Full credit to Tom Ritchey. Of all the legacy brands in the cycling world, his is among the most authentic. While many of Ritchey's peers long-ago settled for hood-ornament status, Ritchey remains truly involved in his company's product offerings. Mostly that means he rides - a lot. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles a year.
To log so many hours in the saddle of course requires gear that's up to the task. It must be comfortable, reliable and easy to maintain. Ironically, that's the underlying theme that strings together three new 2014 offerings from Ritchey: the redesigned Zeta II tubeless compatible road wheels, the Vector EVO saddle system, and the updated Neo Classic road handlebar.
WCS Zeta II Wheels
Ritchey's popular Zeta alloy clincher wheelset (claimed weight 1,444 grams, MSRP: $950) gets a complete facelift for 2014. Highlights include 17mm internal width rims for better lateral stiffness and improved tire profile, a new rim extrusion process that's claimed to improve ride quality and enhance aerodynamics, and the new Phantom Flange hubs that use a hidden J-bend design that has the aero profile and direct drive efficiency of a straight pull spoke, but the strength and reliability of the J-bend design. The new wheels are also tubeless ready, utilize brass nipples for easier truing, and are 11-speed compatible. Available in October.
Vector EVO Saddle System
Saddle choice often boils down to two criteria: light weight or comfort. Ritchey is trying to straddle that line with its new Vector EVO saddle system (claimed saddle weight 175 grams, saddle MSRP: $150). Its an offshoot of a saddle Tom Ritchey first sketched out in the 1990s, but wasn't able to pull-off to his satisfaction until now, when advanced materials and progressive manufacturing methods became available.
The key to the system is the Vector EVO rail, which provides a small amount of lateral flex and compliance, talking the sting out of rough roads and uber stiff road frames. The system also claims to alleviate sag at the juncture of the shell and rail, an issue that plagues some other super light saddles. Much of this is accomplished via Ritchey's patent pending Vector wing, which dissipates pressure more evenly and allows for wide range of fore/aft adjustment.
"We are not relying on extra padding or shell flex to get comfort because more padding equals hot spots and shell flex sag changes overall bike fit," explained Ritchey PR man Sean Coffey.
The seat post for the system is actually a standard two-bolt LINK post, meaning it will work with any saddle. The Vector EVO saddle comes with a special adapter. Saddle choices include the low-profile Ritchey Streem and the shorter, more padded Ritchey Contrail. Color options are black or white.
Neo Classic Bars
Finally, Ritchey tweaked the Neo Classic road bars (MSRP: $90), combining round drops with the shorter reach and shallower drop that's become increasing popular with the amateur cycling crowd. Reach is 73mm, with a drop of 128mm. Ritchey made similar adjustments to its Streem II Bars, which combine a wing-shaped top section with a shorter reach (78,mm) and shallower drop (128mm).