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Peloton Impressions: Ritte Ace

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Get Over It
There are two words that seem to follow any mention of Ritte bikes and we’re going to deal with them right now: Open and Mold. Open mold is a generic term for an Asian-made bike anyone can slap a label on. While it’s true Ritte didn’t engineer its first bike, it did more than slap a label on the side of it—Ritte liked the bike so much it bought the molds. Open Mold, not open mold? It’s a subtle distinction. Now, three new words – get over it.

3 DOLLAR_SMALL2Ritte, based in Los Angeles, won quick success because it understood that a cool paint job and an irreverent take on Belgian-cool was appealing to a slew of riders. But it did another, more important thing. It selected a very good frame to launch the brand, the Bosberg. Much of the world’s carbon expertise resides in Asia and many of the factories there make really good bikes to choose from, it just takes good riders to recognize them; and the guys at Ritte are good riders. They ensured Ritte would have a reputation for good ride quality as well as great style.

That was where Ritte began. How about Ritte today? It engineers all its own bikes, has lots of models—and that sense of edgy-Belgian-cool? Still alive and well. So what kind of bike does the mature Ritte brand make when it is designing a new flagship racer? It’s called the Ace and it manages to turn Ritte’s unique ethos into palpable ride quality.

The Details
Power transfer: the massive, squared-off tube shapes make it obvious from across the shop floor and the bike’s construction process make it clear after a bit of research. The down tube is enormous, the bottom bracket is giant, the head tube is tapered and stout, even the seat cluster, the last bastion of svelte shapes in modern bike design, is beefy on the Ace—and it’s all gorgeous.

The construction Ritte uses is almost unheard of. We’re not talking about the inner-mold-and-bladder process that’s standard these days, we’re talking about the Ace being almost a true monocoque. Most bikes are spit out of the mold in four, five or more pieces, which are then bonded. The Ace is molded in a single huge tool, with only the seat stays bonded on. The bikes that are constructed this way can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare and they all provide a unified, confident feel in the way they react to cornering load and big power.

What the Ritte does not attempt to do is win awards for light weight or aerodynamics. The large-size frames weigh more than 1,000 grams and the tube shapes, while beautifully stiff, are not aero. Geometry is a holdover from the Ritte Vlaanderen, and it provides a neutral and predictable feel, yet is nimble and precise when called upon in the size XL we tested. Ritte uses the same-length chain stays, 410mm, and 45mm fork rake for all sizes, so the smaller bikes may comparatively feel a bit longer at the rear.

We built up the bike from scratch. There is no better way to get intimately acquainted with a frame’s build quality. The Ace possessed clean, exact surfaces for bottom bracket and headset bearings, and the mechanical/electronic cable inserts were precise and free of any resin or carbon, all of which gives us a good feeling about attention to detail. We built the bike with Campagnolo Record 11 and new Bora 35 One carbon clinchers. A Ritchey cockpit and Fi’zi:k Arione saddle atop the Ritte seat post completed the build for 15.7 pounds on the scale.

Bottom Line
Price: $2,700 (frame, fork, seatpost)
Weight: 15.7 lbs (XL tested)
Specification: Campagnolo Record 11, Campagnolo Bora 35 One carbon clinchers, Ritchey WCS Streem II bars with C220 stem; fi’zi:k Arione VSX saddle
More: rittecycles.com

The Ride
Two things scream at you the moment you get on the Ritte Ace. The power transfer is ungodly. Stamp on the pedals—from a standstill, from 17 miles per hour, or from 30 mph—and the bike goes like a stabbed rat, visceral acceleration, in and out of the saddle. No twisting head tube, no sloppy rear end. A small rider looking for instant acceleration to launch an attack on a 10-percent grade will be equally impressed.

The second thing the Ace screams at you is also stiffness—stiffness in the saddle. The big-tube shapes at the seat cluster and the 31.6mm-diameter seat post do not allow much deflection, and the huge power structure below certainly doesn’t. The bike transmits small road chatter and wallops through the big stuff. Riding a 25mm tire on the Ace—even better is a 28mm—at 95psi is critical to getting the most out of the bike. All that torsional stiffness means even more when your rear wheel stays put over nasty roads. A little more rubber also makes the most of the Ace when descending. The stiffness of the unified monocoque construction gives the Ace Moto-GP-like response to twisting, technical descents. On a rough corner, running 23mm tires at 120psi, the bike can be a true white-knuckler, but 25mm tires at 95psi make it pure confidence and speed.

The Ritte Ace is an unapologetic racer and we wouldn’t change a thing. It will bash its way through a rough patch, then ask you to man up and attack. It moves as a singular beast underneath you, alive to your every input. Ritte has somehow manifested the very appeal and style of its brand into ride feel.

The Rider
The Ace rider wants every input—whether at the pedals, in the saddle or through the bars—turned it into precise handling or pure power. We can’t argue with that, but we will recommend a nice, fat tire.