All photos courtesy of Eva Fünfgeld and Hirsch-Sprung
The cruel irony of the Eurobike bicycle trade show is the fact that tens of thousands of cycling industry veterans, media, distributors, manufacturers, and marketing personnel-all of them passionate cyclists-very rarely have the opportunity to ride a bicycle while at the show. Wheeling and dealing the latest cycling wares inside the cavernous trade show halls demands priority over actually riding bikes. And that's a pity since any ride that starts immediately outside the show halls is filled with exquisite rolling roads, challenging trails and beautiful countryside.
In an attempt to break free (even if just for a moment) from the rigors of a tradeshow tauntingly filled with decadently shiny bikes and parts so easily within reach, Ritchey decided to offer a bit of a respite to some ride-thirsty show attendees in the form of a ride. The idea was simple: plot a route that starts from the Messe and includes as much off-road riding and different surfaces so that a lucky group of riders could enjoy a bona fide beautiful bike ride after the first day of the show. Then we'd share drinks, food, and stories after the adventure at the 20th-anniversary party for Cosmic Sports.
Oh, and we thought it'd be cool to have Tom Ritchey join the ride, and make this the official maiden voyage of the new Ritchey Outback gravel bike.
Eva Fünfgeld of Hirsch-Sprung, a bicycle tour company based in the Black Forest area of Germany, was recruited to chart the route and guide our group on the evening of the ride. After a few recon missions in the preceding weeks, Eva produced a breathtaking 32km circuit. The ride started with a 500-meter singletrack bit immediately outside the front entrance of the Messe. It continued along a tarmac section, switching back and forth between double-track dirt roads, more paved sections, loose gravel passes, at least one lusciously twisty singletrack descent and some forest stairs curiously winding up one hillside.
Participating on the ride was a diverse lot of cyclists eager to break free from the show to enjoy some quality pedal turns. Coming from all parts of the bicycle community and several different countries, everyone was united by the incredible sanctifying ride we were all experiencing. Cycling journalists from Italy, Belgium the United Kingdom, and Germany rode along with the likes of Ritchey dealers from France and Spain, while fans of Tom Ritchey, friends and Ritchey staff happily pedaled along the apple orchards and rolling hills, taking photos when the opportunity presented itself, and enjoying a moment or two riding next to Tom. At least a couple of people donned vintage Ritchey kit, which did not go unnoticed by Tom.
And then there was the quiet guy wearing a Scott-SRAM MTB Racing team kit, humbly riding along with everyone. Turns out that legendary Olympic mountain bike silver medalist (among a long list of other plamares) Thomas Frischknecht fancied himself a nice Wednesday night spin, and the long-time Ritchey friend joined us.
Pace was moderate for the 40-person-strong group, and the bunch remained a cohesive unit, sharing smiles and yelps while descending a double-track dirt road that revealed a singletrack descent, or on the loose 500-meter gravel climb at the half-way point of the ride. A few log crossings forced all riders to dismount and scramble over the obstacles, while a 100-meter stepped ascent amazingly had riders giggling with joy as they remounted their bikes at the top of the trudge-even the riders with clumsy road cleats smiled as they carefully ascended the steps.
With such diverse and varying terrain, riders chose all manner of bikes for this ride. At least a couple of people chose mountain bikes, while some gracefully navigated proper road bikes (complete with 28c slicks) along the varying terrain. One particularly adventurous soul masterfully piloted his budget steel road bike along the whole route, wearing nothing more than casual khaki shorts, a button-down dress shirt, loafer shoes sans socks and a giant grin.
This unique group ride was also the prime stage for an exclusive collection of cycling journalists to experience the new Ritchey Outback for the first time. While these fortunate souls enjoyed the dirt, tarmac, loose rocks and grass while pedaling the new rig, the rest of us definitely endured a touch of jealousy-though that was quickly extinguished by all other aspects of the ride. As expected, initial reactions about the Outback were entirely positive.
A few journalists opted to take an Outback home with them in order to spend more time on them for proper testing. As the remaining Outbacks were dismounted at the completion of the ride, other participants swarmed over the bikes, handling them and snapping pictures…eager to swing their own legs over one soon. Fortunately, the Outback will be publicly available for sale in Europe in October and November for the United States.
In addition to everyone drooling over the Outbacks in the parking lot outside the Messe, the atmosphere at the completion of the ride was festive, as participants swapped stories, downed local beers, and posed for photos with Tom. Slowly but surely, the dust-covered, smiling riders filtered back into hall B1 to dive into the chili con carne, Mexican wraps and golden yellow German beer at the Cosmic Sports booth for their 20thanniversary party-a perfect way to wind down an amazing ride and keep the celebration going until rolling back into the show for business on Thursday morning.
We held a photo contest for participants of the ride. Everyone was charged with taking a couple of photos and posting them to Instagram with the #TomsGravelRide tag. Tom would then assess the photos and choose his favorite. The owner of that picture would receive a free Ritchey mountain bike frame of his or her choice.
Beth Hodge shot this photograph, and she'll welcome a beautiful new Ritchey P-650B frame next week.