This Bikes of the Bunch is the creation of New Zealand-based Tristan Thomas, founder of the wheel company WheelWorks. Tristan is a passionate member of the bicycle industry and his personal builds have made it into Bikes of the Bunch on a couple of occasions, including a steel bike he built himself, and more recently a customised Specialized Creo e-commuter. Tristan shares his latest creation below.
If I’m being honest I have no need for this new bike, but it brings back memories.
I’ve owned a lot of really nice bikes but one of the very best was a steel Ritchey. I think a large part of why I loved that bike is because of where it took me and the adventures we went on together: I explored tiny villages in Belgium and stopped to order baguettes in my rusty French. I rode up Italy’s highest paved road, the Stelvio pass, before exploring the roads and beaches around Lake Como, the Rocket Espresso factory in Milano, and the Campagnolo factory in Vicenza. I rode through Northern California and visited my friends at White Industries. In Oregon I learned how to build a bike during the day and rode with legendary frame builder Paul Sadoff in the evenings. I took that Ritchey to so many places and I enjoyed each and every adventure with it.
My cycling and fitness ebb and flow as my energy is split between life and cycling. I’m in an ebb at the moment – the past two years of work have been absolutely crazy, meaning I’ve been riding less and my fitness has suffered. The only Strava notifications I get these days are “uh oh, you’ve lost another KOM”, and so rather than striving for fitness and pushing my limits most of my current riding is about relaxing, unwinding, and simply enjoying the freedom of cycling. Riding this new Ritchey reminds me of the old adventures and pulls my mind to the carefree memories of narrow roads of Italy and donut shops in Canada.
My take on a modern steel road bike
The goal for this new build is a modern ‘steel is real’ bike. I’ve tried 1x road drivetrains in the past and never liked them but with the new SRAM XPLR series I thought the 1x concept was worth another shot. Would the benefits of a lighter, simpler drivetrain finally be realized?
I’ve been riding Shimano Di2 for years now but have really enjoyed the wireless SRAM AXS components on my mountain bike. For this build I ordered a pair of Red AXS shifter / brake units and Blips (remote shifters) for placement near the stem. SRAM’s XPLR 10-44 cassette and derailleur were supposed to arrive months ago but were Covid-delayed so to get the bike rolling I’ve fitted a Shimano XTR 10-45 cassette and XX1 Eagle AXS mountain bike derailleur. The shifting is good but I’m really looking forward to the Red XPLR kit arriving any day now.
A Polish-made Garbaruk chainring is a visually striking addition to the build and I simply love its spiderweb look. It’s bolted to a pair of SRAM crankarms which are designed for a Quarq powermeter and which are the lightest cranks I can find in the long 177.5 mm length I use.
The Ritchey Disc Road frame arrived with a lovely gloss black paint but I wasn’t loving the battleship grey decals. Using the vinyl cutter that we use for our custom wheel decals I made some fresh frame decals of the same size and carefully overlaid them onto the frame. I think the resultant chrome decals on the frame and fork look amazing!
In keeping with the monochromatic frame I polished a pair of our Dial hubs to a lustrous silver and our wheelbuilder Gavin built them into a pair of 35mm deep Wheelworks SL rims with silver Aerolite spokes and decals made from the same chrome as my new frame logos. The wheels are set up tubeless (of course) with Continental GP5000 28 mm tyres run at 75 psi front / 80 psi rear.
I finished the build off with a silver Ritchey deep-drop handlebar and a custom-polished Ritchey 4-Axis stem. I machined and polished the silver headset spacers on my lathe to perfectly match the diameter of the Ritchey stem, and machined a custom preload topcap using the super light Cannondale part as a starting point.
An FSA seatpost holds a PRO Stealth saddle in place. The seatpost was stripped and painted gloss black to match the frame. All the frame bolts were swapped out for black ones and the forged steel rear dropout was replaced with a CNC machined black one to further the monochrome.
The total weight is 8.4 kg which I think is pretty respectable for a 58 cm steel bike with all the trimmings. The XPLR cassette, chain and derailleur should save a little more weight, and if I really want to go nuts there are plenty of little items like the saddle, bar, and thru-axles where grams could be shaved. However, the goal wasn’t to build the lightest steel bike but rather to have a bike that rides beautifully. I’ve only put a few hundred kilometres onto it but I think I’ve succeeded.
- Frame: Ritchey Disc Logic Road, size Large, custom chrome decals, cablestops removed
- Fork: Ritchey, custom chrome decals
- Headset: Ritchey with custom machined and polished headset spacers and topcaps
- Wheelset: Wheelworks SL 35mm on custom polished Dial hubs with polished DT Swiss Aerolite spokes
- Shifters: SRAM Red AXS with Blips
- Crankset: SRAM Quarq D1
- Chainring: Garbaruk 44t
- Bottom bracket: SRAM DUB, English thread
- Rear derailleur: SRAM Eagle XX1, AXS
- Cassette: Shimano XTR 10-45t, 12-speed
- Chain: Shimano XTR 12-speed
- Disc brake calipers: SRAM Red
- Disc rotors: Campagnolo 160 mm (front), 140 mm (rear)
- Tyres: Continental GP5000 tubeless 28 mm
- Handlebar: Ritchey Classic
- Stem: Ritchey 4-Axis, custom polished
- Seatpost: FSA, painted to match frame
- Cages: BTP (ed. one of the original weight weenie cages)
- Bar tape: Fizik
- Saddle: Pro Stealth
- Pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-SL