Well, this was a trip down memory lane. Not necessarily due to the ‘old school’ nature of the rigid steel Ritchey P-29er mountain bike frame underneath me, but because riding it took me straight back to the dusty single trails of my youth. Having a thoroughly modern, race-bred mountain bike underneath me was, however, definitely a contributing factor.
The rolling hills of Orange, in the Central West of New South Wales, was where I fell in love with cycling — mountain biking in particular. It was the early 90s, everything was anodised, and frames were steel and American made. Rock Shox Mag 21R forks were cutting edge technology. After a few XC races, I decided to move to Sydney and get a job as a messenger so I could ride every day.
My trusty Iron Horse MT 400 got a new pair of slick tyres and then retired in favour of a road bike. It feels like a lifetime ago. So when Lincoln from Sydney’s Kobie Cycling, distributors of Ritchey in Australia, offered up the P-29er while he ducked over to Interbike, I jumped at the chance to review the bike inspired by the success of Thomas Frischknecht at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
It’s not the same bike, of course. The P-29er has the same red, white and blue fade paint scheme and it’s made from steel, but it’s an updated reiteration, featuring all the developments and technology of today. The geometry is new, the 29er wheels are new, and the components are the latest and most effective — most of them on this bike were from Ritchey themselves.
Ritchey’s rigid Pro Carbon fork is up front, mounted with the WCS stem and Trail bars with their awesome foam grips. Shimano’s XT hydro disc brakes controlled the stopping, and the drivetrain consisted of a SRAM XX1 single speed setup with a Blackspire Double X bash ring. Ritchey’s tubeless 29er WCS Trail wheelset kept everything rolling smoothly.
The P-29er is sold as a frame only and, of course, you can build it up however you like. But, like all of Tom Ritchey’s products, it’s designed to race and win. It’s light, versatile and agile, and probably best suited to endurance racing or straight up cross country campaigns. If ever you’ve entertained the thought of competing in a 12 or 24 hour event, this is the weapon for it.
The P-29er is everything that is good about steel mountain bike frames: resilient, compliant and lively. That, coupled with Tom Ritchey’s legendary experience and engineering nous, result in a champion’s ride. The TIG-welded Ritchey Logic II-tubed frame felt direct and nimble, with plenty of room to move the knees about: it took only a couple of miles of riding to become one with the bike.
I’ve a penchant for old school mountain bikes, and steel frames in particular. The P-29er made me relive the good old days, not because it’s retro or old school, rather, it reminded me why steel is an ideal off-road frame material. It’s an added bonus that the P-29er brings that quality to the modern mountain biker. Welcome back.