Ritchey Outback: Getting Rolling- by Grannygear
Ritchey, as in Tom Ritchey, is no stranger to anyone who has been paying attention to bikes for the last couple of decades…more actually. So to see his version of a gravel bike sitting in mi casa’s el garage-o is a pretty cool thing indeed. It’s steel, of course. What else? Well Tom does offer some carbon road/cross frames in his break-away models, but the Ritchey name is synonymous with steel bikes. And in a world gone crazy for gravel/adventure/all-road/any-road bikes…this one looks to be a player with a nod towards ‘sportiness’. Let’s see what we have here…what Tom has wrought from his forge, so to speak.
From the Ritchey website:
“In the vein of all-terrain versatility, Tom Ritchey designed an adventure bike that is equally at home in the dirt as on the pavement: the Outback. The perfect tool for any ride, anywhere. The Outback features a lower bottom bracket for confident stability, yet it still is high enough to get over any road/trail furniture. This versatile bike also enjoys generous tire clearance and Ritchey Logic heat-treated, double-butted directional tubing.”
“The Outback frameset includes the new Ritchey Carbon Fiber Gravel thru-axle fork for a confident and precise front end, and it can accommodate tires up to 40mm wide. The Outback’s impressive handling is more than capable on- or off-road—in any situation. Riders seeking a bike able to effortlessly switch between fire roads, trails, tarmac, long distance mixed-terrain adventures and everything in-between will find the Outback a prime specimen for enjoying such differing and distinct disciplines of riding.”
As I read this bit of marketing blurb off the inner web, I am sitting in my garage amongst way too many bikes and bike parts…”Velo Clutter“…and I am staring at this pretty, blue colored, steel gravel bike with the very familiar name on the down tube.
It always strikes me when I see them, those skinny steel tubes, but not in a bad way. Bikes used to all be made of skinny tubes, but in the carbon saturated marketplace of today, with all those huge, shaped, forms, well…it is not the norm. The lines of the new Outback are sleek and clean. Tom knows steel and I would wager his Logic tubing is a very refined set of steel sticks. The head tube is oversize but not tapered and the fork steerer remains one diameter, something that, if I had to wager, dispenses grace to the rider over rougher roads. The fork has lovely lines and blends well with the dimensions of the tubing, not looking like at all like the proverbial wart on the prom queen.
Neither brake fixing is flat mount, but rather the post type, but they are integrated well into the design. The seat post binder, built into the seat stay junction, is just soooo pretty. Thru-axles of course, front and rear with no ugly handles to remove the axles…tools required here. Less convenient, but nicer looking. There is no sign of rack mounts, fender mounts, or third bottle cage mounts, etc.
The fork looks to have a pretty low axle to crown (A/C) measurement and while tire clearance looks decent, it is not nearly as generous as many other bikes of this ilk on the market. Ritchey says a 40c tire will work, but the Speedmax 700x40s on the Zeta rims are 41mms wide and have pretty much 8mms clearance in all the close places, rear and front. If it was very dry, you could run bigger meats on there, but this seems to be a decent place to settle. The one thing that stands out to my eye with this 58cm/XL frame is what looks like a rather short stack due to the minimal length head tube and short-ish fork. We shall see how that works out as we get it set up and begin riding.
The test bike is set up with Shimano Ultegra 6800 (mechanical) with a 50/34 crank and an 11-32 cassette. I think a 50T chain ring is a bit much for most folks with a gravel bike, but until Shimano actually comes out with a better option, then it is what it is. I find it interesting that it was spec’d with a double crank at all. But then again, it’s Shimano and that means no good 1x option that works well with the drop bar shifters and road shifty bits. Sigh. Come on guys….give us a 105 based adventure bike group set for crying out loud.
Anyway, 160mm rotors on hydro brakes, some Ritchey bars, stem, seat post and saddle and there you go. I weighed it out of the shipping box at 21lbs 2oz. Not bad. My Ti Lynskey is in that same range.
We shall see how this Outback runs down the road. I have owned a Ritchey Road Logic frame and I enjoyed it very much, finding it a good option to the cheaper and heavier steel bikes such as you might find from All City or Surly, but yet quite a bit less than a full custom. At $1359.00 dollars frame/fork/headset, it is not a cheap beginning to a bike build, but I think the cost is justified for the refined product Tom typically makes. I know my Road Logic frame was right at 4.25lbs (non disc) and I have heard this is around 4.5lbs (not an official weight) so that sounds about right.
Looking at the geometry numbers, one thing that stands out to me is the 73 degree head tube angle in my frame size. Wow. Tom must like a quick handling bike (his road frame geometry is a bit on the steep side too) My road bike is only 72.75 degrees at the head tube angle. With a nominal bottom bracket drop of 70mm, I expect the Outback to be on the sporty side of handling, even with the pretty average length 437mm chain stays to keep things planted. Will it be too sporty? We shall see. I am quite curious.
So nice steel tubing, a fighting weight, great to look at, decent size tires, and what looks to be aggressive geometry. Hang on as we get outback on the Ritchey Outback.
Note- Ritchey sent over the outback bicycle for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel and we were not paid nor bribed for this review. We strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.
About The Author: Grannygear hails from SoCal and spent most of his cycling days as a mountain biker from the formative years of mountain biking all the way up to the present day. His day job is in the tech sector, but he has spent time writing about off road 4X4’s, 29″ mountain bikes, and cycling in general. Grannygear and Guitar Ted have worked off and on together since 2009 after a chance meeting at Interbike. With gravel cycling on the rise, Grannygear has been exploring how this genre’ works in SoCal and now does guest pieces for RidingGravel.com in his spare time.