Ritchey Design has been at the forefront of innovation and intelligent design for over 45 years. Company namesake Tom Ritchey started building frames as a teenager in the basement of his parents’ home in Menlo Park, California, and began quickly outproducing his mentors and peers such as Albert Eisentraut and Peter Johnson.
Ritchey, who was at this year’s Philly Bike Expo taking part in a seminar about American frame builders during the 1970s, was something of a prodigy, and having built an international brand over the past 40 years, he shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, with his work ethic and penchant for adopting the best new ideas, he can rightly be compared with another American wizard who worked out of his own lab in a different Menlo Park in New Jersey, Thomas Edison
Ritchey’s website heralds the “Ritchey Difference,” and describes it as “ a passion for cycling and creating products that enhance the cycling experience.” This is an important distinction: Ritchey is a cyclist’s bike designer, and his ideas are borne from time in the saddle and close consultation with other avid cyclists. One of those key influencers was the late distance cyclist, mechanical engineer and Bay Area legend, Jobst Brandt. Brandt counseled Ritchey to adopt the 650b wheel for his early mountain bikes, and while industry standard early on became the 26 inch wheel, twenty years later larger-size mountain bike wheels came into vogue again, and for the same reasons that Ritchey and his peers recognized before anyone else.
It’s safe to say that Ritchey adopts new ideas, but with a strong basis in R&D and sound engineering principles in place. They’ve adopted a uniquely appropriate branding moniker, Ritchey Logic, to describe their thoughtful approach to innovation. The company does not chase trends, but rather sets them.
One of those “logical” ideas thirty or so years ago was the Ritchey Break-Away frameset, built to be taken apart and stowed in a smaller case meant to circumvent oversize baggage fees on airlines. For the cyclist who travels a lot, it’s a wise investment, as baggage fees quickly add up, and ease of reassembly is also key. Ritchey Design offers Break-Away frames in both carbon and steel iterations.
Another early idea that has become an industry standard of sorts is the Ritchey Swiss Cross frameset. It was first built in the late 1980s for a young Thomas Frischknecht, the Swiss junior cyclocross World Champion and mountain bike phenomenon who followed Tom Ritchey to the United States and became Mountain Bike World Champion and an international star. The Swiss Cross has been updated with the latest geometry and lighter and stronger Ritchey Logic steel tubing, but it’s the same bike at its core. It comes in canti and disc brake versions, and most importantly, still in the iconic Swiss red paint scheme.
Both Jobst Brandt and Tom Ritchey were doing epic gravel rides on northern California’s scenic fire roads long before gravel riding was a “thing” and these early experiences led to the development of the Ritchey Outback gravel steel frameset, built for disc brakes, 700c wheels, up to 40c wide tires and ready to tackle any surface. For all its innovation, the Outback retains some common-sense design standards Ritchey is famous for, such as the 27.2 diameter seatpost spec and straight steerer to retain comfort and compliance and not overbuild for stiffness that’s not really needed for this application.
Innovation tempered with design prudence influenced by science, common sense and many miles in the saddle is the formula that Ritchey Design has used to set trends that the rest of the industry will eventually adopt. See the Ritchey Difference for yourself at their website, www.ritcheylogic.com.