My first real road bike was a Ricardo. After years of trouncing around the countryside on rigid GT mountain bikes and trying to translate that technology to the city streets as a courier, a Ricardo Elite with a full Shimano 600 group set was a revelation. Perhaps that’s why I feel such a fondness towards the marque, even though they’re the Australian equivalent of a Huffy.
I’ll wager there’s quite a few middle-aged Aussie cyclists out there who will also claim a Ricardo as their first ‘decent’ bike. The South Australian factory produced thousands of bikes in the pre-Dura-Ace era and if you proved yourself fast enough in the Saturday morning club races, mum and dad may have been generous enough to invest further in an Italian frame with Campagnolo componentry.
This is actually my third Ricardo, not strictly an ‘Elite’ model, but as the first two were identically dressed in Shimano’s ‘Arabesque’ 600 group and this iteration is proudly labelled with ‘New 600 EX’, only their mother could tell them apart. I’m going to leave it at that. The last two were solid workhorses, but this version was the prettiest.
My wife Suze bought this one for me on eBay as a birthday present, after I pointed out its sentimental and economic value to her. One hundred and eighty bucks, as you see it. Bargain. Would’ve been criminal to let it go at that price. Complete 600 group, rims were true, the paint was in fair condition and as it was a lovely ‘champagne’ color, Suze didn’t need much more convincing.
It was sold to me with the matching 600EX pedals, which I immediately swapped out for a pair of MKS pedals and Patebury‘s famous toe straps. By that stage, I had the white rabbit firmly by the tail and followed him down the hole. A NOS 6-speed cluster and chain was ordered, as the originals were filled with grease and hair. Usual story.
New tires and tubes were installed and an order was placed for Patebury’s prototype leather bar wrap, made from the same kangaroo hide as their straps. I removed the handlebars and delivered them to the Patebury boys who immediately installed the wrap. The stitching is impeccable, on both the straps and the wrap. Golden Saddle Cyclery supplied both the bidon and the tool wrap.
The SR Laprade seat post is the original, which was detailed in red, white and blue: the colors of the Australian flag—a reminder of its Aussie heritage. I like to think the Tange decals were applied after a few Friday afternoon beverages. Surely they could not have been installed at such an obtuse angle on a Monday morning.
As with every Ricardo, it rides like a dream. It feels completely reliable, even in the dark on my evening and early morning commutes. Right now, it’s winter in the southern hemisphere, yet it seems to relish the torrential Sydney rain. Utterly faithful, like a Blue Heeler. If you were to compare it to a car, it would be a Holden LX Torana.
The Rick was featured as a centerfold in the 2013 June issue of Treadlie Magazine, which, if you reside in Australia, you can find at your local newsagent, local bike shop, or you can subscribe to via their website. I’m looking forward to many more years of dependable riding on the Ricardo—I can’t help wishing they were still sold at my local supermarket.