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Ritte Ace frameset – review

If there were a competition for how hard you’re trying to be Belgian, Ritte would clean up every time. The Californian brand's done everything in their power to add as much ‘authentic’ Flemish flavour to their bikes as possible, and the result is a really smart-looking range all the way from the Vlaanderen and Bosberg through to the Stainless Snob, to this, the Ace – their latest creation which is a pure race bike

First things first, even though we have a complete bike here, you can only buy a Ritte as framesets in the UK (unless you find someone to custom build you one, of course), so it’s really only an option if you’re looking for a build project of your own.

Ritte is a smaller company without the budget for the expense of wind tunnel testing and the like, and they’ve made no secret of the fact that they’re not playing around in the proverbial arms race to build the fastest bike on the market. So if you like your bikes to come with a healthy dose of reassuring statistics, it’s probably best to look elsewhere. One of their old adverts claimed that they made bikes for people who like bikes, and that’s as good a way of summing up their philosophy as any.

The first thing that strikes you about the Ace is the paint job. The main colour is white, and the insides of the forks and chain/seatstays are powder blue with the only other colour on the frame the light grey of the logos. It’s almost branding-free, which is a refreshing change in a market where so many bikes have logos shoved all over the place. And if you don’t like the white, there are powder blue and satin black versions available both of which have the same pleasing aesthetic.

Slightly more polarising is the shape of the tubes themselves. The Ace has an angular quality about it, and even the tubes that start off round (seattube, seatstays) end up noticeably rectangular. The seattube is especially interesting as it doesn’t just morph from round to rectangular, it’s asymmetric as well. On the driveside, the tube stays round (which helps with fixing the braze-on derailleur mount), but on the non-driveside the tube is flat with strong edges on either side – a trend that’s mirrored on the underside of the bottom bracket shell. This asymmetry, and the asymmetric chainstays, mean that Ritte have been able to use more material in those areas in an effort to make the frame as stiff as possible.

And with that goal, Ritte have most certainly hit the mark. Stiffness and power transfer are the sort of terms that seem to whip the bike industry into a real frenzy, with each bike claiming to be stiffer than the next, which is all well and good if you’re Andre Greipel and putting a cool 2,000 watts through the frame but for people like you and me? Ride quality is almost always more important.

That’s the Ace’s double-edged sword. The frame is right up there with the stiffest I’ve ridden, and it shows, but the ride quality of the bike suffers as a result. There are obvious ways you can lessen this – the fact that the frame accepts 25mm tyres as standard, and 28mm from plenty of brands, being a key one – but the harsh nature of the ride is such that the Ace will still feel more ‘in tune’ with the surface on which your riding than a more comfort-oriented bike even with a set of fat tyres underneath.

In itself that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the Ace is a bike that does some things well and others not so well. It handles beautifully, and the race-oriented geometry (same as used on its predecessor, the Vlaanderen, and available in six sizes from XS to XXL) makes it well balanced and sure-footed when you’re flying through corners. That same quick handling manifests itself as a lot of excitement when you’re descending, the bike seemingly being able to react to anything and you won’t be afraid to really up the speed.

But the downside is ride comfort. For every time you smile while your cornering or feel that rush heading downhill, you’ll grit your teeth as you look ahead to see a patch of rough road coming up. The monocoque T700/T1000 carbon frame (and Ritte say this is a true monocoque, made as one structure to, you guessed it, improve stiffness) might deliver more than enough in rigidity, but the comfort just isn’t there meaning that for someone like myself, who spends a lot of time riding on poorly surfaced country roads, it just wouldn’t offer what I need for every day riding. The Ace is a race bike, and if you do a lot of crit racing – especially events on racetracks or similarly plush surfaces – it’d be a fantastic choice. You could fling yourself round corners and power along straights on a bike which rewards every little bit of effort and enjoy every minute.

Even though the bike is sold as a frameset-only, the kit on our test bike deserves a mention. The Easton EC70 bars are every bit as good as the EC90 version which we’ve already tested (and are only about 20g heavier, but £60 cheaper) and use the same super -ergonomic shape with a defined, comfortable hold for your hands. The other part of the build that really caught the eye (and not just because it looks crazy) is the SDG Duster saddle. With flexible sides and a subtle channel down the middle, the Duster has been a very comfortable finishing touch to the Ace. It also has a little more padding than your average road saddle, which helped to take a little bite out of the rougher patches of road.

Conclusion

The Ritte Ace is a bike with a purpose, and that purpose is speed. It certainly lives up to its billing as a fast, stiff bike, but those qualities come at the expense of comfort. On smooth roads you can fly along, and the sharp handling means that the bike has enough response in the corners to mean that you can keep as much of that speed as possible. The flip side is that on rough roads you’re probably going to suffer, and for all the Ace’s Flandrian pretensions we wouldn’t want to launch as assault on the pavé on one of these because it would be an even more uncomfortable experience than usual. That’s not a criticism in itself but ultimately, whether or not the Ace would work for you depends heavily on what type of rider you are, and whether you want a bike to race on with stiffness and speed the only aim, or a bike that’ll offer a little more for all-round riding.

Pros

– Very stiff and fast as a result
– Handles very nicely
– Fantastic paint job and subtle branding

 

Cons

– That stiffness comes with a definite lack of comfort
– Tube shapes and symmetry might not be to everyone’s liking

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