om Ritchey is a man who likes to travel. Before he launched his eponymous bike brand, he toured the world on his steel bike, but was never keen on paying extortionate flight charges or lugging around a cumbersome bike bag. So in 2002 he invented the Break-away frame, which could split into two pieces and pack down into a normal suitcase. It wasn’t until last year, though, that Ritchey did it in carbon.
Ritchey’s Break-away system has been built into steel and titanium frames over the past 15 years, which would seem a natural choice given the treatment that a bike may get in a plane’s cargo hold. But there’s no doubt that the performance benefits of carbon are hard to beat, and so it was no surprise that Ritchey looked to the black stuff to bridge the gap in weight and stiffness created by splitting the frame. With that in mind, though, Ritchey wanted to preserve much of the feel of the steel range in this carbon iteration.
‘We selected the tubing to give it similar ride qualities to steel, at a lighter weight,’ says Fergus Tanaka of Ritchey Design. The frame is also designed to cope with a range of different terrains, all with a build that comes in only half a kilo above the UCI minimum weight.
Given the Break-away has the unique feature of splitting in two, I thought it only appropriate to test it by travelling with it. The workings of the Break-away are a little mindboggling at first. Two carbon flanges on the down tube meet to be held in place by a small metal clamp. Then the seatpost clamp fixes the top tube to the seat tube – sliding over the seat tube like a sleeve. When both are tightened the bike is held together as one piece rather than two. But the packing and unpacking process is not as easy as just that. There are two obstacles that complicate the task of splitting the frame in two: separating the cables and fitting it into its airline-compliant bag.