Check out this bike Tom Ritchey built at 17

This bike built in the early ’70s by Tom Ritchey – the bike frame builder and designer behind the Ritchey brand – exhibits some unusual features that are far ahead of its time. The Ritchey team showed us around at the recent Sea Otter Classic Expo.


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Ritchey started building bikes in California 50 years ago at the age of 17. Writing on the bottom tube of this says “Custom Built For MY POP”.


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It’s a sleek construction made with steel tubes – typical of the time – and the gearshifts are mounted on the bottom tube, but there are a few unusual features.


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The cable for the rear cantilever brake is pulled along the top of the top tube, by a very close fitting cable guide. It then dives into a hole in the tube just in front of the nozzle of the seat tube and appears centrally between the seat stone. It’s a really nice design.

The seat tube is extended well beyond the upper tube and node of the seat tag. Instead of a standard seat post with a separate seat attached above, Ritchey effectively combines an ultra-short seat post with a seat that has one central track … Well, it might be better described as a central tube.


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This is a bit like the I-Beam and Monolink saddle technologies introduced by other brands many years later, but without adjustment, so we assume that Tom’s dad was cool with the up tilt to the saddle.


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The guide around the top of the lower bracket shell for the front derailleur cable is an unusual design.


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Both the chain tags and the seat cushions are ultra-skinny, as are the dropouts.


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Instead of a quill stem, Ritchey uses a clamping system that is very similar to one you can see today – at least in concept – although the threaded headset does not require a bolted top cap like today’s threadless designs.


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Although it is difficult to distinguish from the photos, the tops of the forepaws are open. Unlike the rear brake, the front caliper is a side pull design.

Ritchey later developed his technique for building fillet solder frames that did not require lugs. This allowed him to use larger diameter tin wall tubes, as well as to use oval tubes to increase stiffness and reduce weight.


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