Original Ritchey 650b hardtail – Interbike 2012

Plus new Z-Max tires to include cyclocross fans

Though the mountain bike world is currently in the grips of a 27.5in/650b revolution, onlookers should remind themselves that it’s hardly a wheel size created out of thin air. Rather, it’s a resurrection of a format that was in place in the early days of the sport, before the wider availability of 26in tires made them the dominant standard.


Ritchey recently debuted its new P-27.5 at this year’s DealerCamp, with appealing stats such as a 2.02kg (4.47lb) butted, TIG-welded steel frame and an attainable retail price of US$1,100. On display right next to it at Interbike, however, was another 27.5in-wheeled bike that Tom Ritchey built for himself more than 30 years ago.

That fillet brazed bike is now owned by a collector in the San Francisco, but he’s admirably kept it in mostly vintage form – including Campagnolo and Huret friction front and rear derailleurs, giant Sachs four-finger brake levers, and a well-worn Brooks leather saddle. 

Velox cotton handlebar tape protects the paint from chipping:
James Huang/Future Publishing

Velox cotton tape to protect the paint from chipping

Frame geometry has obviously changed significantly since those early days, but the bike demonstrates that we’re not necessarily taking a blind step forward but returning to our roots.

Ritchey wasn’t just about paying homage to the past at its booth, though. We covered most of the new items at DealerCamp but additional bits included a new Torqkey preset 4Nm torque wrench with interchangeable bits, a 29×2.1in Z-Max Evolution tire size and a 700x35mm Z-Max Shield clincher for cyclocross use.

Savvy readers will undoubtedly notice that that the 35mm width of the Z-Max Shield puts it outside the UCI’s maximum allowable tire size, but no matter. Ritchey global marketing director Sean Coffey rightfully contends that the vast majority of amateur racers will never compete in a UCI-sanctioned event but will certainly benefit from the extra casing volume.

Ritchey’s new shield cyclocross tire is intentionally non-uci-legal with its 700x35mm size. ritchey contends that most ‘cross racers aren’t competing in uci-sanctioned events, anyway, and can stand to benefit from the larger casing size:
James Huang/Future Publishing

The Z-Max Shield is intentionally non-UCI legal