Ritchey Break-Away Design a Study in Elegant Simplicity

An additional 5 mm seat bolt and a simple downtube clamp is all it takes to make a Break-Away. It comes with a 4 mm torque key.

What I like about the Ritchey Break-Away and the reason I chose it as my main bike is its simple elegance. It harkens to a phrase adopted by Apple’s Steve Jobs as his product mantra: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

The Break-Away looks like any bike. You would never know it can be separated with two allen keys (4, 5 mm).

I may never travel with it but, if I do, it comes with a nice luggage bag that’s not noticeably larger than standard luggage. Disassembly is straightforward.

I asked Tom Ritchey how he came to build the Break-Away. By the way, the design was patented in 2002.

“About 10 years ago I wanted to ride my bike more and use it everywhere I traveled. I looked at other designs and they all added weight and interrupted the design of the bike so that it ended up being a disadvantage.

“It struck me that it could be done simply and straightforward. I tested the idea without investing a lot of money and tooling. I built a bike, took it on a trip and kept riding it for more than a year. I realized there was little disadvantage compared to a regular bike in performance, weight or stiffness. Now it’s all I ride.”

Tom also built a Break-Away tandem, and has a cross-bike as part of the Break-Away line.

I’ve ridden the Break-Away for about 400 miles, twice in the Santa Cruz Mountains on dirt and rough pavement. It equals and in some areas exceeds expectations compared to my custom steel bike of 24 years.

I’m not going to extol the bike “ride” virtues as you might read in a bike magazine. It handles well, especially on descents. The carbon-fiber fork absorbs shock and contributes to the feeling of control while descending. The rest of the bike is steel.

There is no “toe clip” overlap (a term from the days of toe clips describing the front wheel hitting the shoe tip when the front wheel is turned at slow speed).

I can’t comment on climbing, as though the kind of bike makes a big difference here. I’m a slug now. There is no frame flex. The Break-Away would make a great racing bike.

One item of note to a narrow audience: If you ride 28 mm tires, there isn’t much clearance. I use 28 mm on the rear and 25 mm on the front. (Update: I’m using 700 x 28 on the front with no clearance problem.) Also, my Silca pump that fit the down tube on the old bike now fits under the top tube. The Break-Away has a sloping top tube. Velcro or some other material is needed to prevent pump rattle.

On smooth dirt roads, like Los Gatos Creek Trail, the narrow clearance is a non-issue. It would only come into play on muddy roads. Shimano’s Ultegra brakes are also unfriendly to 28 mm tires. It’s a clearance issue when removing the wheel.

I look forward to many more rides on the Break-Away in the years ahead.

(Update: I installed a true 28-mm rear tire (Continental Racer) and there was only 1 mm clearance at the brake bridge. I had the bridge moved up (re-braze) 5 mm and now it’s perfect.)

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