Last year, as I was wrapping up my coverage of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show I went to some length in describing my newfound love for the builder Chris Bishop. He runs a classic one-man shop, Bishop Bikes. Simple, straightforward, right? Not at all. Other than the fact that his business model is simple, nothing else he does is simple. Every bike he brought to the 2012 show wowed me on multiple levels. His eye for the line of a point was exquisite. His tendency to fill in the hard transitions of some lugs with brass fillets is an old-school California thing favored by guys like Brian Baylis, Tom Ritchey and Peter Johnson. And then there’s the fact that he never takes the easy way out. I’ve seen a number of builders do what was essentially a paint-by-numbers thing where they simply played plumber with a box of lugs and a bunch of tubes. What they did seemed an insult to the term “craft.” They certainly didn’t merit the title “frame builder,” not the way Bishop does.
I was scarecely back home before I’d sent him a deposit. I can’t tell you the last time I fell that hard for a builder. Good thing he’s not as cute as my wife.
And, no, Virginia, this doesn’t mean he has an 18-month wait. It means that we waited until I’d recovered from my crash and had a thorough fitting (that session with Steven Carre at Bike Effect), and then gotten through the crisis that was my second son’s birth before we even began talking about the bike and what size frame would be the appropriate response to the fitting I’d had. From first drawing to now, scarcely a month has passed. And we went from final drawing to the shots contained here in about a week.
We talked a fair amount about the bike I desired. The big thing for me, aside from being stiff enough to stand up to hard, out-of-the-saddle efforts, was that I wanted lug work that was gorgeous but didn’t call attention to itself. That meant no fancy windows, but points thinned enough to draw blood and brass fillets to make them curve to the gentle contours of an industrial designer’s eye. I wanted a bike that would be pretty to anyone, but would contain an extra layer of special for those who knew a thing or two about frame building.
I also wanted this to be a signature build for Chris, something that would stand as a calling card even without paint. That he cut the Bishop icon into the bottom bracket shell is too cool for words, says the word guy.
That he’s taken the time to not just show completed work but also place it alongside untreated pieces really helps show just how remarkable and subtle his work can be.
I told him, flat-out, “Go crazy.” I’ve sold off a few bikes that no longer fit, so to get one frame that should fit me for at least the next 10 to 15 years … well, I can make an investment in his time.
I don’t really want to imagine the amount of effort it took to remove the seat binder from that seat lug. But it sure looks cool.
An internally routed brake cable? Hell yes!
I really wish he didn’t have to paint the bike.
Those fillets at the dropouts are more than just beautiful; they’re harder to do than a quadratic equation.
Hiding the seat binder in the fastback seatstays is full-on ninja design.
When I saw this shot, all I could think was, “I’m going to get to ride that?”
An Anvil jig.
I’ve seen a lot of bikes over the years. I’ve seen a lot of great work. I’ve met plenty of builders who were capable of doing work of this quality. I’ve met maybe a half dozen who had the confidence/chutzpah/balls to do something like this. And until now, I was reasonably sure that all but one of them were California cats.
Learn more about Chris Bishop here. Do it! Click on that link. Srsly.
The bike industry has this funny habit of trying to sell me things I’m not sure I need. It is all change, all the time, and the trick of it is that some of the change is good and some of it is just expensive. I think of myself as a discerning consumer, but my parts bin will testify to some imprudent consumption throughout the years. It happens.
This year there are a couple trends that have me puzzling.
The first one is 650b mountain bikes, and let me come right out and say, I own one. In fact, it’s the only mountain bike I own. And it’s a single-speed, which makes it a lot like a unicorn in the mountain bike universe where everyone seems to be on a dual-suspension 29r anymore.
The conventional wisdom on 650b (or 27.5 for those of you who want the world to make sense) is that it combines the best of 26″ wheels, the weight and handling, with the best of 29rs, obstacle clearance and rolling speed. The new (actually old) wheel size is even being raced at World Cup level, so if there is some kool-aid drinking going on, it is not limited to a bunch of engineers in the parking lot of a bike company. This thing is happening.
At Interbike, Ritchey even displayed a 650b bike Tom built for himself, and raced, in the ’70s, perhaps just to confirm things we already knew such as, everything old is new again, AND Tom Ritchey is cooler than you or me.
Well, let me tell you, I have ridden 650b, and I like it. I’m not such a trail shredder that I will attempt to communicate in technical terms why it does what people say it does, but I do like it, and coming from a 26″ bike, I think it makes sense for my limited riding style and general propensity for impracticality.
The other trend, and this one is bigger and I’ll wager more interesting to RKP readers, is disc brakes on road bikes. Everybody’s talking. The big builders are rumbling as though this is going to be their next thing, but there are only a few market entrants at the moment. Volagi makes the Liscio (and soon the Viaje) and Colnago makes the C59 disc. Lynskey just announced one. Canyon showed one at Eurobike. And there are others, but chances are you haven’t seen them on the road yet. All current models are running mechanical discs while we wait for a really good drop bar shifter that will support hydraulics.
This week’s FGR is technical and wonky. Are these two trends worth our time? Do you see the value to 650b trail bikes? Will you go disc on the road? Why? Why not? Have you ridden either one? Share your experience. If the future is now, are you going along for the ride?
One of these days, I’m going to interview Tom Ritchey. When I do, I intend to ask him where he gets his ideas for new products. I don’t know that I’ll get an answer—I might as well ask Dave Matthews where he gets his song ideas—but I intend to ask him nonetheless.
For me, Ritchey Logic products have been shorthand for strong, lightweight and well-engineered solutions to essential parts and problems since before I became a cyclist. Over the years I’ve owned stems, seatposts, pedals and mini tools. I’ve reviewed probably a dozen bikes that spec’d Richey products for OEM sales. I can’t count the number of times that a Ritchey product at the time of its release was the lightest on the market.
That said, I purchased a WCS Carbon Post 18 months ago or so. While it has performed admirably, I don’t care for the two-bolt design. It is a frustration to adjust and changing saddles—which I do from time to time for the purpose of reviews—is a slow and time-consuming process.
Which brings me to the WCS Carbon 1-Bolt Post. The last time a seatpost impressed me was the Specialized Pavé seatpost and that was in 2003. There are plenty of 1-bolt posts out there. What makes the WCS Carbon 1-Bolt Post different is the nature of the clamp. Most of you won’t change saddles very often, so ease-of-installation probably won’t impress you much. Regardless, I’ve never experienced a seatpost on which saddle installation was quicker. But here’s a real selling point: As you tighten the seat clamp, there is no drift; wherever you place the saddle is where it stays. For purposes of fitting, I found this to be a notable benefit. Admittedly, once the saddle position is established, this stops being a selling point, but it impressed me for its ease.
My favorite feature of the seatpost isn’t specific to this one post, but rather Ritchey’s line of posts. Between the different iterations, Ritchey seatposts come in four diameters (27.0, 27.2, 30.9 and 31.6mm), four lengths (280, 300, 350 and 400mm) and four setbacks (0, 20, 30 and a whopping 45mm). The 1-Bolt post is available in three of those diameters (27.2, 30.9 and 31.6mm), two lengths (300 and 350mm) and two setbacks (0 and 30mm). The proliferation of production-sized carbon fiber frames shouldn’t mean a reduction in the ability to fit and its nice to see a company so dedicated to offering a wide variety in seatposts without resorting to a wonky solution—shims anyone?
It’s also lightweight. The post I reviewed weighed a bantam 172 grams. Naturally, the next question is what this lightweight post retails for either $214.95 or $224.95, depending on the seatposts diameter. Those who think it unreasonable to spend that much on a seatpost can save more than $125 and pick up the alloy version (which comes in all the same diameters and lengths as the carbon version
The clamp kit is available after market for $16.95 and comes in several different versions: 8 x 8.5mm (for Ritchey and Selle Italia carbon rail saddles) and 7 x 9.6mm (for Fi:zi’k carbon rail saddles). Different clamp kits exist for the carbon and alloy versions of the 1-bolt seatpost.
Waxing rhapsodic about a seatpost is about as silly as analyzing the stylistic underpinnings of Kelly Clarkson. That said, as a matter of minimalist industrial design, the 1-Bolt seatpost is elegant in its simplicity, both in ease of use and svelte appearance. Torque spec for either clamp is 12 Newton/meters, something I would encourage Ritchey to print on the packaging for the seatpost and the seat clamp; laser-etched on the clamp itself or printed on the seatpost wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The Streem saddle is Ritchey’s answer to the traditional saddle for those who would prefer their saddles not resemble toilet seats. The folks at Ritchey say it resembles an SLR, and while the bird’s-eye view sees the logic in this comparison, my last experience with the SLR was unpleasant enough (the saddle was upper-lip stiff) that I wouldn’t be eager to try one again.
The key to the saddle might be its patented “wing” design that suspends the shell of the saddle above the rails in order to cushion the rider from road vibration and shock. Or it may be that they are simply using a thinner shell, resulting in a more flexible base.
I’ve got fairly broad hips; in the Specialized Toupé I ride the 143mm-wide edition. I suspect that riders with narrower hips than I will find this saddle especially to their liking. For me it was rather minimal, but still worked. Anyone with hips wider than mine might find it akin to sitting on the top tube due to their sit bones falling at the edges of the saddle shell.
Amazingly, the saddle is available in four different configurations. Each shares the same shape and debossed leather look; what changes is the type of leather and the rail material.
The Aston Martin of the bunch is the 144g, real leather-covered, carbon railed Streem, available in Model T black or PRO white. It retails for $179.95. The Lexus features real leather, CrN/Ti rails (which are essentially Ti rails with a chromium-nitride coating which, from what I’ve read, helps when shaping the rails, making them less brittle) and available in black or white as well. Mine weighed 200g. Retail is a less-stratospheric $99.95.
Anyone offended by the high-end offerings can choose from Chrome-Moly rail, synthetic leather edition for $61.95 (said to weigh only 210g) or a steel rail, vinyl-covered version (250g claimed) for only $36.95. It’s refreshing to see a company meet consumers at such a variety of price points.
In riding both the carbon and Ti rail versions of this saddle, I had the impression that the carbon version did cut road vibration perceptibly, though slightly. Bump impact wasn’t cut at all, but then I wasn’t expecting a suspension post effect.
I’m not here to pass judgment on whether someone wants to build up a 13-pound bike. I can understand the desire to have an unsurpassably cool bike. I can also understand the urge to say, “Enough is enough.” That said, if you covet the carbon saddle (and believe me, I can understand why you might), make sure you purchase the 1-Bolt Clamp Kit, otherwise the 12Nm torque applied to too-small clamps will crush the carbon rails like teeth in celery.
Great saddles can be argued about ad nauseum; there’s no right answer. But this 1-Bolt seatpost is a thing of beauty; it truly epitomizes what Ritchey has always stood for in my mind—simple, lightweight and easy-to-adjust designs, the very meaning of elegant.