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Ritchey Breakaway first look

Ritchey Break Away
14 Apr 2016

Stick it to the airlines with Ritchey's new Break-Away carbon frame.

Breaking up is hard to do, especially if you’re a bicycle. For American framebuilder Tom Ritchey, however, it made perfect sense, which is why he developed the Break-Away system in the early 2000s, with the idea of splitting a frame in two to make travelling with a bike easier. This latest version is the first time the company has applied the concept to a carbon frame.

Splitting a frame may seem like an odd idea, but it means that an entire road bike, wheels included, can fit into standard hold luggage for a flight. That’s become more appealing in recent years as bikes become ever-pricier travelling companions – Ryanair now charges £120 to carry a bicycle on return flights. 

The Ritchey Break-Away system works in a simple way: the seat tube is inserted into a collar at the end of the top tube, which at the same time secures the seatpost. Then there’s a second junction built into the down tube, secured in place by a metal clamp. While there are a couple of alternative methods for splitting frames, in our opinion Ritchey’s system is the most elegant available, but it has so far been restricted to steel and titanium.

Ritchey travel frame

Providing the Break-Away in carbon fibre presented Ritchey with some difficulties, though, as the company had to produce tubes with thicker walls and smaller diameters than usual to ensure they were strong enough. Then there were the challenges of dialling in the same handling and performance characteristics of a standard frame, despite tubes that are split in two. 

‘We say the Break-Away is a road bike that travels, not a travel bike that rides,’ says Fergus Tanaka of Ritchey Design. ‘We have so many customers who ride their Break-Away daily and find no difference between it and any other not-break-apart bike they have.’ But can it hold up to rough roads? 

Ritchey travel bag

‘The rough conditions in California in Santa Barbara and general off-road riding around the world is the way I ride, and was my goal for this bike,’ says Tom Ritchey, who built the prototype for the bike by hand. ‘I designed the bike specifically for 28mm tyres.’ Go online and you will find numerous videos of Ritchey hammering the off-road trails around Santa Barbara on his own carbon Break-Away. Despite his steel heritage, the carbon version is his favourite bike in the Ritchey fleet. 

Tanaka adds, ‘We built up a carbon Break-Away that challenged the UCI’s minimum acceptable weight, with a SuperLogic cockpit, our Apex 38 tubulars and Sram Red.’ Sure enough, the Cyclist scales weighed the frame and fork with clamp at a highly respectable 1,800g. To judge the bike as a true carbon racer, though, keep your eyes peeled for a full review.

£2,475 (inc. bike bag)

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