This article originally published on BikeRadar
Travel bikes are oftentimes an exercise in compromises but the Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti/Carbon is different, comprising a sleek, high performance titanium and carbon fiber frame that just happens to fit into a conveniently sized case. We've been traveling regularly with it all spring and logged nearly a dozen days on two continents that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise – and we haven’t paid a single dollar in baggage fees, either. Given a smart build, it's been good enough to use as our everyday machine at home, too.
Ride and handling: smooth and resilient
True to form, the Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti/Carbon delivers a classic titanium ride with a resilient and springy feel under power and a distinctly smooth ride quality on rough roads. Despite the carbon rear stays and included all-carbon fork, it's quite a different feel from all-carbon chassis that dominate the current landscape.
There's noticeable flex in the drivetrain when you really put the power down and a subsequent delay between effort and output, particularly on steeper climbs when you've got no choice but to ruthlessly muscle away. There's a similar degree of flex from the rather traditionally proportioned front end when you're sprinting out of the saddle.
In most conditions that extra flex genuinely wasn't much of an issue since we generally used the Ritchey for more steady-state rides, not full-blown hill repeats. Likewise, we've certainly piloted bikes that handled more precisely but the Ritchey still felt confidently planted and never nervous even at speeds approaching 75km/h (47mph).
Naturally, the upside of the softer backbone is additional comfort, which the Ritchey offers in spades. Whereas most carbon bikes stiffen up on especially rough surfaces like washboarded dirt roads, the Ritchey eats them up with nary a whimper – something we especially appreciated while riding unfamiliar roads in far-off lands.
That being said, the Ritchey's titanium main frame also doesn't soak up small-amplitude, high-frequency buzz like carbon, either. Road texture comes through more prominently than most full composite chassis we've ridden, particularly up through the bars, but that was largely remedied by swapping to 25mm-wide tires – something we recommend for most riders for their faster roll and surer grip, anyway. If you're really after a cushy feel, it's worth noting that most 28mm-wide tires will squeeze through as well.
Handling leans toward the more stable end of the spectrum with a somewhat average 73.5-degree head tube angle on our 52cm tester but a rather low 72mm bottom bracket drop for excellent high-speed stability and an overall demeanor that lends itself to long, all-day rides in new surroundings.
Fit is quite aggressive, though, with a steep 75-degree seat tube angle (effectively producing a longer reach than the 54cm effective top tube would normally suggest) and positively puny 102mm-long head tube. Getting low over the front end is obviously no problem as a result but most riders will probably find themselves with a handful of headset spacers.
Frame: straightforward TIG-welded titanium with carbon stays and sleek low-profile couplers
The Ritchey Break-Away frame's defining feature, of course, is its ability to disassemble into two roughly wheel-sized halves (more on the packing process later). The down tube separates at the bottom bracket via a neat flanged interface and overlapping hinged clamp while the seat tube joint is especially slick with what is effectively a split seat tube and a separate seatpost clamp for each section. Fully assembled, the Break-Away is literally held together with just three bolts – and surprisingly, that's enough.
Otherwise, it's quite a conventional TIG-welded frame with round, straight-gauge 3/2.5 titanium tubes, a bonded-in carbon fiber rear end with socket-type dropouts and wishbone-style chain stays, a standard threaded bottom bracket, and a true integrated 1 1/8" straight head tube surrounding the included full-carbon Ritchey WCS fork.
Given the intended use, Ritchey is wise not to use any paint on the titanium portions of the frame, using just a brushed finish throughout plus a media-blasted treatment for the down tube and top tube logos so there's nothing to chip or scratch. Save for a bit of housing rub, our test frame is looking as good as new after four months of regular use and several flights – not bad at all.
The Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti/Carbon chassis is admirably light, too, at 1,460g for the bare frame (52cm with coupler, derailleur hanger, clamp bolts, and water bottle bolts) and just 330g for the matching fork (full-length steerer, no compression plug) – not exactly a hefty penalty to pay for such convenience.
Built up with a SRAM Red group, SRAM S30 Al Gold wheels, an assortment of aluminum Ritchey cockpit components, a fi'zi:k Kurve saddle, and Continental GP4000 tires, the complete bike (without pedals) still comes in at just 7.1kg (15.65lb). Ritchey sells the Break-Away Road Ti/Carbon only as a frame kit, however, so buyers are free to build theirs up as they see fit and we're not going to bother commenting on our particular setup here.
Traveling the globe with the Ritchey Break-Away
We commissioned the Ritchey for the express purpose of traveling and to that end, the Break-Away design absolutely excelled.
Disassembling and packing the bike is surprisingly easy – at least once you get the hang of it. Taking the bike itself apart requires about five minutes, it's another five to ten minutes of padding and prep, then another five to ten of shoehorning everything into the included soft-sided case. Reassembly took us about the same amount of time. Smaller frame sizes will fit into an S&S Machine (the other major player in the full-sized travel bike arena) hard-sided case if you're after extra protection but we found the stock case to work sufficiently well if you take the necessary precautions.
Speaking of S&S, we ultimately found that company's packing process to be easier and more compact than what Ritchey prescribes. In addition, the S&S process also yields a better weight balance to the packed case for easier transport.
For best use of space, try layering the bike and its various parts
Ritchey includes a generous amount of wraparound tube covers and other accessories although we'd recommend upgrading to more protective foam pipe insulation for the frame and fork, proper dummy axles (we built ours from old hubs and used the wheels' quick release skewers to secure them), and plastic hub axle caps such as used on new bikes from the factory. We also typically wedged in a number of rags and other items such as shoes, water bottles, and the like to keep things further separated. We even found room for Lezyne's fantastic CNC Travel Floor Drive pump and a pair of SKS Raceblade fenders.
Total packed weight including a rather comprehensive collection of accessories was still just 16kg (35lb) – well under most airlines' maximum allowable weight for a single bag.
After two domestic and one international trip, we had only a slightly dinged rim sidewall to show for it – and that was only because airport security had annoying shuffled things around and didn't put things exactly as we had it. Speaking of which, another accessory we'd recommend is S&S Machine's Security Net, which allows airport security to remove the entire bundle as a single entity and easily inspect the contents without actually having to shift anything around.
Even though the packed case comes in under weight, it's worth noting that that doesn't guarantee you'll get through the check-in counter without any additional fees. Many airlines don't care about the size and weight at all – if they know it's a bike, they'll charge accordingly. However, some carriers such as United and Continental now specifically state that half-sized travel cases such as ones used by Ritchey and S&S will count as a standard piece of baggage. Regardless, the Ritchey is still technically oversized by about two centimeters in width so keep that in mind. If the ticket actually measures it, you're busted.
We managed to go through each time without any charges whatsoever, though, and we didn't even have to lie about it, saving us nearly US$1,000 in total on just three trips so far – and that's assuming you could manage to keep a bike and full-sized hard case under the usual 22kg (50lb) to avoid additional overweight charges.
Indeed, the world is for riding
The Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti/Carbon is far from cheap at US$2,999.95 for the frame, fork, headset, case, and associated accessories although it's not outrageous compared with some other straight-gauge titanium bikes currently available that don't offer the same travel benefits. Regardless, Ritchey also offers the same functionality in steel for a substantially cheaper US$1,295.
Either way, cyclists who frequently travel for work – and frequently find themselves in appealing locales but with no bike to ride – should seriously consider budgeting for something like this. While it's not exactly spare change, there's also no price that can be put on being able to ride a real bike that actually fits you and genuinely performs well anywhere, any time. Of all the rides we've done this season, it's the ones that we wouldn't have been able to do otherwise that stand out and those moments are truly invaluable.
Price: US$2,999.95 (Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti/Carbon frame, fork, headset, case, and accessories)
Weight: 1,460g (52cm frame with derailleur hanger, coupler, and water bottle bolts); 310g (fork only without compression plug); 7.1kg (15.65lb, as tested, without pedals)
Cyclingnews verdict: 4 ½ stars