STEEL WITH A MODERN FACE
Ritte (usually pronounced with a Flemish flair “Rit-tuh”) is a SoCal carbon brand that underwent a change of owners last year and has since come out swinging with some new steel bikes. Wait, carbon to steel? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around, you ask? In most cases, yes. Thankfully, not here.
After first making a name for themselves with carbon frames, the brand is now reestablishing itself first with two new steel bikes—the Phantom road bike and the Satyr gravel bike. Although still selling through some of the old carbon stock, Ritte decided to make its new stand in the market with steel frames until they develop a carbon bike that can stand apart from another run-of-the-mill, open-mold frame with unique graphics.
Each Phantom frame uses size-specific Reynolds 725 tubing. One of the more interesting details of the bike is that Ritte rang up legendary frame builder Tom Kellogg (formerly of the East Coast legacy frame shop Spectrum Cycles) for design duties. Although he retired from running his frame business in 2019, Tom’s experience from designing and building bikes
for over four decades brought a level of expertise that the lads at Ritte respected.
“We all know about bikes,” said Ritte Brand Director Elijah Grundel, “but we also knew that someone has to know more than we do. Tom’s experience in building both custom and production bikes was perfect.”
As unfashionable as steel is supposed to be in this day and age of black-plastic madness, owing to its small-diameter tubes, countless frame details and eye-pleasing paint scheme, the Ritte was a run-away attention-getter on just about every group ride.
“Ritte decided to make its new stand in the market with steel frames until they develop a carbon bike that can stand apart from other run-of-the-mill, open-mold frames with unique graphics.”
The one thing that impressed many with the Phantom was that despite being a production bike, it had many crafty details that better resembled something you’d find at the North American Handmade Bike Show. While the stylized seatstay bridge and dropouts were nice to look at, it was the bottom-bracket shell that was most impressive.
Yeah, we know, you’re probably wondering, “What could be noteworthy about a bottom bracket?!” While the Phantom uses a standard T-47 bottom bracket so as not to crowd the internally run cables with the spindle, Ritte started with an oversized threaded BB shell and then machined down both sides to fit the threaded external bearings. It’s in the details, folks!
With nothing resembling a lightweight build, our Phantom weighed just a skosh over 20 pounds with pedals and cages. The head angle measured 73 degrees with a 73.5-degree seat angle and the wheelbase came in 1cm shorter than the claimed 99cm.
Our test bike was rolling on Hunt Aero Light alloy wheels wrapped with 28mm Schwalbe Pro One tires with ample room to go up to 32mm. Up front was an Enve fork with internal cable routing to match the frame’s routing.
The Shimano Ultegra mechanical drivetrain/hydraulic disc duo retains the best dollar-to-performance ratio available. The rest of the bike was outfitted with an FSA alloy stem, handlebars and seatpost with a Fabric saddle finishing it off.
When it comes to talking about steel bikes, we’ve lost track how many times we’ve had to have the same discussion about ride quality. Just as it is with carbon frames, any bike’s ride quality has more to do with tube design and construction than the material itself. Somewhere between the Reynold’s tubing and the Kellogg design, the Phantom offered up a sweet ride with a noticeable level of soft-ride compliance over the rough patches of blacktop.
By minding the tire pressure (between 80–90 psi), the Ritte provided confident grip and mid-corner acceleration with the most noteworthy attribute being a fast front end that brought with it a sense of rider caution on corners with a quick turn-in.
Look, we all know carbon frames are the real deal these days, but that’s not to mean that the effort of producing a steel, titanium or aluminum frame should be altogether negated. And that’s especially true when a non-carbon frame brings as many noteworthy elements as the Ritte Phantom. From the price, ride quality and handling to the artisan-like frame details, the Phantom is an all-around credible package.
Ritte makes the Phantom available either as a frameset or with three different builds: Shimano 105, Ultegra or SRAM Red AXS.
The details matter
Great ride quality
Price: $4600 ($2250 frame)
Weight: 19.36 pounds