The electrification of the bicycle has seen some machines morph into strange new forms, while others have gone the opposite way and attempted to pass themselves off as conventional designs. By comparison, the Ridgeback X3 looks exactly like what it is – an upright hybrid with a motor and battery bolted to it. Still, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Based around Shimano’s reliable Steps battery and mid-mount motor, these outperform cheaper hub-based alternatives in terms of support and range.
Beyond this you also get every accoutrement going; from bouncing seat post through semi-integrated lighting via metal mudguards, rack, and kickstand. However, on the X3 this selection of accessories combines with a prominent downtube battery to impart a somewhat ungainly appearance – a facet made worse by the many cables connecting the bike’s electronic gubbins.
Happily, the X3 is an electric bike that’s nicer to ride than look at. With a head-high position, it’s easy on the back, a trait boosted by the suspension fork and seat post. The motor response is nicely controlled too, leading to a feeling of being supported but never hurried. Its brakes also work well, which is a good thing as the tyres provide plenty of grip along with multi-terrain ability.
Still, in some areas its spec flags slightly. Bike nerds will miss features like stiffer bolt-through axles on the frame and fork, while security could be improved by removing the quick-release levers on easily stolen parts like the wheels and saddle.
For pottering around the average market town, the X3 could be a good choice. But for meaner streets, it lacks the latest security and smart features, while also being a little too sedate in its manners and a little too haughty in its pricing.
Price and release date
This 2021 model year bike was released in October 2020 and has an RRP of £2,900 (about $3,500 / AU$5,300). The similar lower specification X2 is £2,400 (about $3,100 / AU$4,400).
The X3 is a conventional all-terrain hybrid with a motor and battery integrated into its aluminium frame.
With a suspension fork at the front and medium-width tyres, it’s capable across surfaces ranging from tarmac to smooth forest trails. Quite short and upright, it’s unlikely to put anyone’s back out and arrives with a bike shop’s worth of accessories pre-bolted to it. Unlike cheaper machines, its Shimano Steps motor is mounted centrally to keep handling evenly balanced. Located in the centre of the bike’s downtube, powering this is a removable battery pack which can be brought in for charging or left secured to the frame via an in-built lock.
Ready to go out of the box, the X3’s sturdy metal fenders will keep you dry, while a neat rear rack means it’s ready to accept panniers – a great trait when the motor makes carrying heavy loads easy. Inbuilt lights can be activated from the handlebars, while a rear-wheel immobiliser lock and kickstand will come in useful should you find yourself within range of coffee and cake.
Allowing it to head away from the tarmac and onto the trails, its medium-width WTB Riddler tyres are almost slick down the centre but sport grippier edges. Containing a decent volume of air, they render the X3 a versatile bike, a quality enhanced by the ability to switch the front fork between rigid and suspension modes.
On first hopping aboard there’s little to scare the horses. If you’ve ridden a hybrid bike, you’ll find yourself right at home. Despite using a conventional frame (a step-through design is also available), the X3 provides plenty of standover height. Meaning you’re unlikely to give yourself a whack anywhere uncomfortable if you slip off the pedals, this also improves handling generally.
All these extras mean the X3’s overall weight is on the higher side. Not a problem when there’s juice in the tank, it’s more of an issue when carrying the bike up and down stairs or popping it into the boot of a car.
At the centre of the X3 is Shimano’s quality Steps E6100 motor. Its functions are controlled via a three-button remote by the left-hand grip, with vital stats then displayed on a centrally mounted screen. Here you’ll find key info on how the motor is doing, how far you’ve come, and a live estimate of the range remaining in any given mode. You can also use it to remotely activate the bike’s in-built lights.
Like an old fashioned car-stereo, this display unclips to prevent it getting stolen while you’re parked. However, if you forget it, the bike’s electric functions won’t work, as there’s no ability to sync the system to an app on your phone.
On the plus side, remember the screen and you’ll always know where you stand. Powered by a 418 watt-hour battery, you can expect a range of up to 125-kilometres, although lazy riding will see this drop significantly.
Either way, you’re guaranteed a very full day’s pedaling or multiple commutes out of a single charge. Like all bikes in the UK, the X3’s motor assistance tops-out at a maximum of 15.5 miles-per-hour, above which you’ll have to provide all the drive via your legs.
The motor itself is excellent. Almost silent, its slight whine could easily be mistaken for the wind in your hair. With three levels of support, these sit just where you want them, from gentle assistance through to enough push to let you ride up sustained hills without breaking a sweat. With the central location of the motor keeping the bike balanced, the way it provides power via the drivetrain also helps everything remain grounded.
Combined with smooth motor control and a good torque sensor, the result is power that’ll let you depart the second the lights change, yet never feels as if it’s getting away from you.
With a single front chainring, a selection of nine sequential gears is provided by Shimano, as are the low-maintenance and powerful hydraulic disc brakes. Quality stuff, the extras on the bike aren’t grabbed from the back of the catalogue either. The rear lock is made by Abus, the lights by AXA, and the stand by Atran Velo – all names bike-geeks might recognise.
So, by this point in the review, you might be wondering as to the X3’s middling headline score. Indeed, throughout our test, it didn’t collect any major strikes against it. However, in an age where bikes are increasingly sold on their smart features, the X3 feels a little uncommunicative. This lack of smart connectivity means it misses out on innovations like theft tracking, plus a host of other useful digital extras.
Doing without wireless connectivity, instead, the X3 majors on cables both mechanical and electronic. With many held in place by zip ties and elastic clips, this gives it a slightly home-brew feeling that’s less slick than many bikes we’ve tried recently.
Also, while the frame and fork are serviceable, at this price we’d be looking for stiffer and more secure bolt-through axles. Instead, you get quick-release fixings that are less rigid and more theft-prone. The brakes are very good, but while the 9-speed Acera gearing works well, we’ve seen better spec drivetrains on bikes costing less.
In common with many bikes, the X3 has clearly been built around the motor and battery components available, and the lack of integration is telling. Given its many extras, there’s a demographic that won’t be massively bothered by this. But with electric bikes getting smarter and slicker, it lacks any clever tricks to really enthuse the average rider. This leaves the X3 a practical but slightly unpolished option.
Point it down a canal-side path on a sunny day and you’ll have a lovely time. But in a dust-up between other bikes in the same price bracket, it might struggle to make an impression.
For a company that majored in making practical and affordable bikes, Ridgeback’s prices have been creeping up too. It’s not that anyone buying a full-price X3 will be massively short-changed, but it still feels a couple of hundred quid too expensive.
Buy it if
You want an easy-going e-bike
Both the upright position in which you ride the Ridgeback X3 and its saddle and grips are superbly comfy. A suspension seat post and fork further smooth out any bumps.
You want everything fitted as standard
With integrated lighting, rack, mudguards, kickstand, rear-wheel immobiliser lock, plus a suspension fork and seat post, the X3 comes with a comprehensive list of extras.
You fancy doing a bit of everything
With a decent range, the X3 could be an ideal holiday companion. Equally, it’ll happily take you down the shops, or into work on the commute. With chunky tyres, it’s capable off-road too.
Don’t buy it if
You live in a high-crime area
Don’t count on the immobilizer lock to stop anyone running off with your bike. Also, while quick-release clamps on the wheels and saddle add convenience for the user, they’re just as convenient for thieves.
You’re a tech-head
If the integration of the electronic parts into the bike is a bit clunky, their ability to talk to your phone is non-existent. This means the potential for ride-tracking, motor customisation, and diagnostics is lacking.
You’re vain about the way your bike looks
There are some very slick e-bikes out there. This isn’t one. From the wires that dangle from the display to the battery squatting on the downtube, it wears its electronic features obviously.