Sneak Peek: Ridley Bikes Headquarters Tour

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In what is a daylong process, raw frames are prepped for painting, taped up, painted, cured, and then given a clear coat (as seen here). This room must remain dust free at all times.

If you’ve watched any elite level cyclocross in the last few years, you couldn’t help but notice a trend. When it comes to the European World Cup circuit, at least, Ridley Bikes is the dominant player.

In the last eleven years, seven of the men’s world championship titles have been achieved aboard one of the Belgian bike-maker’s top-shelf ’cross steeds. But that’s really no huge surprise considering the tiny country that’s best known for its beer and chocolate has also produced 12 of the last 16 men’s world title winners. Why wouldn’t they ride a domestically produced bike?

“Because Belgium is such a cycling county, it’s very important for us to have a large presence in the professional ranks,” explained Jochen Bessemans, Ridley PR and marketing manager and RoadBikeReview’s personal tour guide during our recent visit to their Belgian headquarters. “Our success at the professional level is something we are very proud of.”

For 2013, Ridley is providing road bikes to the Lotto-Belisol WorldTour team, as well as ’cross steeds for Fidea and Sunweb, two of the sport’s top squads.

“It’s a huge commitment for us,” added Bessemans. “For Lotto it comes out to about 2 million euros a year when you include equipment. It’s four bikes for each of the 29 riders.”

One of the most important tasks here is designing transfer stickers that assure all paint ends up where it’s supposed to. Every model size gets its own custom packet of transfer stickers.

All those bikes come out of Ridley’s world headquarters, which is located in an industrial park just off the E313 highway in Paal, about an hour east of Brussels. They don’t do any manufacturing here (that all happens in Asia). Instead raw frames arrive at the back-end of the 12,000 square meter facility, then make their way through a labor intensive process where the finished product is a ready-to-ride hand-painted frame dressed with high-end components.

Here’s a sneak peek gallery from our visit with extended captions. Check back soon for a full details from our daylong tour inside the walls of Ridley’s world headquarters.

Sneak Peek: Ridley Bikes Headquarters Tour Gallery
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World HQ

Seventy people work the 12,000-square meter facility that supplies bikes direct to dealer all over Western Europe.
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Clean Room

In what is a daylong process, raw frames are prepped for painting, taped up, painted, cured, and then given a clear coat (as seen here). This room must remain dust free at all times.
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Winning History

In the last 11 years, seven men’s elite cyclocross titles have been won on Ridley bikes. Too bad Sven Nys is sponsored by Colnago.
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Major Operation

Belgium’s No. 1 bike maker annually produces 30,000 unites worldwide.
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Simple Slogan

The only thing not Belgian is the name, which is an ode to film director Ridley Scott, a favorite of company founder Jochim Aerts.
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Design In Process

One of the most important tasks here is designing transfer stickers that assure all paint ends up where it’s supposed to. Every model size gets its own custom packet of transfer stickers.
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Painting

Frames typically pass through these paint rooms three times, as each different color is applied.
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Fresh Out Of Oven

After painting, frames spend about three hours in the oven, which completely dries the paint and assures maximum adhesion.
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Lunch Break

The transfer sticker design team takes a beak from the work day and gets in a friendly game of badminton in the main warehouse.
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All Shapes and Sizes

Ridley’s current bike line includes road, mountain and cyclocross bikes, though they’ve yet to bring their fat tire steeds to the U.S.
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Catalog Creation

So that’s how they get the bikes to look like they are standing up by themselves in the catalog photos.
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Giant Bike Store

After painting is done, frames move downstairs for assembly. To make this happen Ridley stocks just about every bike component known to man, including plenty of Campy SuperRecord cranks.
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Parts and Parts and Parts

Ridley Bikes are spec’d with SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo.
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Alternative Revenue

Ridley fills in the work gaps in its paint rooms by painting auto wheels for a few local car parts shops.
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Printer Paper

Ridley also has its own component line called 4ZA (produced forza). These stickers will adorn those products.
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Pro Team Pick-Up

Fidea stopped by during our visit to pick up road frames for its cyclocross racers.
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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