Tom Ritchey is one of cycling’s pioneers, and his company builds beautiful road, cyclocross and mountain bike framesets from steel tubing he also designs. With the trend towards bikes that blur the lines between all of the above, Ritchey’s Outback is an adventure bike that continues in his pioneering spirit.
Available as a teal coloured frameset (frame, fork and headset), my test bike was supplied with Shimano’s Ultegra compact groupset, and hydraulic disc brakes. Everything else was unsurprisingly Ritchey, and together would cost around £3,200 (approx $4,000 / €3,500 / AU$5,600).
Claimed weight for a large frame, with its thru-axle and mech hanger is 2.17kg, and my complete bike weighed 9.31kg, which is respectable for a steel bike of this type.
Apart from 12mm thru-axles at both ends, two bottle mounts on the frame and all external cable and hose routing, there are no rack or mudguard fitting points, but there is room for a bikepacking frame bag, seat pack and bar bag.
The slim-tubed frame’s lines are minimal and clean, there’s no chainstay bridge to increase clearance, a BSA threaded bottom bracket keeps things simple, and the head tube’s parallel sides are pared down to just accept the Ritchey Carbon Fibre Gravel fork’s straight steerer.
When tapered steerer tubes have become the norm to stiffen the front end and resist steering torque, Ritchey has gone back to a straight one for its increased compliance.
The 35mm Ritchey Alpine tyres are well supported by the responsive 25mm-wide WCS Zeta wheelset, helping me traverse my local broken, muck-covered routes.
Once I left the tarmac the Outback barely changed pace, wafting along like a Citroën 2CV over a ploughed field. Comfort levels on rough gravel are impressively composed, with most vibration soaked up and bigger hits heavily muted.
Tyre volume can hugely affect acceleration, comfort and grip, and although the Outback accepts tyres with a 40mm inflated width, my 35s were a nice compromise between road speed and gravel ability.
A low bottom bracket and crisp handling made slips easy to gather up, but where this bike really shines is its ride feel. The Outback has an utterly holistic supple feel that is easy to feel attuned with.
Forget the weight, I soon did, the Outback is beautifully-refined, sensory-satisfying, aesthetically-pleasing, steel-tubed fun.