Bikes of the Bunch: Ritte ‘Player One’ Ace
Our latest Bikes of the Bunch comes from VeloClub member Kasper Voogt. Here Voogt shares his passion for the relatively young bike company Ritte, and takes us down the creative rabbit hole he followed to arrive at his one-off bike. Grab a beverage and enjoy the journey.
About five years ago I found an interest in bicycles. My interest was driven by a desire to own a bicycle that was unique. As it turns out, this in itself is not at all unique in our community. You see a lot of these bikes in Melbourne. You can barely find the exact same bike twice. All these bikes you see where people did their own thing, their own little design project. Exchanging parts, stickering the frame, painting the fork. Each and every person I’ve met in our community has a story behind their bike and why it’s unique to them.
For example, the bikes from my fellow VeloClub friends I had the pleasure of meeting and riding along with during last year’s VC Summit in Thailand: John’s Prova, Joel’s Firefly and Caley’s Mosaic. You can make something of your own. Fast forward five years to now, this is what I did.
Back in 2015 during some late-night browsing on the internet I came across an article published on WIRED titled: “Amazing Ritte Van Vlaanderen Bikes Born From Irreverence”. Captivated by the backstory created by Spencer Canon based on Belgian cyclist Henri “Ritte” Vanlerberghe, as well as the Belgian-inspired looks of the Ritte Bosberg, that all too familiar feeling had settled: The heart had decided, the brain had yet to succumb.
Looking at the same photos and reading the same texts over a long enough period made me realise that any new online searches wouldn’t result in anything that could possibly be better. That said, there was some stiff competition from Bianchi wooing me with their stunning traditional color. The battle was between the Italian turquoise and the Belgian blue, until I came across this UCI announcement:
“As you know the UCI strives to preserve the tradition of the sport. Sometimes this means we must hold back certain advancements that are deemed dangerous or untraditional. It has come to our attention that a new bicycle manufacturer called Ritte has released a bicycle that violates the spirit of fair competition. It’s called the Bosberg. We have decided to ban this bicycle from further professional competition based on the fact that it can provide unfair aesthetic advantage over the bicycles.
“Riders in the peloton may be distracted by the Bosberg’s handsome design, striking color and erotic geometry. We also believe this bicycle may cause its rider to feel stronger and more confident, which is no less than psychological doping. Unless Ritte agrees to make the Bosberg less nice looking, we will have no choice to also put it on the banned substances list.”
So in 2015 the executive decision was made. Through a US distributor I treated myself to a 2013 Ritte Vlaanderen in traditional Belgian blue. The successor of the handsome, striking and erotic 2010 Ritte Bosberg. And I intended to build it all by myself. Because how hard could that be?
The learning curve was steep, a bit bumpy, and with plenty of twists and turns. I made many cringeworthy mistakes. For example, the decision on frame size was based on averaging the results of several online bike fit calculators. That was followed by accidentally and incorrectly measuring the location where the integrated seat post had to be cut. In short, I cut it too short. Something about measuring from the “bottom” instead of the “center” of the bottom bracket.
For each and every problem there’s a solution, supposedly. Simply insert a spacer inside the seat topper and hope the seat topper clamp holds onto whatever is available of the seat post. Throughout the years this remained a persistent problem as I went through two seat toppers due to cracks.
At the same time my Ritte Vlaanderen took me to many new places and I met many new people. It exposed the enormous potential of cycling as a way to connect to myself, as well as others. And it continues to resolve a persistent personal problem of coping with my mental health challenges, something so many of us have in common in our community.
The pilgrimage from my hometown in the Netherlands to Belgium in the summer of 2019 was fitting for my final rides with my Ritte Vlaanderen on the cobbled roads featured in the Tour of Flanders. After that I reached out to Ritte to upgrade to a Ritte Ace.
The upgrade was an opportunity to realise my renewed interest in the brand after learning about the story of Henri “Ritte” Vanlerberghe at the Tour of Flanders Centre.
FROM STUDYING TO SKETCHING
Returning from the pilgrimage I reached out to Elijah Grundel at Ritte and shared an idea for a paint design I was working on in the shower. A paint design that captured and celebrated a decade of the range of Ritte bicycles. I wanted to commemorate the legacy Spencer Canon left when he departed to work in the automotive industry — a rather smooth career change considering the design of the Ritte Ace was inspired by his restored Lotus Esprit.
So in 2019 another executive decision was made. I treated myself to a 2015 Ritte Ace in white. A blank canvas to bring this idea to life. My own little design project.
On one of my rides back in Melbourne I stopped at the MAAP shop for a coffee. Interestingly, both brands had once teamed up together. And on display at the shop was a book covering a brief history of Ritte. A timely resource to study thoroughly. Did you know, for example, that the paint design of the Ritte Bosberg was inspired by BMC’s Astana team bike, which used both a lovely light blue and non-traditional paint placement?
Some more late night browsing on the internet followed, in particular, on web.archive.org which allowed me to study snapshots of Ritte-related sites no longer on the internet. It proved a rather useful resource for digging further through the history of this relatively young brand in the bicycle industry.
Firstly, the paint design idea would be based on the base design of the 2010 Ritte Bosberg. In particular, the inside and outside of the chainstays and seatstays, the seat tube and part of the top tube. Notice those matchy-matchy bottle cages? I’ll get to those in a minute!
The top tube would incorporate the wrap as seen on the 2012 Ritte 1919 TT top tube, mixed with the top section of the 2013 Ritte Vlaanderen.
For the transition from the top tube to the head tube I decided to incorporate the pixel designs of the one-off Ritte Player One prototype and the one-off Ritte Vlaanderen for Mavic’s 125th anniversary.
These pixel designs were a common theme in the range of Ritte bicycles culminating in their 2013 8-bit cycling kit with an appropriate Pac-Man theme:
“Pac-Man is essentially the yellow jersey on a lone breakaway, relentlessly pursued by a multicolored peloton. Then, just as he’s about to be reeled in, our maillot jaune hero chomps down on a pulsing power pill left at the roadside by his soigneur who’s promised it’ll make him ‘strong like a bull’. Now invigorated by this fresh injection of morale, the artificially powered and obviously glowing protagonist proceeds to attack the peloton, eating any and all in his way. Now that the competition has been devoured and the road’s been cleared, he’s free to finish the stage solo.”
I decided to extend this pixel theme by concealing the Pac-Man characters on the inside of the fork. One side was decorated with Blinky (red) and Clyde (yellow) against a black background representing the colors of the Belgian flag and with Ghost integrated into the Belgian blue. On the other side sat an 8-bit cherry.
On several of their bicycles the model name would be concealed on the inside of the chainstays. In a similar 8-bit style typeface I adopted the name of the Ritte “Player One” prototype — a reference to a book of the same name about a young man who uses his exhaustive knowledge of ’80s pop culture to save the world.
Apart from the work of Spencer Canon, several of Ritte’s one-off models would be designed and painted by PoseurSport’s Alex Ostroy, an extraordinary cycling connoisseur and creative collaborator of Ritte’s. PoseurSport’s trademark logo glitch was the finishing touch to my “Player One” logo.
The head tube would be decorated with a custom badge sharing similarities with the one seen on the 2010 Ritte Muur, 2011 Ritte Cipressa, and 2011 Ritte Sallsberg. That is, the brand name in its trademark typeface on top of the logo of the Flanders lion.
There’s this insightful lecture by comedian John Cleese on creativity. Essentially, finding a time and place to play with an idea for the sole purpose of enjoyment. Surprisingly, the sketching on paper didn’t do much as most of my ideas were conceived in the shower pondering over all these images I had seen.
Although at some point play time had to be over. The next step was to put the sketches into something more serious and precise, which a painter would be able to work with.
FROM PIXELS TO PAINT
I threaded a transparent fishing line through the frameset and suspended it from the ceiling in my room. Against a white wall it was rather straightforward to isolate the frameset in Photoshop to start translating my sketches on paper to pixels on screen. The next step was to transfer this digital design in Photoshop to vector files in Illustrator for the painter to print masking tape for the layers of different colors of paint. And since I had no skills in Illustrator, I went on yet another crash course by binge-watching YouTube videos.
Although I didn’t have access to an actual Bosberg to precisely measure the widths of the red-black-yellow-black strips on the seat stays, seat tube and top tube to stay true to the original ratios, I analysed several high-resolution images of the Bosberg to work out an accurate pixel-to-millimeter conversion. Because the frame size was an unknown variable in these images, I could not use the frame geometry dimensions to determine this conversion.
However, the distance between the bidon cage mounts is one thing that different frame sizes have in common. So for each and every image I was able to convert the pixels to millimeters of these strips. And a sample size of six images was sufficient to do the job within an acceptable level of accuracy. Arithmetic and spreadsheet skills were required.
These vector files, I later learned, are crucial to transfer the digital design to printing painting masks to the level of my millimeter precise measurements. Now, all of this works well on a two-dimensional image on a screen where the asymmetric shapes and slopes of the frameset are out of sight.
And this is where trade experts by the name of Ian Michelson from The Lost Workshop and Steve Gardner from Velocraft (formerly known as Bikes by Steve) enter. Ian finetuned the vector files to print painting masks that perfectly followed the frameset’s contours to the point where Ian even improved on my original design. And Steve colour-matched the true Belgian blue of my Ritte Vlaanderen Steve by measuring a small section on the inside of the fork that had not been affected by any discolouration caused by the sun.
Apart from these true experts helping to take the realisation of my ideas further than I had anticipated, what amazed me most was seeing the semi matte finish the final paint design was wrapped in when picking it up at the paint shop. This is difficult to describe … trust me on this one!
BUILD TO RIDE
For this build I didn’t intend to make any mistakes like what had happened before. This meant the wise thing to do was to hand over the frameset and all components to my local bike shop Saint Cloud in Melbourne. Enter the experts by the names of Sime Doran and Nick Mahoney who went above and beyond with the build. From concealing the groupset’s electronic parts in the cockpit to inserting some of the most interesting-shaped grommets in the frameset’s exposed holes. And they followed all my personal measurements they had on file from a proper bike fit I had previously done with Ken Ballhause at Adaptive HP.
As for my decisions on the components I took a rather unconventional road for some in our community. These decisions were made to soothe my strong desire to create something of unity and uniformity. Each and every component connected to one another through some sort of conceptual relationship. I’ll explain.
Firstly, for the groupset I chose Shimano’s Dura Ace for the sole reason it shared the term “Ace” to fit with the Ritte Ace. And Di2, because … have you heard the sound of the front derailleur? That’s like levelling up in a classic 8-bit arcade game! Now, deciding on Shimano’s groupset there was no other option than to choose Shimano’s PRO components (handlebar, stem, saddle and seat post clamp … and bike stand) to complement and complete a clean build as if each and every part came from the same Japanese parental nest which I would adopt, keeping the brothers and sisters together.
As for the wheelset, the soundtrack would be provided by Ritte’s long-lasting collaborators HiFi. As someone on social media pointed out on seeing a photo of the build: “Full West Coast frame and wheel combo!” On behalf of yours truly, Ritte reached out to Joshua Liberles at HiFi and brought the band back together.
As for the tyres, I once came across this gritty photo gallery of the Belgian Waffle Ride. A Belgian-inspired race held in the US which was sponsored by IRC tyres. And on my travels through Japan I had come across this Japanese brand which would complement the Japanese origins of the rest of the chosen parts.
Now, remember those matchy-matchy bottle cages on the 2010 Ritte Bosberg? Well, for years I was on the look-out for these one-off original Ritte carbon beauties, until I finally came across a second-hand pair on eBay only weeks before the bike was built.
Finally, the bartape was sourced locally from the people at Burgh. Their pixel theme tape brought the build to completion.
And how does this conglomerate of parts perform on the road, you wonder? Well, to quote a Ritte ad from the archives:
“This is just a bicycle, not a ticket to your dreams. It’s not a romantic poem immortalised in black and white photography. It doesn’t notice if you’re suffering nobly through wind and rain or care if your ride is epic enough. But it does leap forward when you push the pedals. It dives and carves and sprints, it gives back exactly what you put in. And of course, it can also make you feel really damn awesome.”
Frameset: Ritte Ace
Headset: FSA Carbon Integrated
Wheelset: HiFi EP Anti-Flutter 38 mm Carbon Clinchers
Bottle cages: Ritte Carbon
Bottom bracket: Praxis PF30 68 mm
Groupset: Shimano Dura Ace 9150 Di2 with 50-34T chainring, 11-30T cassette and 165 mm crank arms
Pedals: Shimano Dura Ace PD-R9100 SPD-SL
Tyres: IRC Roadlite 25 mm
Tubes: Schwalbe SV15 60 mm Presta Valve
Saddle: PRO Stealth Stainless 142 mm
Seat post: Ritte Carbon
Seat post clamp: PRO Performance 34.9 mm
Stem: PRO Vibe Alloy 100 mm with Shimano Di2 Integration
Handlebar: PRO Vibe Alloy 400 mm with Shimano Di2 Integration
Handlebar tape: Burgh Pixel Stealth
Paint by: Velocraft in Melbourne, Australia
Build by: Saint Cloud in Melbourne, Australia
CyclingTips tech editor Dave Rome here. The quality and detail of this Bikes of the Bunch feature has it feeling a little like branded (paid) content. I can assure you that Kasper Voogt, who works full-time as a business consultant in transport optimisation, is merely just an artistically talented fan of the brand.
I mention this as I’ve been riding and testing the new Ritte Phantom over the past few months (ok, it’s longer than that, sorry Ritte!). Coincidentally the review of this new steel bike will be dropping soon.