Ritchey's R&D crew has been busy, and the company released a flurry of new product for the 2014 model year. Updated bars, stems and seatposts are a given from the cockpit component juggernaut but also coming soon is an all-new road hub design with some intriguing convenient features.
Introducing Phantom Flange hubs
Ritchey bucks industry trends for its new road Phantom Flange road hubset, passing over straight-pull spokes in favor of traditional J-bend spokes that are easier for riders to source and replace. A clever hidden front and rear non-driveside flange design, however, lends the appearance of a straight-pull hub that may appeal to those seeking a more modern look. Rear driveside spokes are all laced heads-in to increase effective flange spacing while a slight offset prevents excessive spoke bending as they travel from hub to rim.
Other features include a conventional four-cartridge rear and two-cartridge front bearing layout but a new six-pawl driver mechanism underlying the interchangeable alloy freehub bodies. The new hubs are also light with claimed front and rear weights of just 70g and 207g, respectively.
Cyclocross racers who typically see lots of nasty weather – and frequent travelers – will likely be interested in the new hubset's ease of disassembly. Hand-removable freehub bodies are nothing new but the Phantom Flange rear hub's axle and driveside bearing can also be extracted without tools. This makes for quick-and-easy cleaning and relubing but also a more compact shape if you need to pack a bike into a travel case. Despite the apparently light press-fit, Ritchey marketing director Sean Coffey insists that the design isn't prone to creaking.
The new Phantom Flange rear hub can be easily disassembled for easier servicing or more compact packing in a travel case
Ritchey will build Phantom Flange into three new road wheelsets for 2014: the WCS Carbon Apex 38mm Tubulars ($1,830/£1,130; 1,379g); the WCS Carbon 46mm Clinchers ($1,980/£1,220;1,526g); and the WCS Zeta II Clinchers ($950/£610; 1,444g). European customers will also get an ultra-deep section WCS Carbon Apex 88mm tubular option.
Tubular rims are mostly carried over from previous model years but the Zeta II Clincher hoops are all new with a 17mm internal width, tubeless-compatible profiles, and an offset rear cross-section for a more evenly balanced spoke tension. Impressively for the sub-1,500g claimed weight, Ritchey builds the Zeta II Clinchers with durable brass spoke nipples instead of lighter – but more finicky – alloy ones.
The new Ritchey WCS Zeta II alloy clinchers get wide-profile, tubeless compatible rims along with the Phantom Flange hub design
All of the new road wheels will be available in December. Notably absent, however, are any disc brake-compatible versions or MTB variants. Coffey says that certain design elements of the Phantom Flange hubs will eventually work themselves into other wheel models, though.
New Vector Evo monorail saddle system
We can hear the complaints already: "another monorail saddle system?" Ritchey claims its Vector Evo design, however, builds in greater ride comfort than either the Selle Italia Monolink or SDG I-Beam while offering similar benefits in terms of weight and adjustability.
According to Coffey, the Vector Evo's slightly curved thermoplastic rail is built to flex a bit, which in tandem with Ritchey's split rear shell attachment design supposedly creates a sort of leaf spring setup to take the sting out of rough roads and trails. Selle Italia's carbon fiber Monolink, on the other hand, is exceedingly rigid and was primarily built to allow for an extremely narrow saddle nose while SDG's I-Beam rail is typically fully attached to the shell from nose to tail, allowing for little flex.
Ritchey claims its new Vector Evo monorail saddle design offers benefits over similar systems
Even with the additional rail flex, though, Coffey claims that a specific goal of the Vector Evo design was to prevent long-term sagging, which can adversely affect a rider's fit in as little as a few months depending on the saddle model. Since the flex is built into the rails, the Vector Evo shells are thicker and more rigid so as to better retain their shape over time.
"We wanted to come up with something where you're not relying on excessive padding," he told BikeRadar. "[Vector Evo is] designed to afford a level of compliance that you can't get out of a traditional titanium or carbon fiber rail by distributing stress throughout the shell so that the shell can be the shell and the padding can be the padding."
Thankfully, Ritchey's Vector Evo saddle doesn't necessarily require a wholly dedicated seatpost as the company's current two-bolt 'LINK' posts can be retrofitted with a new top (incidentally, a Selle Italia Monolink-compatible clamp is available, too).
Ritchey's LINK seatpost range works with a variety of rail systems just by swapping the clamp head
Vector Evo is incorporated into two saddles for 2014: the narrower, flatter, and more sparsely padded WCS Vector Evo Streem (175g) and the wider, cushier, and curvier WCS Vector Evo Contrail (220g). Both retail for around $150/£110 and are available now.
Updated bars, stems, seatposts, tires, forks, and headsets
Ritchey has tweaked several of its most popular bars and stems, too.
The alloy WCS NeoClassic sports a similar traditional-bend shape to the extant WCS Classic but with a shorter 73mm reach and shallower 128mm drop – 7mm less than the Classic. Claimed weight creeps up to 253g (42cm) as compared to the standard Classic's 220g but retail price stays constant at $90/£84. For now, just the alloy version is available but Coffey suggests a carbon version is being considered.
Ritchey updates its traditional-bend alloy bar with a shorter reach and drop for 2014
Likewise, the much more anatomically shaped alloy WCS Streem gets a shorter 77mm reach and 128mm drop to become the WCS Streem II. The tops also get a more aggressively flattened cross-section. Claimed weight is 275g and suggested retail price is $110/£92.
Prefer an anatomic bend? Ritchey's revamped WCS Streem II gets a shorter reach and drop plus more aggressively shaped tops
Stem changes are mostly limited to a couple of additional sizes. The forged aluminum WCS C260 stem ($120, 103g) will be offered in a -25° angle while the WCS Trail stem ($100) now comes as short as 45mm.
Seatposts are essentially carried over but there's one neat new optional add-on: a plastic plug that adapts current aluminum and carbon fiber seatposts to work with Shimano's new Di2 internal battery.
Ritchey will offer this simple Shimano Di2 internal battery adapter for just $10
New tire options for 2014 include the return of a high-end road slick and a new 27.5" MTB model. The new Race Slick lays a single-compound layer of 60a rubber over a nylon casing and will available in WCS (700x23c and 700x25c with 120TPI casing, $40) and Comp (700x23c only with 60TPI casing, $20), both with folding aramid fiber beads. Fans of Ritchey's evergreen WCS mountain bike tread will get new 27.5" options, too.
Intriguingly, Ritchey has partnered with German output Acros for its new Block Lock Headset, which features an additional steerer clamp with a protruding, interlocking tab that limits movement to +/-90 degrees to prevent frame damage in a crash. Ritchey will offer the new headset in both tapered and standard sizes for $80.
Finally, there's the all-new WCS Carbon Disc CX – a dedicated disc-only fork specifically designed for cyclocross with a 395mm axle-to-crown length, 45mm rake, and competitive 460g weight. Ritchey will offer the new fork only with a straight 1 1/8in steerer, which combined with the sleek shape should make it a better visual fit for metal frames – read into that as you will.
Look but don't touch - Ritchey's all-new disc-specific carbon 'cross fork won't be available in time for this season
Retail price is still to be determined but that's just as well since you won't be able to buy one in time for this year's cyclocross season anyway. The new fork won't be available until early February.