Ritte Racing’s Spencer Canon has been on my radar ever since he started his blog. I didn’t know who he was, but I knew he was one of mine. He had the knowledge of a lifer geek and a sense of humor that could rival BSNYC and Fat Cyclist. No easy task. I’d drop by the blog every now and then to get a laugh and then one day noticed, whoa, there are kits! There’s a club? He’s selling bikes?
Spencer almost certainly doesn’t describe the rise of Ritte this way, but in my view, he backed into a brand. When I look at Ritte, I see an aesthetic first, and products second. That’s probably a better way to build a brand than most do it, but I’ve never read a book that suggests this. People start with a product. Spencer started with a vibe.
We’ve been trying to hook up for a ride and general hang-out time for ages. Despite living less than 20 miles from me, I see him twice a year, but I see his team members and other assorted folks wearing his kits almost every damn day I’m on the bike. Neat trick.
We finally meshed schedules yesterday and had my shoulder been kinder, I could have spent the whole day riding around and chatting with Spencer. I meet a lot of people who burn with a holy light for cycling. Thank heaven. But I don’t meet that many who have the ability to bottle that passion and share it with others. Spencer is one of those guys. We could have done the stock thing of him sending me a bike to review, but that seemed to miss the point to both of us. Getting together was a chance to talk bikes and making a lasting and positive effect on a community you care for.
And ride a dirt road or two.
Ritte’s got six different models. I rode one of the newest, the Muur. Built by veteran framesmith Russ Denny to Spencer’s geometry, the Muur is a three carbon fiber tube frame paired with stainless steel lugs and a stainless steel rear triangle. Enve, from whom they source the carbon tubes and fork make enough different diameter tubes that he could have chosen any arrangement of carbon fiber and stainless steel. The stainless steel comes from KVA, Paragon and some raw stock Spencer has machined to his specs. So while he could have done a full carbon rear triangle, he chose to make that stainless and keep carbon in the front triangle. While most builders have moved away from that approach, his thinking was that the stainless rear triangle would give the bike some life while the carbon front triangle would retain the stiffness so many riders have come to expect from a carbon fiber bike.
We took in some Malibu roads that I know well, beginning with a climb that sorts pretenders from those who live right. I ain’t been livin’ right. Ugh. As I got out of the saddle on a few of the steep pitches I noticed a greater degree of stiffness than I’ve ever experienced on any of the old three-tube carbon bikes I’ve ridden in the past. What was surprising was that I could detect some flex just in the rear triangle. I think this bike would find a home among riders who like big miles and don’t want to give up the torsional stiffness we’ve come to enjoy on today’s bikes.
Spencer likes the down. I like that. The north side of Old Topanga is a descent that can be dropped with very little braking. Chasing him down its nearly memorized contours gave me a great chance to push the Muur a bit. What I notice when I go back to all steel bikes is that they don’t respond as crisply as newer carbon ones right at the point of entry to a sharp turn.
Allow me to digress a bit. In Malibu it’s really important, due to all the tight, off-camber and frequently decreasing radius turns, to wait until you can see the exit before trying to apex the turn. That means that I’m frequently letting the bike run straight, next to some painted line, until the last possible second, before diving into the turn.
With its stiff front triangle and Enve fork, the Muur tracked really well as I dove into turns. In that regard the bike felt more familiar to me than it ought.
Rather than head into the canyon roads, we dropped into the San Fernando Valley briefly to get onto the old Mulholland Highway, what locals refer to as Dirt Mulholland. We took that climb back up to a fire road descent that had everyone we passed doing double-takes. After all, if you can get an odd look riding those fire roads on a ‘cross bike (and I do) then a full-on road bike with 25mm clinchers is due for some slack-jawed WTFs.
Yeah, we would have been faster if we’d been on full-suspension 29ers, but I’m not convinced we would have had more fun.
And Spencer is a cat who clearly understands fun.