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Ritte Snob review

1 Apr 2016

The Ritte Snob is a stainless steel head-turner, and its performance is as good as its looks

I like to ride a bike that will turn a head or provoke a curious reaction, but that’s rarely the outcome when you roll up to a group ride on something mainstream, no matter how flash the spec. I’m not suggesting that the big brands make boring bikes, but there’s something alluring about a bike that has a degree of rarity and mystique about it. The Snob, from Los Angeles-based bicycle brand Ritte, is a case in point. 

This bike’s understated appearance and lesser-known name might suggest it wouldn’t stand out in a crowd, but I found quite the contrary. The Snob prompted more questions from fellow riders than practically any other bike I’ve tested, which is partly thanks to the fact that it flaunts an undeniably beautiful build quality. Ritte boldly states, ‘Our bikes aren’t for everyone, but we think that’s a good thing.’ I’m inclined to agree. I applaud the brand for not taking itself too seriously. That’s not to say Ritte doesn’t put its heart and soul into its reations, because the Snob and also their Ace - the review of which you can read here - model offer clear evidence that it does. It’s more a case of Ritte escaping the sometimes stiff-upper-lipped traits of road riding and showing there’s still some room to create outstanding bikes with a dose of fun and attitude thrown into the mix. 

It’s a brand that, after all, takes its name from a rider (Henri Van Lerberghe, nicknamed Ritte) who won the Tour of Flanders in 1919 after stopping in the finish town for a few beers, so great was his lead. That says a lot.

Less is more

Ritte has a select portfolio of frames – currently just six – with an equal offering of carbon and metal, covering road, track, cyclocross and time-trial, but the stainless Snob is the standalone steel model. ‘Why stainless steel?’ I asked company founder Spencer Canon. His reply was simple: ‘I personally love stainless. I believe it has a superior ride quality to other metals.’ 

While stainless steel is a material of the modern era, Canon’s design bucks several modern trends. The cable routing is entirely external, with no specific allowance for electronic shifting. I like the sensible placing of the cable stops to eliminate any chance of cable rub. The headset uses traditional pressed-in cups (although it’s still tapered) and the keen eye will spot some very attractive additional details such as the drilled rear dropouts and the neatly fillet-brazed rear brake bridge. 

There’s a functional reason for the latter. ‘The TIG welding process on stainless creates intense heat, which can weaken the metal,’ says Canon. ‘The brake bridge area requires lots of welding around such a small diameter so brazing makes more sense.’ The rest of the frame is TIG welded, and flawlessly so. Deservedly, most of its beautiful welds are left on show behind clear lacquer. 

The pressfit 30 bottom bracket is a modern twist, but it would be hard for any framebuilder to overlook its potential to deliver some additional rigidity to the pedalling platform. A nice detail is the Race Face PF30 adapter specced on this build to facilitate using a Shimano chainset. It’s one of the more attractive solutions to the long-running industry standoff over
BB axle diameters. The sizable BB shell clearly presents a large surface area for the other tube connections at this critical junction. Perhaps in view of that, Ritte has opted for an oversized seat tube (31.6mm seatpost diameter) and initially I felt this was possibly an error. I couldn’t help thinking that 27.2mm might be more in keeping with the overall traditional aesthetic, plus it might bring a little extra comfort to the ride too. Similarly, our test bike came fitted with 23mm tyres and, based on my previous experiences of stainless builds being a lot stiffer than initially expected, I was immediately tempted to switch to wider 25mm versions to help with comfort. 

For the initial test rides, I decided to leave the spec unaltered. The pleasant surprise was that I had no reason for concern. The Snob took all of Dorset’s roughest rural lanes in its stride, and never did I return from a ride seeking ways to soften it up. The larger bumps seemed to be transferred with a pleasingly dampened ‘thud’ rather than the expected sharp ‘whack’, and there was no discernable issue with the high-frequency vibrations either. There are no standout geometry anomalies, and the overall feel was very balanced and stable. I achieved my ideal fit on the standard geometry, but it’s worth noting that for outright speed fiends Ritte does offer a version with a shorter head tube, called R-Fit.

Assume nothing

Stainless steel frames are never going to grace the scales with the sort of low numbers boasted by the lightest carbon creations, and the Snob is no featherweight, with a frame weight of around 1,500g depending on size. But just like my comfort concerns, any doubts I had about feeling the drag of that mass on the climbs were quickly dissipated. It exceeded my expectations, as did the Easton EA90 wheelset. The combination of steel frame, carbon fork and aluminium wheels seemed well suited, in a way complementing each other. For an aluminium wheelset the EA90s are light and amply stiff, ensuring the Snob doesn’t feel sluggish when you need a jolt of extra pace or a helping hand on a steep incline. The frame and fork back up the wheels’ characteristics, holding firm laterally and keeping the bike true to its line. 

The fact that the price of the Snob frameset starts with a ‘one’ (albeit only just) sets it apart from a lot of its rivals. For example, Condor’s Acciaio Stainless comes in at £2,799, the Genesis Volare 953 at £2,249, and an Independent Fabrication SSR will cost you £2,999. Considering the Snob’s frame is created by hand and it takes an entire day to make just one, it’s an impressively accessible price, and I’d say you are getting a lot of bike for your money. The Snob is certainly versatile, offering a high-quality ride whatever the situation, so don’t be misled by steel stereotypes. As well as being a beautiful, traditional frame to covet, this is a hugely capable bike.

Model Ritte Snob
Groupset Shimano Ultegra 6800
Deviations None
Wheels Easton EA90 SL
Finishing kit Easton EC90 seatpostEaston EA90 aluminium stem

Easton EC90 bars

£1,999 (frameset) approx, £3,500 as tested

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