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Steel for Today: Ritte Phantom

From issue 93

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“Homemade potato vodka. Made from potatoes plowed from the fertile and only slightly contaminated soil behind our carbon frame factory. For that good-time, old-school drunk, choose genuine Ritte Brand Potato Vodka for your next bender. But please don’t drink and ride, especially because this may make you blind.” This is how Peloton readers were introduced to Ritte way back in issue 01 in December 2010, in a quarter-page ad featuring a model wearing little more than a crop-top jersey caressing a Ritte Bosberg carbon bike.

PELOTON

Let’s just say we got a few phone calls about it. But Ritte’s brand of light-hearted, slightly mischievous humor resonated with a lot of cyclists fed up with a sport that often takes itself too seriously. Today, the brand has changed hands, but it’s still dedicated to making serious bikes marketed in an un-serious way.

The Details

With the brand’s new ownership comes the Phantom, a steel frame made for the needs of today’s cyclists. An all-road disc frame featuring clearance for 32mm tires, the Phantom was designed by renowned frame builder Tom Kellogg.

Kellogg credits Ritte for having the patience to do the design process right. After all, every day spent designing a new bike is a day where you aren’t making money selling it. Ritte listened to the insights of Kellogg, who advocated for different Reynolds 725 tubing spec for each frame size. In the past, with other brands that Kellogg designed for, there wasn’t that level of freedom to customize the tubing, both because the materials weren’t quite there and it was too expensive.

Kellogg wants every bike he designs to ride the same, from the smallest size to the largest. That means making subtle tweaks across the line of frame sizes. One insight he has picked up over his decades of building is that a longer chainstay length is important for smaller frames. In his experience, a bike with a tight rear–center is going to ride fine on a smooth road but hit anything remotely bumpy and it becomes un-rideable. That’s why the smallest Phantom frame has a rear–center of 425mm, which shrinks to 415mm for a medium frame, then lengthens back to 420mm in the largest XXL version. Though there may be a desire from riders for the look of shorter chainstays, for smaller frames, the ride is better with longer ones.

With cables fully internally routed through a T47 bottom-bracket shell and an understated, elegant raw steel-light blue paint job, the standard Phantom delivers a clean aesthetic. But a meticulously designed frame deserves the parts and paint to match, so in addition to three standard builds—105, Ultegra and Red AXS—Ritte offers fully custom builds and custom paint.

Our test bike was a size small outfitted with the second-tier build package of Ultegra mechanical and Hunt Aero Light wheels, and tipped the scales at 19.36 pounds (8.8 kilograms) without pedals or cages.

The Ride

Off the bat, we’ll tell you who this bike is not for. With a close-to-20-pound weight for a size small build, including rather light sub-1,500-gram Hunt wheels, the Phantom is not for weight weenies or mountain goats. That’s not a dig at the bike’s handling or feel; it just will simply never satisfy those who want the lightest possible build.

But those people are not who the Phantom is designed for. This bike is about an inspiring ride quality, not watts per kilo. With an extremely smooth and stable ride, the Phantom churns out mile after mile and remains comfortable throughout long days. And it maintains that quality at speed as well, never losing its confidence-inspiring handling, even when the group ride turns things up to 11.

The ability to clear 32mm of rubber is a nice bonus, making this frame versatile enough for beat-up roads and light gravel or dirt—or just running high-volume tires for general added comfort.

The Phantom is definitely worthy of building up with high-end components. We would probably opt for at least Ultegra Di2 if we were building one from scratch, or seriously consider the standard Red AXS build with an Enve cockpit and wheels. And those who want full control over their components or paint, along with the attention that a smaller brand can provide, may have a perfect match with the Ritte Phantom.

Specification

ritte.cc

$4,600 (as built); 19.36 lbs/8.8kg (size small w/o pedals or cages)
Shimano Ultegra mechanical, 50/34 crank, 11–30 cassette; FSA Energy Alloy handlebar, stem and seat post; Fabric Swoop saddle; Hunt Aero Light disc wheels; Schwalbe Pro One TLE 28c tires.

From issue 93, Buy it here.