Cyclist - - Bikes -

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.

Trav­el­ling tales

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.

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