicate changes from the norm, with a relatively small bottom bracket drop and a long wheelbase relative to the top tube. Much of the geometry of the frame, however, is more a function of the size than the design. The 41-cm frame is at the edge of typical frame sizing and some concessions need to be made to accomodate a rider of Dombroski’s stature while still allowing use of 700C wheels.
Dombroski uses SRAM Red Cranks and Crank Brother Candy 11 pedals. © Matt Roy
Beyond the geometry, Dombroski’s frame incorporates several features that are becoming standard fare on top ’cross frames. The headset spins on oversized 1.5″ lower bearings and the fork crown is equally beefy to maximize control and stiffness on the front end. The down tube is sized to ease the grip of a rider shouldering the bike, while the box section junction at the bottom bracket works to ensure an efficient power transfer.
The component selection is a mix of tried-and-true parts with some innovative pieces that are still coming into their own. The SRAM Red component group is the top of the line offering from the Shimano competitor and Dombroski uses the entire suite, including brake/shift levers, crankset and derailleurs. The wheels and tires are a proven combination common among top pros: Zipp 303 wheels, wrapped in Dugast Rhinos for most courses.
Dombroski relies on pedals from Crank Brothers, now her title sponsor, to help her keep those wheels moving. The pedals are the new Candy 11, which feature a titanium spindle, stainless steel spring and aluminum body. The Candy pedals differ from the more common Eggbeaters due to the addition of a small platform around the retention spring. The platform allows for better foot placement in the case of a miss on the remount which, given the conditions of ’cross, can be a great advantage coming through the barriers.
Providing the stopping power for all this technology is one of the newer choices in brakes. Avid Shorty Ultimates (see our in-depth review of the Avid Shorty Ultimates here), which were still considered under development a year ago, have become a brake that many riders depend on. The Ultimates provide the additional option of running either a wide or narrow stance, based on conditions and rider preference.
Crank Brothers continues their support of Dombroski by providing the stem and Cobalt 11 seatpost. Zipp provides Service Course alloy handlebars, which Dombroski values for their shallow drop model, in addition to the tubular wheels. And Fizik contributes the saddle, the Antares model, as well as the bar tape.
Frame: Ridley X-Fire
Fork: 4ZA Oryx Full Carbon Monocoque
Stem: Crank Brothers
Front brake: Avid Shorty Ultimate
Rear brake: Avid Shorty Ultimate
Brake levers: SRAM Red
Front derailleur: SRAM Red
Rear derailleur: SRAM Red
Shift levers: SRAM Red DoubleTap
Crankset: SRAM Red
Bottom bracket: SRAM Red
Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy 11
Wheelset: Zipp 303
Front tire: Dugast Rhino
Rear tire: Dugast Rhino
Saddle: Fizik Antares
Seat post: Crank Brothers Cobalt 11