Ritchey Break-Away Carbon review£2,699.00

Fast-riding road bike for the international traveller

BikeRadar score4/5

Ritchey’s Break-Away Carbon is, to all intents and purposes, a relatively racy carbon road bike, with ‘classic Ritchey geometry' and a top-spec, lightweight build.

  • The Ritchey Breakaway Carbon is one of our key bikes for 2018. We've collated eleven bikes that we believe you should know about in the coming year. Some are super bikes, while others might display great value for money, but they all have one thing in common — they're all important bikes that show how incredibly varied road and mountain biking is today.

If you’re not familiar with the Break-Away family, it’d be easy to miss the Break-Away Carbon’s most interesting facet; it can be split in two to make travelling with the bike easier.

Tucked behind the cranks, around the down tube is a metal, hinged collar, while up at the top tube / seat tube junction there’s a slightly beefier seat clamp than you might otherwise expect to see.

Barely visible, but vital to the bike's function — would it look better in black though?
Barely visible, but vital to the bike's function — would it look better in black though?

Un-do both the collar and the clamp, and, with a bit of jiggery pokery, the frame splits in two. Add in the rather neat 70x80x20cm (ish) ‘suitcase’ and you’ve got a bike that can be taken on holiday, potentially without the need to pay bicycle handling charges (always check airline T&Cs, of course).

I’ll talk about packing the bike up and transporting it later, but there’s no point in buying a bike for going away if it doesn’t actually ride well. Fortunately, the Ritchey is a great bike to ride.

The top tube / seat tube / seat clamp / frame clamp isn't exactly bulky
The top tube / seat tube / seat clamp / frame clamp isn't exactly bulky

Race-ready, almost

The geometry errs on the racier side of things, with parallel 73.5-degree seat and head angles, a 566mm effective top tube and 170mm head tube (on the 56cm/Large frame).

While it’s not quite as aggressive as some of the most dedicated race bikes out there, it’s certainly a bike that feels like a head-down, arse up race bike, rather than an all-day cruising endurance bike.

Fortunately, for a bike that splits in two, and that doesn’t have the bulkiest of tube profiles, riding it doesn't feel like being on wet noodles. Bigger riders might find a little bit of sway at the bottom bracket during harder efforts, but the majority of riders jumping on the bike shouldn’t find the frame eating up Watts. 

At 7.1kg our test bike gave no excuses on the climbs
At 7.1kg our test bike gave no excuses on the climbs

The ride feel, paired with a lightweight build on the model I tested, which included a raft of top-level Ritchey components and came in at 7.1kg, means there are no excuses on the hills.

There are bikes with stiffer front ends out there, but the Break-Away’s geometry means it feels lively and racy, but not twitchy and nervous. Place your bodyweight nicely over the bike and it’ll cruise round alpine hairpins and weave around UK potholes with equal ease. 

That said, again, bigger riders might find a little bit of twitching or tucking under heavy braking or highly loaded corners, partly due to the straight 1 1/8in steerer.

Ritchey has managed to get the carbon chassis working well in comfort terms too. While the feel is certainly that of a race bike, it doesn’t rattle and kick over rougher road surfaces like the most brutal of race bikes can. 

Long swooping switchbacks posed no problems on test
Long swooping switchbacks posed no problems on test

It would be perfectly possible to build a touch more comfort in there with wise choices of finishing kit, wheels and tyres. The test bike came with 25mm rubber, though I reckon you could just about squeeze 28mm in there, and a softer 27.2mm seatpost would also help.

The Break-Away is definitely more suited to those looking for a bike with a racy feel and a bit of a throwback to simpler times. The tubes have no aero profiling, there are no fancy carbon lay-ups christened with buzzwords, the splittable frame means Shimano’s Di2 groupset would be a pain to live with (though eTap would make life a breeze) and there isn't a disc-brake compatible version. 

Ritchey Superlogic finishing kit is all good stuff (though I didn't like the Torx 20 bolts)
Ritchey Superlogic finishing kit is all good stuff (though I didn't like the Torx 20 bolts)

But perhaps this is a price worth paying, because if you travel frequently and don’t want to pay excessive baggage fees every time, the bike does fit into the suitcase supplied.

Pack it up, pack it in

With a bit of practice, I reckon I could get the bike’s rebuild time down to under 10 minutes. The hinged clamp and seat clamp are the two easiest bits to put together, but you also have to re-attach the brake calipers, mech and connect the cables. 

The cables are definitely the most fiddly bit, especially thanks to the sprung tension adjusters that thread into guides just below the head tube in a slightly awkward place.

The cable connectors are the only real weak point of the bike, in my opinion
The cable connectors are the only real weak point of the bike, in my opinion

When it’s all put together though, you wouldn't know it was a bike of two halves, save for a bit of rattling from the cable connectors along the down tube. I'd also recommend checking the torque of the hinged clamp from time to time, becuase if this does come loose, you'll notice play in the bottom bracket area and you definitely don't want it coming undone much at all.

Packing the bike back up takes a touch longer in my experience, as I found the process of getting all the parts wrapped up in the included packing materials and into the suitcase a bit of a jigsaw. 

I'd also recommend finding a wheelset with a freehub that can be easily split from the rear wheel, this will help get the packing more compact. The Ritchey wheels that came with the Break-Away just needed a gentle tug to separate them.

BikeRadar would like to thank Brittany Ferries, the Commune of Peille, France, and Kieran Page at La Maison des Activities de Pleine Nature de Peille for their help and support during our Headline Bikes test.

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Age: 29
  • Height: 182cm / 5'11"
  • Weight: 82kg / 180lb
  • Waist: 81cm / 32in
  • Chest: 97cm / 38in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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