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On show: 2011 North American Handmade Bicycle Show Part 2

By:
James Huang, technical editor
Chris King showed off his personal Cielo at this year's NAHBS.

Chris King showed off his personal Cielo at this year's NAHBS.

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Chris King expands Cielo frame range

Chris King's Cielo range of steel frames will include four more models to go along with the original collection, including two racier road platforms, a dedicated 'cross racer and new extra-small and extra-extra-small sizes for its big-wheeled hardtail.

The new Sportif Racer is based on the original Sportif but gets shorter chain stays, a shorter head tube, tighter clearances (meaning standard short-reach brakes), and new vertical dropouts. Barring special mounts like River City Bicycles' Reacharounds, there are no provisions for fenders or racks like on the original Sportif so it's expected that this new variant might be more appealing to riders living in drier climates outside of Chris King's Pacific Northwest headquarters. Suggested retail price for the frame and fork is US$1,895.

Cielo will also produce a small run of similar but more exclusive Sportif Racer Limited frames built with Columbus XCR stainless steel tubing. In addition to what we expect to be a springier ride and the increased corrosion resistance, there will also be some special aesthetic upgrades including multi-media blasted logos and driveside chain stay. Final pricing is yet to be determined.

Diehard cyclo-crossers, on the other hand, will get the new Cielo CX Racer, built in conjunction with the Pedro's factory team. Details include race-specific geometry with no fender mounts - or even bottle mounts - vertical dropouts, a slightly sloping top tube, and an oversized head tube compatible with Chris King's latest InSet hidden-cup headset. As with the Sportif Racer Limited, final pricing is yet to be determined.

Also on display was Chris King's own personal Cielo, also built with stainless steel tubing. Naturally, though, there are a number of extra special touches including a modified Chris King Steelset integrated directly into the custom stainless steel lugs plus a stunning finish with see-through clearcoated panels showcasing the heat-treated tint of the bare tubes. And yes, King's bike is equipped with Campagnolo components but interesting, not his own hubs. We're told the Campagnolo-compatible drivers for the R45 hubs are coming soon...

Chris King's iconic headset division grows, too, with new models specifically aimed at small builders. The Builder's Edition traditional headsets will be produced in limited quantities in polished and laser-etched stainless steel. Threadless fitments will be available in both 1" and 1 1/8" sizes while threaded ones will be offered in 1" only. NoThreadsets will also come with a matching stainless steel stem cap.

The Builder's Edition InSet, on the other hand, is aimed at custom builders who want to use a hidden-cup style headset but prefer a (very) slightly slimmer external profile. As such, the Builder's Edition InSet is designed for 42.93mm-diameter (internal) head tubes instead of the usual 44mm. Optional stainless steel or titanium upper bearing caps also be available to build into custom stems.

Finally, Chris King also unveiled the InSet Mixed Tapered headset designed for standard 44mm oversized head tubes. As the name suggests, the new headsets will allow tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" steerer tubes to fit into otherwise straight 1 1/8"-compatible frames.

Ritchey brings back the Swiss Cross, adds new 29" steel hardtail

Also returning is Ritchey's venerable Swiss Cross but with a few modern updates.

Retro fans rejoice! Ritchey plans to resurrect its venerable Swiss Cross steel cyclo-cross frame in time for the 2011-12 season. Returning features include a fastback seat cluster with the same minimal - yet effective - rear brake cable routing as before, Ritchey's trademark socket-style dropouts, and similarly small-diameter steel tubing for a smooth ride on rougher courses.

Unfortunately, the original's elegantly curved seat stays are replaced by straight tubes but the head tube has been modernized to fit with the now-standard 1 1/8" steerer dimension. Ritchey still prefers the 1" head tube's smaller diameter for how it interfaces with the top tube and down tube, though, so the center section still sports roughly the same size as before but the forged ends now directly accept 1 1/8" bearings - which also cleaves 80g of weight in the process.

Suggested retail price for a new Swiss Cross frame with Ritchey WCS carbon 'cross fork is US$1,295 and projected availability is around August. Claimed projected frame weight is 1,680g (3.7lb).

Also coming in August is a new 29" steel hardtail called - what else - the P-29er. Standard features include Ritchey Logic tubing, Paragon sliding dropouts for singlespeed or geared use, a curved down tube for extra fork crown clearance, and the same clever head tube design as on the Swiss Cross. The P-29er is also planned for an August release and suggested retail price is US$999 for the frame only. Claimed projected frame weight is 2,450g (5.4lb).

And if you have a preference for either of the two paint schemes pictured here, feel free to let Ritchey know - the company is still deciding between the retro-inspired fade and the more modern-looking block design.

Just to clear any misconceptions, it should also be said that Tom Ritchey the man has never stopped making frames - it's just that since his departure from the mainstream bike market, he's only built frames for close friends and family. Unfortunately, these new frames still won't be built by Tom himself nor will they be fillet brazed as pictured here. Production frames will be TIG welded in Taiwan but even so, we still don't expect that to widely detract from their appeal.

One of the most striking frames in the Ritchey booth at NAHBS was actually one of his oldest: a road bike that he built for his father. Despite its age, there are still lots of signs of forethought in technologies that didn't widely appear until years later, including an integrated seat mast, a pseudo-threadless front end, and trick rear brake cable routing that fed directly through the seat tube.

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