Ritchey’s Break-Away Carbon Globe Trotter
If you travel with a bike frequently then you’re all too familiar with the hurdles of excessive airline baggage fees and the hassles of lugging a massive bike bag around with you. There are definitely options out there for travel bikes, such as the 20-inch wheel folding bikes and custom bikes using S&S couplers, but each of those can have their drawbacks. Folding bikes can lack the performance of a standard road bike, while a custom frame using S&S couplers can come with a hefty price tag attached.
For 2015, Ritchey Logic is expanding their Break-Away line of travel bikes with the addition of a carbon model that joins their steel and titanium/carbon versions. Ritchey’s Break-Away design uses a single compression coupling at the downtube and a male/female fitting between the top tube and seat tube to join the two halves of the bike together. Threaded connectors on the derailleur and rear brake cables allow quick connection (or disconnection) so that the front triangle can become completely detached from the rear triangle, and the entire bike can be packed up in the included travel bag (9 x 26 x 29). The travel case itself includes all the necessary packing materials to keep the bike protected, and has a handle and two wheels for easy transport.
Ritchey sells the Break-Away Carbon as a frameset for $2,995, which includes the travel case. Their Break-Away Steel sells for $1,495 while the Titanium/Carbon model sells for $2,995. We had spent a little time on a Break-Away Steel last year during a trip to Europe and after a couple of rides, and not shelling out an additional $300 round-trip for airline bike fees, we were sold on the benefits of the Break-Away. Once Ritchey announced the carbon version we were quick to get in line for one to review.
We were initially skeptical about using a carbon frame as a frequent flyer knowing what the bike case goes through with the airlines. But once it arrived it was clearly not just a over-sized, thin tube molded carbon frame. Comparatively small diameter carbon tubes were used that are thick and designed to resist impact rather than just trying to maximize high stiffness and low weight.
For the build we went with a complete Shimano Ultegra group along with an assortment of Ritchey parts that included WCS models of the Zeta II aluminum wheels, Monolink seatpost and saddle, C260 stem, and Carbon Curve handlebar. Wanting a robust yet lightweight tire we went for a pair of Michelin’s Pro4 Endurance in 25c. They ended up being some of the widest 25c tires we’ve seen, and even then the Break-Away still had ample tire clearance for up to a 28c. The final piece of the build were the King stainless steel water bottle cages that matched the look of the frame’s small diameter tubes and held a bottle like its life depended on it. In all, the Break-Away Carbon weighed 16.5 pounds ready to go.
In what happened to be ideal timing, we finished getting the Break-Away built-up just in time to join Big Island Bike Tours for a week of riding in Hawaii for their inaugural tour. After building, then subsequently breaking-down, the bike a couple of times to familiarize ourselves with the process, we decreased the time from 40 minutes the first go-around, down to less than 20 minutes (it does come with step by step instructions). Even though Ritchey made the Break-Away’s case to be as small as possible in order to avoid over-sized baggage fees, we still had room to fit cycling clothes, shoes, and casual clothing into the nooks and crannies. In fact, we were able to stuff so much into the bike case that a carry-on backpack was the only other luggage we needed. Rolling the Break-Away up to the flight check-in we weren’t quite sure if we would get dinged for a bike fee, but the ticket agent never batted an eye.
Over the course of six days of riding in Hawaii, we logged 400 miles with 33,000 feet of climbing on every type of terrain imaginable (we’ll have much more about Big Island Bike Tours coming soon). At 16.5 pounds it’s not stunningly light, but considering its versatility as a travel bike it’s hard to complain about that. The Break-Away rode just as any bike would, there was nothing about its design that had a huge negative impact on performance. In fact, it was a comfortable ride that did well to mute some of the rougher sections of the island roads. In the stiffness department, the frame’s small diameter round tubes are overwhelmed with super hard efforts, but for the vast majority of the riding we did, including the 25% pitches out of Waipio Valley and the 45mph descent into Volcano National Park, it was completely up to the task.
After just one trip with the Break-Away we were already on our way to recouping the cost of the frameset. Ten trips without paying a bike fee and you break even, or if you don’t mind another pound or so in weight, the Break-Away Steel is half the price at $1500 for the frameset. It’s like going from driving a Chevy Suburban to a Volkswagen Jetta TDI with gas at $4.00 a gallon, give it time and it will pay for itself.