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Ritte Ace review

17 Sep 2015
Verdict:

Does Ritte's new flagship race bike, the Ace, have the right cards up its sleeve?

Price: 
£1,999 (frameset)

Cyclist first featured a Ritte bike back in issue 23 of the magazine, and it made quite an impact. Upon opening the box and drawing back the bubble wrap, a dreamy sigh rippled through the office. People pointed. There might have even been a tear. After what seemed like a decade of featureless black frames, here was the gloriously flamboyant Ritte Vlaanderen, a bicycle whose appearance was as unashamedly attention-grabbing as its spec sheet.

According to founder Spencer Canon, Ritte was created as a backlash against the ‘priggish attitudes among some cyclists and racers’ in his hometown of Los Angeles. ‘We don’t care to participate in the battle for the technological high-ground, so our paint is the way we really set ourselves apart,’ Canon said, and the bold blue-grey-white livery of the Vlaanderen certainly made that point. That was over a year ago, and since then the Vlaanderen has found a new carbon stablemate: the Ace. And like the Vlaanderen it’s not exactly a shrinking violet to look at, nor is it shy out on the road.

Numbers game

Ritte Ace fork

A lot is made about the geometry of bicycles, and rightly so. Longer down tubes and chainstays, big fork offsets (the distance between the steering axis and the centre of the hub), tall head tubes and slacker seat tube and head tube angles typically make for a more stable, comfortable cycling experience, which manufacturers often refer to as ‘an all-day ride’. That is to say, such a bike will have a longer wheelbase, which feels more stable at speed (consider how unstable a unicycle feels with a wheelbase of 0mm) and offers a more upright riding position that many riders will find easier to hold for long periods in the saddle.

Conversely, bikes with shorter down tubes and chainstays, more minimal fork offsets, stouter head tubes and steeper seat tube and head tube angles get the label ‘race bike’ and have shorter wheelbases – better for quick turns but arguably harder to control on fast descents – and promote faster handling and a naturally lower-slung body position. Well that’s the theory (geometry students please forgive the potted nature), but where does the Ace fit in?

This frame comes with a 155mm head tube, which is relatively short for a bike of this size (56.5cm effective top tube). If this was an endurance-oriented bike I’d expect to see another 20mm on the head tube. The wheelbase is pretty standard at 995.7mm, as are the rest of the measurements. The upshot is that the Ace presented a fairly aggressive riding position, but one tempered with stable and predictable handling. The bike is quick to respond at low speed and offers a smoother, slightly heavier feel at high speed. As such, an inadvertent shifting of weight or flick of the bars didn’t send the Ace on an unwanted course, or leave me wishing I’d finally written my will. However, there is a but. Or in my case, a butt.

Raw deal

Ritte Ace saddle

If parallel universes are to be believed, somewhere there exists a cycling utopia in which there are no cars, tyres never puncture, wind and rain are banned and, above all else, the roads are just a few polishes away from plate-glass smooth. In this world, the Ace would be king. Not that I suffered any vehicular near-misses, punctures or downpours, but I did suffer in terms of posterior wellbeing. The thing is, the Ace is stiff.

Stiffness in the lateral side-to-side plane is a useful commodity for efficient power transfer, hence it’s level-pegging with aerodynamics in the number of mentions in the Great Marketing Handbook. However, you don’t want a bike to be stiff in every direction, yet on many occasions the Ace felt like it was.

On well-surfaced roads it was a dream. Unfussy yet clinical through the corners, with things feeling tight and connected throughout the frame. There was no perceptible lag or extra effort needed to make the rear follow the front rapidly through turns, and thanks to the heft and strength of the boxy down tube, bottom bracket and chainstays it made me feel like every joule of energy expended was being gathered up at the pedals and spat out in great chunks through the rear wheel. In short, it felt beastly fast. But as soon as the road surface deteriorated, it was me that was left feeling beastly.

Road buzz – the general hum from even new tarmac – was dealt with amply well, both by the frame and, I’d hazard to say, by the EC70 carbon bars and stem from Easton and carbon seatpost from Ritte. However, when the going got more lumpy and potholed, the Ace had a tendency to bounce around and for shocks to reverberate through the frame. Comfort, of course, is a relative thing – as is suffering (just ask Geraint Thomas’s telegraph pole) – but for my own thresholds the Ace pushed the boundaries. Short, punchy rides where I’d set out to go hard were great fun in a rip-roaring, hold-on-tight kind of way, as were longer rides on smooth roads, but put anything rougher in front of it and the Ace was frankly uncomfortable.

Heart on its sleeve

Ritte Ace review

Overall I found it hard to make my mind up about the Ace. It rides a bit like its paintjob (which, by the way, is best set-off with a pair of tan-wall tyres). It has a definite personality and it doesn’t make apologies, nor does it try to conform or hide in a crowd of ‘average’. Instead, you could pick it and its ride quality out from a peloton at 20 paces.

On top of that, the Ace performs exactly how Ritte bills it – as a race bike – and as the racing adage goes, ‘We don’t pay you to be comfortable’. However, we’re not all racers, and even if we were, we don’t race all the time and we probably don’t get paid if we do. For me, an average pedalling Joe searching for that perennial all-rounder, the Ace falls short when faced with the reality of day-to-day riding on good old British roads, which is disappointing because I really like what it’s trying to do, and I admire how Ritte has set about it. If I lived in that cycling utopia, though, I might just be reaching for my limitless, 0% interest credit card.

Spec

Ritte Ace (as tested)
Frame Ritte Ace
Groupset Shimano Ultegra 6800
Bars Easton EC90
Stem Easton EC70
Seatpost Ritte 31.6mm
Wheels Easton EA90 SLX
Saddle Ritte Duster
Contact silverfish-uk.com

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