Ritchey has seen the mountain, now the pinnacle

By From page B1 | October 28, 2012

Tom Ritchey is a rider and bicycle builder who has revolutionized the sport of mountain biking with his innovative designs. He will be inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame as part of the 2012 class on Saturday. Courtesy photo

Tom Ritchey is a rider and bicycle builder who has revolutionized the sport of mountain biking with his innovative designs. He will be inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame as part of the 2012 class on Saturday. Courtesy photo

Editor’s note: This is the last in a five-part series focusing on the Class of 2012 of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.

In all the years Tom Ritchey has spent welding frames of his continually cutting-edge bicycles, the veteran rider, inventor and builder has galvanized the sport of mountain biking.

For his life’s work, Ritchey is about to join three other giants of the spoke world for induction into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame on Nov. 3 in ceremonies at Freeborn Hall on campus at UC Davis.

“Tom is one of those individuals that epitomize ‘Contributor to the Sport’ category,” USBHOF Executive Director Joe Herget told The Enterprise. “He’s spent the last 40 years participating in the sport in a wide variety of ways … all of which have advanced the sport.”

Ritchey, 56, introduced super-light steel tube sets which revolutionized mountain biking. He created bullmoose bars, which improved steering on the rugged terrain — while providing some shock cushion for the rider.

He was a pioneer in break-away bikes for easy storage and is credited with dozens of other patented designs for trail and cyclo-cross (CX) racing bicycles.

His company, Ritchey Design, works out of Reno, Nev., and San Carlos.

Ritchey — famous for his handlebar mustache — was one of the top riders in the 1970s when mountain biking was in its formative stages and, for his efforts, was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame (1988) in Crested Butte, Colo.

Seven years ago, Ritchey and companion Gary Boulanger were asked to tour Rwanda by bicycle — in an effort to assess the countryside and the nation’s interest in cycling. The Africans would ask Ritchey to develop a national racing team, assist in opening a bicycle-assembly factory and design cargo-hauling two-wheelers.

While in Rwanda, Ritchey — with the additional assistance of Jared Miller — set up a bike-safari company,

Ritchey’s efforts, eventually known as Project Rwanda, was designed to tell the world that the formerly strife-torn country was safe, beautiful and emerging.

A curious byproduct of Ritchey’s crew has been annual wooden bike races, from which 2012 mountain cycle Olympic competitor Adrien Niyonshuti elevated himself.

Ritchey will join Modern Road and Track honoree Erin Harwell, Veteran Road and Trackster Rob Parsons and Off-Road Competitor Susan DeMattei as the guests of honor at the shrine’s upcoming ceremonies.

“(Ritchey) was an outstanding racer and applied what he learned from racing to design innovations in the products he built,” Herget continues. “He was, of course, instrumental in the birth of modern mountain biking.

“He is well-known for his CX and road bikes, not to mention all of the various components he has created or improved. And he’s not done …”

Ritchey and then-partners Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly began building frames under MountainBikes Inc. In 1983, Fisher bought the company and Ritchey created his own Ritchey Designs — adding accessories to his portfolio (which included threadless headsets and clipless pedals).

To this day, Ritchey — who no longer makes a full line of frames — remains committed to bicycle design and engineering.

The father of a son, Jay, and two daughters, Annie and Sara, Ritchey and his wife Martha life on their Northern California ranch.

Notes: The big weekend celebration for USBHOF inductees and their fans begins with an invitation-only reception on Friday. Ritchey will join Hall of Famers Wayne Stetina and George Mount for an all-comers morning ride. “A long, fast-paced workout and a shorter more casual group ride are provided,” says one Hall official. “These are unsupported group training rides, so come prepared and remember that rules of the road apply.” The ride is open and free of charge. It leaves from the Hall of Fame facility (Third and B Streets) at 8 a.m. … At 11 a.m. cycling photographer Wil Mathews will present a Tireside Chat focusing on American’s great races (including the Tour of California). Peter Rich hosts a three-hour symposium (1 p.m.) on “Racing During the 1960s and ‘70s. Both programs are at the Hall of Fame. … The induction ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. and features a fund-raising silence auction and social hour. Visit www.ucbhof.org for more information.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.

Bruce Gallaudet

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