As promised here’s a piece about the new Ritchey Outback. Somehow we were one of the first stores in Europe, maybe the World to get hold of one of these. I am not going to lie I have been a Ritchey fan for many years, he’s always built bikes of all kinds but I guess I have always known him as a mountain bike kind of guy, and mountain biking is my first love, which is odd because I have never actually owned a Ritchey mountain bike, yet here I am on my third Ritchey ‘road/CX’ style bike.
First up a word on steel. If you’re on Instagram you’ll be struggling to escape the “steel is real” vibe that is gaining momentum all over the place at the moment. This is sadly pretty much aligned with the holistic, homemade, avocado eating, batch brewed, locally sourced millennial driven fashion that is creating a tsunami of hipster toss around right now. To say it’s “hipster” is unfair, sure for the kind of people riding a 1986 Raleigh Milk Race around Shoreditch it’s definitely hipster fashion but for people that actually like to ride nice bikes steel offers something else and actually something that is genuinely 'real'. Are their people trading in their Raleigh Record Sprints for a nice steel road bike just because they love the aesthetics - definitely, but are we also selling nice steel bikes to both life long cyclists or later life cyclists that are looking for something beyond the Specialized Venge? For sure. Steel bikes are the cornerstone of any proper cyclist’s diet and will be for years to come.
Right, onto the Outback. So it doesn’t come as a whole bike, only a frameset so you need to get the Rascals to build you the perfect bike. For myself I went with a right jamboree of parts, most of which came off my old bike, likely what most of our customers will also do. The parts of note are the Profile wheels, Profile gravel bars, the Ritchey Alpine JB tyres and the Brooks C15 saddle. The rest is your usual mixture of Shimano which is all good stuff and reviewed to death all over the place if you need wider reading. The only thing I will mention is that I set the bike with a standard compact chainset (34/50) and then a wide range 11-32 cassette at the rear, I was tempted to go single ring at the front but then Devon’s hills always remind me that there’s no perfect single ring set up when you live in this county of steep climbs and long fast descents.
The colour seems to be a little marmite but I have worked out that the people that dislike the colour don’t seem to have any taste, they’d prefer it in ‘Whyte Beige’ . The colour is the perfect filter to keep the right people owning these bikes. Personally I love the colour, it looks wild and you can either retro it up with silver parts and tan walls or take the route I did which is make it a little more aggressive with all black everything, “murdered out” as the kids calls it. Build quality is what you'd expect from a US frame builder. It's not Italian smoothed out welds, it's a little more utilitarian than that but the finish is good, the flared out head tube runs into the forks nicely and the overall look of the frame is really great. The bolt thru front and rear axle tightens the feel of the bike under braking so you can actually pull the anchors on pretty hard. At the same as it's got downhill bike axles it's also got beautifully fine rear stays with an unfussy integrated seat bolt and external routing, my preference for a bike like this.
Out on the road the bike rides great, it’s everything I expect from a really decent steel frame which is a lovely springy feel out of the saddle, especially on the climbs. The geometry is not race orientated so it’s slacker and super stable and with the 35mm tyres on it (clearance up to 40mm) it was all of ten minutes before I bailed on the tarmac and hit some trails. Off road it’s surprisingly good, a different feel to a cross bike but sharp enough handling to actually ride blue runs at the trail centre with ease. The Outback is a bike with pedigree on tarmac and off road, it's been designed to be used for both and I hope will make a perfect choice for some long rides in 2018.
A quick word on the Alpine JB tyres, these are something very different to what else is on the market but they make a lot of sense for Devon’s roads. They have a recessed tread pattern so pumped up they ride like a normal road tyre but the extra volume gives you pothole safety and the grip is fine on wet manhole covers. Sizes 30 and 35 are available but they come up slightly narrower so a 30mm actually measures a 28mm.
If you want to try some then pop by the shop and we’ll show you them or even try them on your bike.
The Outback is available now for £1299, it’s a fair chunk for a steel frame but this is as close to a custom frame as you can get off the shelf. A lot of time has been spent to make a really decent steel frame from one of the masters of modern frame building.
Check out the full range of Ritchey Products you can order online and benefit from 0% finance or pop in and try to work a deal on your dream build!