This guest post was written in 2014 by my friends Tim & Laura Moss, who spent 16 months riding two Ridgeback Panorama touring bikes 13,000 miles (20,000km) around the world. The bike has changed little since then and has kept its reputation as a classic British road tourer.
The Panorama is British bicycle manufacturer Ridgeback’s top-of-the-range tourer from their World line of touring bikes.
Ideally designed for short tours in developed countries, ours have performed well over a longer period (eight months and counting), carrying heavier loads (up to 45kg in winter) and over rough terrain (from dirt tracks in Albania to pot holed messes in India).
This review is based on our experiences from cycling 6,000 miles from England to India as well as shorter training tours in the UK. We are using the 2013 model but, besides the colour, it’s no different from the current model.
[Editor’s note: find more details about the new 2023 Ridgeback Panorama in my round-up article What’s The Best Touring Bike?]
The wheels are 700c (28″). More long distance cycle tourists use 26″ wheels than 700c (it’s about 3‑to‑1; we’ve checked), especially if travelling to far flung places where the smaller versions are more common.
Saying that, many cycle tourists do still use 700c wheels, especially those who are trying to break speed records. These days, you can order parts over the internet and have them delivered almost anywhere in the world so this isn’t as much of a problem as it perhaps was in the past.
Tim’s back wheel rim cracked in Turkey and had to be replaced. This may have been the result of any combination of a heavy winter load (his bike weighed around 60kg at the time), bad roads with lots of potholes and a couple of crashes. Its cheap replacement has had similar punishment with no adverse effects after 3,000 miles.
As you would expect with a touring bike, the wheels on the Ridgeback Panorama have 36 spokes, but we do wonder if a stronger rim and spokes could have been used. A professional bike mechanic had checked the spoke tension by hand on the original wheels not long before Tim’s cracked, so we don’t think spoke tension was the problem.
The bike originally came with Continental Contact tyres. These lasted about 3,000 miles before needing replacing. We now have wider Schwalbe Marathon Plus* tyres which feel better for the heavier weight and we are very happy with them.
Handlebars, Brakes & Shifters
The Panorama has large drop handlebars with two sets of brakes: one on top, one on the drops. We’re big fans of these brakes. They allow a lot of different riding positions whilst still having your hands on the brake levers. I couldn’t imagine doing a long tour relying on just the drop brakes — leaning down to grip them properly is uncomfortable and unstable but reaching over the hood never gives enough strength to stop a fully-laden tourer (not the case with disc brakes, such as those on the Kona Sutra).
The gear shifters are integrated into the drop brake levers which makes changing gears blissfully easy. This means they’re more complicated to get at if something goes wrong, but we’ve had no problems so far.
Brakes are rim and an unusual combination of a cantilever mechanism with a particular type of road shoe, a configuration usually used for cyclo-cross bikes. The system allows the use of both the drop brakes as well as bar-top brakes, but it can be a little confusing if you don’t look closely before buying replacement pads (despite internet research and the advice of a bike shop, Tim ordered the wrong type and Laura carried them for 3,000 miles before we realised).
In addition, whilst easily obtained from a well-stocked shop or the internet, the pads are much harder to find on the road. We had to order ours for international delivery. (To save you the trouble, the pads you need are Shimano BR-4600 R50T2.)
Frame & Geometry
The frame on the Panoramas is Reynolds 725 steel; relatively lightweight and weldable should it snap in a far flung land. From the little we understand about tubing used for bike frames, this is top of the range.
We tried a lot of different sizes before committing but both of us still found the reach a bit too much, so we both replaced our stems with shorter ones.
The only quirk with the frame is that on the non-drive-side seat stay is a brazed-on pump peg onto which the pump attaches. Unfortunately, this is the part of the frame you grip when you need to lift a heavy touring bike and the tiny hook digging into your hand is unbearably painful. This effectively means that you can only lift the bike, when laden, with your right arm.
The 3x9-speed drivetrain gives a good range and, although we routinely begged for them to go even lower as we slogged 60kg of bike up yet another Turkish mountain pass in the winter, they’re probably about right.
The rear derailleur is Shimano Deore XT, the front derailleur Shimano Sora, and neither have given us any problems so far.
Tim’s chain snapped going over the Swiss Alps but this may have been an accident waiting to happen after we had played around with our first chain tool back home and installed a ‘magic link’. It only took a couple of minutes to repair and offered no complaints until retirement.
Although giving no other discernable problems, the chain and rear cassette showed signs of wear after 3,000 miles across Europe and were changed. Another 3,000 miles of snow, mud and sand later, Tim’s chain is starting to skip again.
The Shimano PD-M324* pedals are two-sided: flat on the one side and with the option for SPD shoes on the other. This was perfect for us. We used the SPDs across Europe then ditched our cycling shoes in favour of winter boots when the weather turned and are now just using hybrid sandals.
It’s perfectly possible to use normal shoes on the SPD side of the pedal but generally preferable to flick it round to the flat side.
We never used the pump which came with the bikes. It’s probably a matter of personal preference: some will like the convenience of a large pump attached to the frame; others, like us, preferred to leave them off and carry small, high-pressure, metal pumps that we knew wouldn’t break.
Thin, fitted mud guards give excellent coverage on both the front and back wheels, and served us well until we changed to slightly fatter tyres. The increase from 28mm Continental to 35mm Schwalbe Marathon Plus meant there was no longer enough clearance between tyre and frame for the mudguards meaning three out of the four were unceremoniously stripped off in a Turkish car park. Tim managed to keep his front mudguard in place by snapping off the front portion to avoid rubbing against the tyre.
The supplied Avenir gel saddle is fine but we switched them to Brooks B17* leather touring saddles and would recommend doing the same to anyone. It would be a nice feature as standard, although we appreciate that would push the price up a bit.
Perhaps we’re fickle, but we love the classic look of the bikes, particularly with the leather saddles and handlebar tape.
Overall, we have been really pleased with our Ridgeback World Panoramas. They have taken a lot of abuse with the minimum of fuss (Tim’s cracked wheel being the one exception) and performed well from ‑20°C to +40°C, from the Swiss Alps to the Arabian desert.
We reckon the Panorama is an ideal high-end touring bike for short-ish trips around Europe, the US and other developed countries. You don’t need masses of heavy kit so the thin tyres can take the burden and keep you moving fast; and bike shops are frequent and well stocked so you can easily replace those brake pads and get 700c spares.
If we were designing the perfect bike for a more expedition-like tour such as ours, we would probably make the following changes:
- 26-inch wheels rather than 700c.
- Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres as standard (easily added, of course, as we’ve done).
- Ditch the pump and certainly the annoying brazed-on pump peg.
- Use a more common brake pad that is more easily available.
- Consider butterfly or straight bars with bar ends instead of drops (this is really a matter of personal preference but a choice would be fantastic).
As it happens, Ridgeback’s new ‘Expedition’ touring bike appears to meet many of our requests, including 26-inch wheels and Schwalbe Marathon tyres. So if you want to take a Ridgeback outside of “the West” for several months then the Expedition may be a better (and cheaper) choice than the Panorama.
Thanks guys! Keep up with Laura & Tim’s excellent adventures at TheNextChallenge.org — much more interesting than reading touring bike reviews on the internet…
Evans Cycles* stock the Panorama both online and in-store.
As always, I don’t recommend buying a touring bike online unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. You might not find the same discounts, but you’re almost always better off in the long run getting the size, fit and specification of your touring bike nailed by supporting your local Ridgeback dealer. (Find yours here.)