Featured Bike: Ritchey Breakaway Ti CX Gravel Travel bike with SRAM eTap

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Tom Ritchey is a man who has been around cycling a long time. In the company of fellows like Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly, Gary Fisher and a few others, these guys pretty much invented mountain biking. Tom continued to be an innovator, producing his well known line of mountain bikes through the 1980’s along with 90’s classics such the P21.

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Nowadays, the Ritchey name is seen adorned on framesets and a full line of components and wheelsets. The Breakaway bike, available in road, cyclocross, mountain bike and tandem!, are Tom Ritchey’s ingenious but simple solution to traveling with a bicycle. The frame breaks in half – and fits into a regular sized suitcase, helping avoid the exorbitant fees that are typically associated with flying a full-size bike. You can read more about JOM’s steel Breakway and the process for packing, etc, in Part One and Part Two – incidentally, JOM’s steel Breakaway frameset (with new fork) is now for sale. Interested parties, please inquire!

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JOM’s Ti Breakway CX in “sport” mode; American Classic Carbon 40 wheels, road tyres.

The Titanium Breakaway was formerly the flagship model in the Ritchey range – available in road and cyclocross variants, the frame is significantly lighter than its steel brethren, handy for keeping the weight of one’s bike and overall suitcase weight down.

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SRAM eTap brake levers / shifters.

Unfortunately, Ritchey is no longer producing Titanium Breakways of any kind. Rather, they are concentrating on steel and carbon for their current designs – JOM’s Ti Breakway CX is possibly the last 54cm model to leave the factory. However, for those still seeking the quality ride of a Breakaway-like Titanium frame, newcomer NDVR Cycle is producing an all-Titanium adventure bike (with technology licensed from Ritchey) that features disc brakes… JOM got a brief ride on one of the early prototypes… they are looking good… we may be reviewing one in the future.

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The Breakway in these images is the latest build belonging to JOM of the Gravel Cyclist crew. Equipped with SRAM’s innovative wireless gear shifting system, eTap (see Part One of our review here), it is possibly the ultimate gravel travel bike – at least in the opinion of JOM :mrgreen:

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SRAM eTap Blip shifters feature on the drops and tops.

On this bike, only the front and rear brake cables require splitting before packing into the travel case. SRAM eTap solves the problem of running cables inside the frame – drilling Titanium is not a fun process and is harsh on drill bits – and eTap keeps one’s bike looking very clean.

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Once split, the cable exits through the hanger slot and the handlebars can be detached.
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Avid’s Shorty Ultimate Cantilever brakes provide plenty of stopping power.
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SRAM Blip shifters provide easy access to shifting from the bar top.

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Despite there being a lot happening on this handlebar, it looks reasonably uncluttered. Come race day, JOM will fit a GoPro camera and paired remote for the handlebar. Then, things become a little tight.

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SRAM Blip shifters on the drops.

SRAM’s Blip shifters feature prominently on this bike; a huge advantage with electronic shifting is the ability to run additional shifters. JOM is a huge proponent of these gear systems, having adopted Di2 since the day it was introduced over six years ago… and Mavic Mektronic and Mavic Zap… circa 1994 for Zap. Admittedly, Shimano does a much better design job with their climbing and sprint shifters, but considering this is eTap V1, we remain optimistic SRAM will improve their system in the next release.

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Kestrel EMS carbon handlebar – another item that is no longer produced.

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JOM utitilizes a hybrid drivetrain of sorts – Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 series compact crankset with an FSA 48 tooth big ring and Shimano Dura-Ace 34 tooth small chainring. The SRAM eTap front derailleur and its associated battery leave a 4mm gap between the Panaracer Gravelking 700c x 35mm tyre (which measure 38mm fitted to American Classic’s Hurricane wheelset) which is a point of concern. That issue aside, shifting is absolutely perfect on this older 10-speed crankset – and no derailleur rub anywhere on the chain. Setup with SRAM’s Yaw type derailleurs is critical, so take your time and do it right.

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Naturally, Ritchey WCS pedals accompany a Ritchey Breakaway adorned with multiple Ritchey parts.

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SRAM doesn’t recommend this, but that is a Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette paired to the eTap rear derailleur in the photo above. It shifts perfectly with no complaints – SRAM recommends a maximum cog size of 28 teeth. If you decide to follow our example – do it at your own risk – and ensure the B-screw is turned all the way in (clockwise).

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There is no sag in the chain – even on the 34 x 11 cog – indicating the chain is perfectly sized to this bike, helped by the extremely strong spring in the eTap rear derailleur.

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Tyre clearance on the Titanium Breakaway is a bit tight, but a 40mm tyre such as the Maxxis Rambler should fit without issue.

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An older American Classic Hurricane wheelset serves for use on gravel roads. Recently upgraded to 11-speed, this Hurricane wheelset is perfect for gravel travel.

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American Classic Hurricane wheelset with M2Racer quick releases.

Featuring no proprietary spokes, all of American Classic’s wheelsets utilize simple parts and strong, reliable spoking patterns. If you break a spoke, a replacement is available at your local bike shop! This is extremely important when traveling with your bike.

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The Panaracer Gravelking SK in 700c x 35mm. This fast, tubeless gravel tyre will be the rubber on JOM’s wheels during his quest to safely navigate the 2016 Gravel Worlds race in Lincoln, Nebraska. We’ll be posting our review of this fabulous tyre – the 40mm and 35mm versions, soon.

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The final generation of the Ritchey Titanium Breakway CX features a slightly curved, all-carbon WCS fork. However, JOM prefers the look of the company’s straight blade, 1 1/8″ all carbon cross fork and substituted accordingly.

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At the seat tube / seatpost / top tube junction, the frame splits just above the weld for the rear chainstays. The seatpost holds the two halves of the bike together at the top, and is securely held together by two M6 steel bolts. JOM has ridden a lot of miles on his steel Breakaway without issue.

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The beefy Ritchey clamp holds the bottom end of the bike together. The Titanium Breakway CX features a sleeve that interfaces with the front half of the frame – a very secure connection sans creaks or groans. The gold cups of the Hawk Racing bottom bracket match up nicely with the springs of the Ritchey WCS pedals – purely coincidental 🙂

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The secondary cable break point on the Ritchey Breakaway Titanium CX – JOM would prefer it if the cables were routed more to the bottom and side of the top tube as with his older steel model, but Ritchey’s cable splitters have no impact on brake performance.

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Another view of the American Classic Hurricane wheelset and Avid’s awesome Shorty Ultimate cantilever brakes.

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The Ritchey Breakaway Titanium CX features rear mounting points for fenders – and hidden by the brake – Titanium cantilever studs – a really nice touch!

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The Fi’zi:k Arione is JOM’s go to saddle for every situation.

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  • Frame: Ritchey Breakway Titanium CX, size 54cm.
  • Fork: Ritchey WCS CX all-carbon 1 1/8″ straight blade fork for cantilever brakes, fitted with Problem Solvers hanger.
  • Headset: Ritchey WCS 1 1/8″ integrated drop-in bearings.
  • Stem: Ritchey WCS 4-Axis 110mm, 31.8mm clamp.
  • Handlebar: Kestrel EMS OS 31.8mm, all-carbon, 40cm centre to centre.
  • Handlebar Tape: Fi’zi:k.
  • Front Brake: Avid Shorty Ultimate cantilever.
  • Rear Brake: Avid Shorty Ultimate cantilever.
  • Shift / Brake Shift levers: SRAM eTap for mechanical brakes.
  • Front Derailleur: SRAM eTap 11-speed.
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM eTap 11-speed.
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 6800 series 11-32 11-speed.
  • Chain: Shimano Ultegra 11-speed with KMC master link.
  • Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 series, 170mm fitted with FSA 48 tooth big chainring, Dura-Ace 34 tooth small chainring.
  • Bottom Bracket: Hawk Racing, English thread.
  • Pedals: Ritchey WCS MTB.
  • Wheelset: American Classic Hurricane 700c configured tubeless, fitted with M2Racer Ti skewers.
  • Front Tyre: Panaracer Gravelking SK 700c x 35mm with Orange Seal Endurance Formula sealant.
  • Rear Tyre: Panaracer Gravelking SK 700c x 35mm with Orange Seal Endurance Formula sealant.
  • Saddle: Fi’zi:k Arione.
  • Seatpost: Ritchey WCS single bolt 27.2mm x 350mm.
  • Bottle Cages: King Cage Titanium.
  • Computer: Garmin 800 (when mounted).

Bike weight – 18.3lbs fitted with the above-listed components, minus the Garmin computer.

Ritchey Bikes and Components

26 comments on “Featured Bike: Ritchey Breakaway Ti CX Gravel Travel bike with SRAM eTap

  1. Can’t help but notice your cow audience.
    Did the cow offer any critique like “moo – ve over all you lesser bikes?”

    🙂

    1. Yes, horrendous typo! Thank you. My regular proof reader was slacking off today… fixed! Absorbent is nice for toilet paper 🙂

  2. Bill Holland out of San Diego also does full ti and ti/carbon breakaway travel bikes. He uses the Ritchey system but does some slight tweeks to further increase durability and stifness in that joint (not that it really needs upgrading). Everything he does is custom so you can get any “flavor” your heart desires and he’s really a great guy to do business with.

    1. James, thanks for the reminder. Holland had some amazing bikes on display at the last NAHBS show I frequented in Charlotte… they had a Breakway licensed exogrid bike there – gorgeous.

  3. JOM – you may remember i have the same frame but w Ultegra 6600 goupset and Paul Mini-motos. You took photos last fall at Sac o Suds and i’m rock’n white bar tape and a white saddle 🙂 Mine’s an X-tra large frame and I find it can be challenging to eliminate creak noise – I think it’s from the connection at the seat tube. Either way a great frame and I’ve been using the S&S hard case for travel. I saw Holland’s latest iteration of the licensed Ritchey Breakaway at NAHBS in Sacramento and it is definitely an improvement over Tom’s version. He also uses a Ti clamp ring on the down tube. I asked him if i could get purchase one but they use a different diameter tubing (it’s slick). Lesson learned – the Ritchey derailleur cable breaks only have one set screw (unlike the brakes). I had one break on me at the start of the ride and I had to sit out the ride and become beer boy. I found some that have 2 set screws that are more secure – something you might want to consider – if so let me know and I’ll go back and figure out where i purchased them. One last note – i would not run a cable break on my front brake – if the cable pulls out you’ve lost your best friend. Rear, not so much. BTW, any of you GC’s showing up for Red Clay Ramble next Saturday hunting podium spots? If so i look forward to seeing you guys!

    1. Jim, unfortunately, those photos I took turned out rather poorly.

      Re: derailleur cables – this bike has SRAM eTap wireless electronic shifting – no gear cables of any kind required! My bike is still relatively new and doesn’t make a sound.

      The cable split on the front is a risk, but very helpful for travel with cantilever brakes – I don’t want to jinx myself – never had a cable pull out yet.

      There may be one or two of the G.C. guys heading to Red Clay Ramble – K-Dogg, Mrs K-Dogg and I are racing Gravel Worlds the same day in Lincoln, Nebraska – hence Breakaways for the race!

    1. Phillip, thanks for the tip, I wasn’t aware of the existence of these pedals! Something I will definitely keep in mind for the future.

  4. I like these kind of travel bike that I can pack easily for travel. There is another brand that produce travel bike named Splitbikes. I find them quite interesting as they can also packed within a Ritchey travel case but they use belt which seems handy. I have tried it once in a bike show. Their quick release seems very solid and requires no tools to split the bike and pack. Any thoughts?

  5. Thanks for the review! I stumbled upon it today and I’m about to do the same with a ti Breakaway. A couple questions: When swapping wheels from ‘sport’ mode with carbon rims to ‘gravel’ mode with alu rims, do you bother to change brake pads? On these bikes, should a carbon post be avoided? Was the change of front fork purely aesthetic or have you heard of functional differences? It appears your 11-32 works, but have you any feedback on the Wolf Tooth Road Link derailleur hanger extension? Supposedly, it turns a road rear derailleur into a longer caged version.

    Another vote for ditching the fr cable disconnect. You could get the same quick release ability by changing the front cable yoke to one that doesn’t fix the straddle cable and allows easy removal. Great bike!

    1. We have reviewed the RoadLink in the past but will be tinkering with it and eTap after gravel worlds.

      Brake pads – yes, I typically swap brake pads.

      Carbon post shouldn’t cause trouble, just make sure it is long enough. Eventually I would like to swap to a Ti stem and post.

      The fork change was purely for aesthetics. I love the look of a straight blade fork.

      If you have info about another cable hanger that describes what you allude to, please let me know. Clearly the current setup is not ideal.

      Thanks!

    1. Got it, thanks for the tip. I will look into a different solution for the front brake after this trip. In the meantime, I hope it holds together!

  6. Looking to purchase a Breakaway (if I can find one). When at home in Vermont it will be my gravel/dirt road rider – varied surfaces and lots of climbing.

    While I am a serious rider, I do not race so the extra weight of steel is not a big concern. I am also a lightweight so flex is not an issue.

    Now that you have logged some miles on the ti – is the ride that much better on the ti?

    Steel vs. ti?

    Thanks!
    AEH

    1. Arne, I prefer the ride of the Ti version… several of my personal bikes are Ti. I just love the material for this type of cycling. With that said, steel is also a great material, and I logged a lot of miles n my steel Breakaway. The Ti version of the Breakaway is no longer being made, so what you see online / ebay is about all that is available. I really wanted the slightly lesser frame weight and no paint of the Ti version due to my travelling.

      What size are you looking for? I am selling my personal steel Breakaway frame / fork / case… mine is the size 54. If that works and you are interested, message me directly through this link – https://www.gravelcyclist.com/contact-gravel-cyclist/

      Thanks!

      1. I love your build and personally did a steel build of one of these for my girlfriend this past month with a 11-40 rear cassette & 105 build & the rest basically as you have wheels tires etc. Unfortunately I am still not able to find myself a frame (I need a 54 maybe can fit a 56) and I was hoping to build a Ti one. Any leads on a Ti 54 BaB cross frame for sale any time soon?

        1. Hi Rob, I owned the steel version of the bike for several years – there is an article here on the site about the bike – but had the opportunity to purchase the LAST 54cm Ti CX Breakaway from Ritchey at the end of 2015. Sadly, they are no longer making this frame.

          Your best bet is to watch eBay – or try contacting https://www.bicycledoctorusa.com – this dealer does a lot of Breakaway sales and may know of someone with a 54cm Ti CX? Couldn’t hurt to ask.

          Good luck!

  7. I am very interested in purchasing your 54cm Titanium Ritchey Breakaway bike as seen on this post. Please call Greg at 408-781-6840 to let me know the financial and logistical details as soon as possible.

    Thanks,

    Greg. 2/14/2017

  8. Hi there,

    I noticed the issue with the etap FD and 35mm tyre clearance. I just thought I’d ask, what length of chainstays does this frame have?

    Cheers,
    Jim

  9. Have you had any issues with the front der battery rubbing? I am looking at a lightspeed ultimate gravel etap model. Their website says you can run up to a 40c tire, chainstays are 425mm.

    1. No rubbing yet, but the battery for the front derailleur battery is awfully close with a 38mm GK SK tyre mounted. My part two eTap review is just about ready and covers this issue in detail.

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