i believe the hyphenated word i'm looking for is multi-faceted. that would seem an appropriate adjective with which to describe the world of the bicycle. there are so many different points of entry, several of which have little or no chance of meeting those coming from an opposing direction, that even stepping back to better appreciate that which is spread before us can be a challenge all of its own.
though i am happy to concern myself principally with the world of the road bike and one or two proximitous disciplines, i mostly avoid the complex world of bicycle racing, since there are those who handle such matters far better than could i. similarly, the offroad world (apart, of course, from cyclocross), because i feel i have effectively disqualified myself by not having a mountain bike in thewashingmachinepost bike shed. attempting to describe the finer points from such a distant and all but disinterested vantage point would seem hypocritical at best and a tad inquitous at worst.
however, the latter cycling discipline is the very one that has brought me to this particular point of discussion. inducted into the the mountain bike hall of fame as long ago as 1988 and subsequently honoured in a similar manner in 2012 with membership of the united states bicycle hall of fame, tom ritchey is a name that is as comfortably mentioned in the land of skinny tyres as it is in the parallel universe of knobbly rubber. having originally begun his commercial career in cycling by repairing tubular road tyres to earn sufficient dollars to by himself a raleigh super corsa, tom ritchey has become an institution all of his own. benefitting under his father's tutelage on how to build wheels and to braze bicycle frames and spending many hours repairing others' damaged frames, he soon garnered enough confidence to build his own frames. perhaps little known, his first frames were designed for the road.
it is, however, for his early mountain bikes and related escapades that he is perhaps best known, though latterly he has placed his name, reputation and money at the service of team rwanda, having been challenged in 2005 to add the african country to his list of experiences. witnessing the depth of cycling talent that existed in rwanda, he persuaded former professional alex stieda and cycling pioneer, jock boyer to race alongside him in an event designed to celebrate his innovative wooden bicycle. boyer was subsequently recruited by ritchey to help him organise the native talent into team rwanda.
it would be foolish, therefore, to imagine that tom himself spends his spare time beavering in his workshop, handcrafting polished alloy handlebars, stem and seatpost, stitching brown leather saddles with the other hand. however, unusual in this day and age of corporate takeovers, ritchey design still exists as an independent entity in california, producing a comprehensive range of componentry, road and mountain bike frames, many of which still bear the original moniker of ritchey logic.
uk distributors of ritchey products, paligap kindly sent items from the classic range, a wise choice given that all four components (five, if you include the bar tape) have been applied to the steel colnago master. (the phrase 'steel is real' has been attributed to tom ritchey). with a choice of seven different stem lengths matching three widths of a truly classic handlebar, both featuring a polished alloy finish (none of your black anodising here), these are the very components to match modern steel, replete with a traditional bend, beloved of many and the ideal alternative to the various ergonomic options that pepper the contemporary cycle market.
the angling of the four bolts that hold the ritchey monogrammed front plate in place made fitting far easier than some i've experienced, while the cutout allows visual access to bar markings that make centering the bars simplicity itself. allied to this, the ritchey logos on the front of the bars, when aligned to the same logo on the front plate enure the bars are in the optimum position. though the colnago master features a one-inch steerer, i used an alloy shim to accommodate the 1.125" stem.
the 27.2mm ritchey classic seatpost arrived at a surprising 350mm in length. i say surprising because the campagnolo chorus post that it replaced, one that i would also regard as 'classic' is considerably shorter. due to the fluted steel tubing of the colnago, i'd to lop off several centimetres from the bottom of the ritchey post in order that it fitted. the cradle atop the post uses a two bolt fixing, laterally positioned rather than fore and aft. i opted for the brown ritchey classic saddle, as i figured it would match the colnago's molteni orange better than the black alternative. the saddle features a perforated faux leather covering over a plastic frame and steel rails.
colour matched to the saddle, the ritchey bar tape is slightly thicker than the average bar covering and just a smidgeon longer. the latter fact made perfect sense on realising that the box contained none of those smaller pieces usually fitting on the underside of the brake lever clamp. there are, however, two pieces of ritchey logo'd sticky tape to finish the tape at the stem edge, but as always, this was a major faff to fit stylishly. still, as long as i ride quick enough, nobody will ever notice.
it's many a long year since i rode a saddle like this. though ritchey offer a substantial range of saddles that compete with all the oddities on the market, those offering contoured profiles and holes in the middle, riding something that looks as if entrenched in the eighties was quite the revelation. as owner of a bottom that has been pampered every bit as much as any other cyclist, the saddle really didn't look as if made for ultimate comfort, thankfully a total misapprehension. it was only a matter of kilometres into the shakedown ride before i'd all but forgotten it wasn't my usual saddle, and nothing during the remainder of the ride altered that perception.
though i've fitted such polished greatness to a real steel bicycle, i'm pretty sure it would look and work every bit as well on modern, matt black carbon fibre. at a few pounds over £200 for all described above, it seems rather excellent value for money in my opinion, with a heritage that guarantees both quality and style. the colnago is more than happy with its new lease of life, as is its owner.
there truly ought to be a velominati rule that confines all and sundry to handlebars with such a fine traditional bend. eddy would have offered his wholehearted approval.
ritchey classic stems are available in lengths ranging from 70mm to the reviewed 130mm at a price of £55;. ritchey classic bars are available in three widths (40/42/44cm) priced at £42. the classic seatpost is only available in a 350mm length, but in 27.2/30.9/31.6mm diameter, retailing at £50. the classic saddle can be had in either brown or black at a price of £44 and the black or brown matching bar tape retails at £17.
sunday 27 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................