Issue 98’s bike test features three fast hardtails, all with 27.5in wheels – one carbon, one steel and one aluminium. Here’s what we thought of Ritchey’s steel P650b…
The steel Ritchey P650b (catchy name, huh?), with its thin tubes, gorgeous paint (OK, it’s not the red, white and blue colour scheme, but it’s still ace) and just general cool-ness is a looker.
The frame might look retro, but don’t be fooled. The latest 27.5in wheel frame has a few of the modern-day features of the other bikes in this test, including a tapered headtube with integrated headset and a rear brake mount on the chainstay – with curved seatstays to provide clearance and, arguably, compliance. Sizes range from a 15in small to a 21in XL.
The Ritchey arrived with us as a complete bike, so most components were Ritchey-branded. It’s all lovely stuff – the alloy-rimmed WCS Vantage wheels are tubeless-compatible, easily light enough for racing and during the test period didn’t show any signs of fragility. The 2.1in Ritchey Z-Max tyres are faster than they look but provide plenty of grip, as long as conditions aren’t too soggy.
The WCS carbon seatpost was the only thing that was immediately swapped – in spite of it being 350mm long, the actual minimum insert/usable length was so short that it was practically useless.
Aside from the Ritchey frame, wheels and finishing kit, the fork supplied was a Suntour Axon Werx RL. While it sports carbon lowers, magnesium dropouts, a titanium 15mm thru-axle and an ingenious lockout lever, the performance, while far from poor, wasn’t up to the standard of the Fox forks of the other two bikes. However, it is a bit cheaper and it’s undoubtedly light at around the 1,600g mark. It’s not quite as supple out-of-the-box and simply doesn’t feel as good, especially at high speed.
The lockout lever can be a bit wobbly when not locked out so you need to get the cable tension bang on when you install it, but the lockout release lever – an elongated, kidney-shaped button – is mounted vertically so that you can tap it with the side of your hand without altering your grip on the bars. It’s a brilliant design and incredibly easy to use.
In contrast, the Q-Lock titanium axle can be really fiddly to master. You have to remember to put the expanding collar into the closed position (which isn’t too easy with gloves on) before pulling the axle out. Get this bit wrong or forget and the collar will open out inside the hub, so you have to push it all the way back in again. Not good for swift wheel changes. Gears were SRAM X0 2×10, which worked accurately and accompanied each gear change with a reassuring clunk.
The P650b doesn’t feel as overtly ‘arse up, head down’ as the other two (though some inverting and slamming of the 90mm stem made it feel a bit more of an instrument of suffering), but is the most fun going downhill, when the going gets rocky and bumpy, and was the one that was ridden ‘off the brakes’ the most. It’s without doubt the bike that spent the most time with both wheels off the ground and, in spite of the relatively narrow front tyre, it’s a bike that seems to fill its rider with confidence.
It was brilliant fun – the handling is nice and predictable and it can only be described as a right laugh across roots and little jumps. The sort of bike that you’d pick for a big day out in the hills, especially if your hills have lots of rough bits, rocks, roots and drops. Maybe not the first choice if you want to beat people in a race – it was marginally the slowest around our five minute race-conditions test lap, but it’s a ‘proper’ mountain bike. A bike that will do most things well, put a smile on the rider’s face and give them the confidence to tackle most situations.
|Price:||£745.00 frame only|
|Tested:||by Chipps and Jason Miles for one month|