All in all, the setup and breakdown are relatively easy once you get the hang of it. I do have a few suggestions:
1. Make sure you have all the tools you need to put the bike together – 4/5mm allens and a mini-pump. That’s really all you need – really? Yes, really!
2. Since the bike and case come in around 30 lbs, you can squeeze a few more items in the case before you get an overweight charge – so put in your hydration pack, helmet, shoes, etc.
3. You can also use your riding clothes as packing material – try out those vacuum bags that pack your stuff down and utilize the packs as cushioning.
4. Oh yeah – check out the CD and follow the instructions!
The next test was getting the case to the airport and through the check-in process. The wheeled bag was pretty easy to pull along and it was compact enough to put in the backseat or trunk.
At the airport, no questions were asked about the contents of the case since it resembled a normal piece of luggage, and the weight was well below the maximum of 50 lbs. No extra charge! This was definitely a big plus since airlines normally charge anywhere from $75 and up for a regular bike case. Hmmm…maybe there’s something to this travel bike thing…
Another test for me (unless you’re part of a flight crew) was to see if I could drag the bike along with me on my trips. No problem, the case fit in our storage closet on the airplane and actually went through the x-ray machine in San Francisco! Sadly, it didn’t fit through all the x-ray machines, so I had to open up the case for a TSA person to inspect it by hand. Just a minor inconvenience, though.
And now for the final and the most important test, how does it perform? First let me give you some background information on me – I’m 5’6”, 140 lbs, and ride mostly XC stuff. I was riding a bike that was one size bigger than I would normally ride and I haven’t ridden a fully-rigid bike off-road in a long time.
My first ride was on some groomed fire roads and single-track in NorCal. It performed very well – super light and super stiff, so it climbed like a billy goat on EPO. The bike handled well, but the lack of suspension became somewhat apparent on the few bumps that were out there.
My next ride was in San Diego on much bumpier terrain – now the lack of suspension was very apparent! But then the proverbial light bulb went off in my head and I remembered that I could let a little air out of the tires to tune the ride. So from 38psi down to about 28 psi I went – and wow, what a difference – that took a lot of sting off the stutter bumps and rocks. Another couple of rides down in SoCal and I was really starting to enjoy this bike.
Finally, I took the Ritchey Breakaway Ti MTB to my backyard in the islands. I had been telling my riding pals about the bike and they finally got to see it – and they were as impressed as I was with the simple design – one coupling on the down tube and the seat post as a “pin” to hold the top tube and seat tube together.
And after riding through our wet roots and rocky single-track, I was impressed with how the bike performed. The XT components worked flawlessly and the frame didn’t show any weaknesses.
There are some options that I would suggest:
1. Take the weight penalty and put on a suspension fork – unless you like the simplicity of a rigid fork.
2. That being said, why not build it as a single-speed and eliminate some of the cables and parts?
3. Last, maybe put on a good set of mechanical disc brakes – just a thought.