Most local bike shops will have a token classic or collectable bike displayed somewhere, attestation to the proprietor’s favored genre or the shop’s specialty. Long had I admired the vintage mountain bike strung up on the wall of Sydney’s City Bike Depot, which, upon inquiry, revealed the brilliant story of a founding father of off-road cycling — Tom Ritchey.
As it turns out, this frame is stamped 2 R 0 8 9 — the 89th Tom assembled under the Ritchey MountainBikes banner, circa 1983. It was purchased by the founding father of City Bike Depot, Hugh, who purchased it from the first owner, complete with original catalog and sales receipt. According to Wikipedia, Tom Ritchey’s partnership with Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly dissolved in 1983, making this one of the first frames Ritchey fillet brazed in the first year of business.
The condition is what realtors would call ‘a renovators dream’, but the paint only hides what would be as fine as any fillet brazing seen these days. Ritchey was known for breaking away from the lugged tradition for off-road-specific frames, describing the joins in his catalog as ‘perfectly radiused fillets’. The component list vividly describe the era, when Magura supplied brake levers straight from the motorcycle basket, as they had not yet developed a bicycle version: there’s still allowances for indicators and a throttle cable. The gearing is appropriately wide, catered for by a TA Specialites triple crankset and selected by early Suntour thumbies. It’s all rolling on a beautiful pair of original Wheelsmith wheels, the rear hiding an interesting detail: the California Bicycle License sticker.
Hugh is very proud to be the custodian of such an important piece of cycling’s history, his only regret is that his contact did not opt for the slightly more expensive original ‘Bullmoose’ handlebars, handmade by Tom himself. Perhaps the Specialized stem and bars are just as significant, they may have been inspired by Tom’s trademark mustache.
Massive thanks to Hugh and the guys at City Bike Depot in Sydney’s central business district, especially Matt, for his photographic assistance. Hugh and Adam completed the Three Peaks Challenge last weekend, a fund raiser for cancer research, so better give them a couple of days before dropping by the shop. Make sure you do, though, even if it’s just to ogle Tom Ritchey’s frame #89.
PS: Make sure you drop by the Cycle EXIF flickr stream, where I’ll post up the rest of the photos from the shoot, which include details from the original catalog.