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 cycling industry, and his personal designs have made it Bikes of the Bunch on a few occasions, including a steel bike he built himself, and recently a custom Specialized Creo e-commuter. Tristan shares his latest creation below.
To be honest, I do not need this new bike, but it evokes memories.
I have owned a lot of really nice bikes, but one of the very best was a steel Ritchey. I think a big part of why I loved that bike was because of where it took me and the adventures we took on together: I explored small villages in Belgium and stopped to order baguettes in my rusty French. I drove up Italy’s highest paved road, the Stelvio Pass, before exploring the roads and beaches around Lake Como, the Rocket Espresso factory in Milan and the Campagnolo factory in Vicenza. I drove through Northern California and visited my friends in White Industries. In Oregon, I learned to build a bike during the day and rode with the legendary frame builder Paul Sadoff in the evening. I took that Ritchey to so many places and I enjoyed every adventure with it.
My cycling and fitness ebbs and flows as my energy is divided between life and cycling. I’m in an ebb at the moment – the last two years of work have been absolutely insane, which means I have driven less and my fitness has suffered. The only Strava messages I get these days are “uh oh, you’ve lost another COM”, and so instead of striving for fitness and pushing my limits, most of my current riding is about relaxing, relax and simply enjoy the freedom of cycling. Riding this new Ritchey reminds me of the old adventures and reminds me of the carefree memories of narrow roads in Italy and donut shops in Canada.
My bid for a modern steel road bike
The goal of this new build is a modern ‘steel is real’ bike. I’ve tried 1x lanes before and have 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 and simpler driveline finally be realized?
I have been riding the Shimano Di2 for years now, but have really enjoyed the wireless SRAM AXS components on my mountain bike. For this construction I ordered a pair of red AXS shifter / brake units and blips (remote switches) 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 fitted a Shimano XTR 10-45 cassette and XX1 Eagle AXS mountain bike derailleur. The shift is good, but I’m really looking forward to the red XPLR kit coming every day now.
A Polish-made Garbaruk chain is a visually striking addition to the building, and I simply love its spider web look. It’s bolted to a pair of SRAM crank arms designed for a Quarq drive gauge, which are the lightest cranks I can find in the long 177.5mm length I use.
The Ritchey Disc Road frame arrived with a nice glossy black paint, but I did not love the battleship’s gray stickers. Using the vinyl cutter we use for our custom wheel stickers, I made some fresh frame stickers of the same size and carefully laid them on the frame. I think the resulting chrome stickers on the frame and fork look amazing!
In keeping with the monochromatic frame, I polished a pair of our Dial hubs for a shiny silver, and our wheel builder Gavin built them into a pair of 35mm deep Wheelworks SL rims with silver-colored Aerolite spokes and stickers made of the same chrome as mine new stellogos. The wheels are configured tubeless (of course) with Continental GP5000 28 mm tires running at 75 psi front / 80 psi rear.
I finished the build with a silver Ritchey deep drop guide and a specially polished Ritchey 4-axis trunk. I machined and polished the silver headphone spacers on my lathe to fit the diameter of the Ritchey stem perfectly and machined a custom bias cover 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 glossy black to match the frame. All frame bolts were replaced with black, and the forged steel backing was replaced with a CNC machined black to promote monochrome.
The total weight is 8.4 kg, which I think is quite respectable for a 58 cm steel bike with all accessories. The XPLR cassette, chain and changer need to save a little more weight, and if I really want to go crazy, there are plenty of little things like the saddle, rod and through shafts where grams can be shaved. However, the goal was not to build the lightest steel bike, but rather to have a bike that rides beautifully. I have only put a few hundred kilometers on it, but I think it has succeeded.