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Review: Ritchey Outback frameset – Cycling Weekly

Credit: Luke Friend

Score: 10/10

Pros
Incredibly comfortable and stable ride
Very versatile, allowing for several build options
Exceptional build quality 

Cons
Only available in one colorway

Price as reviewed: $1399 / £1300 (frameset only)

If this were a movie review I’d need to issue a spoiler alert here: the Outback met and then surpassed my very high expectations of the Ritchey Outback. 

The simple fact is, Tom Ritchey is probably the best person to deign a gravel frameset. This is a man, after all, who started riding drop bar bikes off-road decades before it became a ‘thing’.

He continues to log tens of thousands of miles on such terrain, feeding back a lifetime of reconnaissance into the frames and products he designs under his own name. It’s little wonder this frameset amazed me.

Frame details

The Ritchey Outback is now in its second incarnation. The 2020 model is more versatile than the original, reflecting the widening sphere that gravel riding now operates in.

Firstly, there’s the increased tire clearance, which means you can now run 700c x 48m or 650b x 2.0” rubber.  Then there’s the completely reworked adventure fork, an all-carbon affair with multi-purpose mounts, helping to make the Outback even more bikepacking friendly. There are also rack and mudguard (fender) mounts plus three more for cages.

Other changes include a frame that now accepts flat mount disc brakes, while there are also a few geometry tweaks, most notably longer chainstays, which now measure 453mm, and an increased wheelbase; my size medium measured 1060.4mm. 

It’s not all change, though: the Outback continues to use Ritchey’s proprietary triple-butted Logic steel tubing, which is heraladed for its blend of comfort and responsiveness. It also features a 68mm threaded bottom bracket and external cable routing, a handy touch that makes sense for easy diagnosis and simplicity of repair when out on adventure.

The Outback is beautifully refined in its appearance, with the thin-walled Logic steel tubing lending it a classic feel. The integrated seat collar (which takes a 27.2mm seatpost) is equally stylish as are the dropouts designed around a 12mm thru-axle standard. It’s a classy-looking machine with a real timeless quality that perhaps only steel can deliver.

Ritchey outback

Credit: Ricthey

The Outback is only available as a frameset. This speaks to its versatility and allows you to build it up in a number of ways, including with both a 1x and 2x drivechain.

The ride

My review bike is best described as a lightweight gravel grinder. It includes a 1x Praxis Zaynte carbon chainset alongside Shimano GRX hydro shifters and rear derailleur. Also added to it is a prototype Ritchey carbon 650b wheelset shod with Ultradynamico Cava 47mm tires.  Cockpit and finishing kit comes courtesy of Ritchey’s top end WCS line, including its new Toyon gravel stem and Beacon gravel bars. 

Jumping on the Outback my initial impressions were dominated by two sensations: stability and comfort.

Lengthening the frame’s wheelbase clearly works as I was immediately taken with just how solid the bike felt. On the road this had me feeling very centered, a position I could settle into for hours if required.

On the road, the Outback ate up the tarmac, and then on the trails this perceptible stability really shone through, holding firm even on loose gravel and sand, and tackling steep woodland paths with ease. It gave me confidence to try even gnarly routes.

Credit: Luke Friend

As for comfort, the Outback is genuinely one of the most comfortable frames I have ever ridden; it’s compliant without ever feeling dull. Whatever I threw at it – potholes, tree roots, large stones – it responded to the challenge, providing more than ample buffer. I started referring to it as something of a magic carpet.  

There was also another attribute of the Outback’s ride quality that really sang: it’s fast and very lively, responding positively when I really pushed on the pedals, accelerating quickly on both flat roads and inclines.

As with any gravel bike, you’re looking for a stable, comfortable yet responsive machine, something the Outback delivers with aplomb. What’s impresses with the Outback is how Ritchey has seamlessly blended these elements – at no point did I feel that one came at the expense of the other.

A versatile frameset

The Outback’s superb balance of comfort and responsiveness make it an ideal ride not just for bikepacking adventures, but also endurance gravel races. Build it up with some carbon 700c wheels and a carbon cockpit, and you have a sub-8.5 kgs / 19lbs bike that would be racy yet compliant, ideal for those long days in the saddle. What’s more, add some mudguard and you’ve got a reliable winter road bike, too. This is a bike that can handle a variety of riding conditions without compromise.

Credit: Luke Friend

With a view to fairness, I attempted to find some things that I didn’t like about the Outback. But I really couldn’t find anything of a serious nature.

The rear derailleur cable is routed along the top tube and down the rear stay, which might suggest that fitting a frame bag could cause interference with the cable, but Ritchey says it chose this routing as it offers both the best approach angle to the rear derailleur and keeps the cable out of the muck. As for the frame bag, if you’re concerned about it impacting on your shifting, you can easily run a length of housing between the two frame stops.

The color may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re thinking about buying an Outback I’d urge you not to let this be a deal breaker. It’s also worth noting that Ritchey often adds an additional colour after a year or more. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Outback in a secondary color at some point in 2021. 

Verdict

So how to best sum up the Ritchey Outback? In simple terms it’s a joy to ride. It handles like a dream and is supremely comfortable, making it above all else fun to ride. And isn’t that pretty much the point? 

I’d also add that the considered nature of the Outback’s nuanced design make it one of the finest examples of a bike company’s ability to create a frameset that responds to and reflects the multifaceted ‘gravel experience’. As gravel riding continues to evolve new questions are asked of bike manufacturers. For me, Ritchey’s answer, in the shape of the Outback, is an emphatic success. 

Details

  • Sizes: XS / S / M / L / XL
  • Frame weight: 2,175g (size L – w/o thru-axle)
  • Fork weight: 445g (with uncut steerer / not including axle)

Frame

  • Frame Material: heat-treated, triple-butted Ritchey Logic steel tubing – TIG welded
  • Rack and fender mounts
  • Ultra-light forged and machined straight 1-1/8″ headtube
  • WCS headset included (upper IS42/28.6 – 16mm stack height | lower IS42/30)
  • 142mm spacing (12mm alloy thru-axle included)
  • Replaceable stainless-steel derailleur hanger
  • 27.2mm seat tube with integrated seat collar (max torque setting: 6Nm)
  • Front derailleur clamp size: 28.6mm (max torque setting: 2.5Nm) – not included
  • Bottom bracket: 68mm – English threaded
  • Can accommodate 1X or 2X chainrings
  • Crankset min/max ring size – single: 36 to 46t / double: 46/30t to 50/34t 
  • External cable routing

Fork

  • New Ritchey Carbon Adventure Fork with multi-purpose, rack and fender mounts
  • 1-1/8″ straight steerer with integrated 45-degree crown race 
  • 100mm spacing (12mm alloy thru-axle included)
  • Steerer length: 300mm
  • Axle-crown: 393mm
  • Rake/Offset: 50mm
  • Fork max payload: 3kg per side 

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