In the Land of Ritchey, where the shadows lie
Price $3,199, reduced to $2,250 on Ritchey site
In the ongoing quest for the one bike to rule them all, the Ritchey P29er has shot easily into our top 10. We think it would be a shame to treat this as a mountain bike race bike. It’s much more fun than that. It is a robust steel go-anywhere bike.
The ability and agility of the P29er is faultless. It’s one of the most flattering bikes we’ve ever ridden – i.e. it made even the worst of us look a decent rider and the best of tempted to throw it down a frankly ridiculous descent. It suffers from none of the common dissatisfactions with 29ers. It is almost instantly up to speed, and then seems to apply a multiplier affect to your input, meaning the ground is covered quickly. Given the XC (cross country) target market, it’s quickness is perhaps not such a surprise. Where it stands out is how competent it was going down steep/technical stuff.
There are some perceived benefits of steel: flexibility, comfort, stiffness. But not all steel frames are equal. The P29er has so much more flex than other steel frames, and that’s a good thing. There were times when we almost couldn’t tell it was a hardtail. It chewed up terrain that would normally have at least two of us reaching for a full suspension bike.
The retailer’s view (see below) is that it’s a mountain bike. Fair enough. The P29er doesn’t act in a particular way – it’s a mountain bike, not a niche-machine. It’s amazingly responsive whilst staying comfortable. It multiplies your efforts on traditional XC conditions. But point it downhill and it’s nimble, easy to drive, easy to steer and deeply rewarding. It doesn’t suffer from a ‘jack of all trades’ disparagement. It really is everything positive that the phrase ‘a mountain bike’ could mean.
We wouldn’t go carbon for mountain bike, (that’s a personal view reflecting our lack of skill). We simply crash too often to think a carbon ‘enduro’ bike would be safe in our hands – we’re going to break it. But steel: indestructible, weldable, fixable steel: well there’s a different beast altogether.
What’s wrong with it?
Well, not much really, but we reckon that when you buy this you need your dealer to change the tyres. If you live in Arizona, keep these tyres. If you don’t, then get them swapped before you buy. Do it now. It would be easy to make the P29er more comfortable. 29ers are slow to turn, and the over long stem of this one makes it slower, which unfairly affects confidence. Get a shorter one, maybe 50mm or so, with maybe five-degree rise. Don’t slam the stem. Put in some spacers. The foam hexagonal grips on the Ritchey look out of keeping with the rest of the bike. They don’t look cheap, just wrong.
What does Ritchey says about its P29er
Heat-treated, triple-butted Ritchey Logic II tubing in our own unique butting profiles results in a frame that balances rough trail compliance with sprint-winning stiffness.
The result: nimble handling that captures the benefits of the big wheels, stable but not sluggish, and equally at home on all-day epics or tight, technical single track race courses.
Bike test facts
Bike: Ritchey P29er
Fork: Rockshox SID XX 29 Solo Air 100mm X-Lock
Weather: Sunny, cold and muddy
When: February 2017
Test terrain: grass, tracks, steep drops, cross country, road
What do we think of…the Ritchey P29er…in 50 words or less
It’s a do-it-all MTB, not the XC hardcore option the manufacturer is pushing. We think that despite needing slight changes to the tyres and headset, it is a bike for all off-road seasons. Above all, it’s fun.
It's a lot of money for a hardtail (well, it's not really - it's great), so what else could that sort of money get you? Mostly what it could get you is a black bike. Clearly at this price for a hardtail it's a choice of black. Although Merida have pushed the boat out with some white forks.
Merida Big Nine XT-Edition 2017
Full Carbon. Fox 32 Float forks 100mm
Available for £2,500 from Tredz, and other retailers
Scott Scale 920
Full Carbon. Fox 32 SC Float performance forks 100mm
Available for £2,699 from Hargroves cycles, and other retailers
Specialized Epic Expert carbon
Full Carbon. Custom Rockshox Reba RL forks 90/100mm
Available for £2,200 from Sigma Sport, and other retailers