Long Term Follow-Up: Ritchey Design WCS Cockpit + Fork
Back in July, I wrote an introduction about the full Ritchey cockpit that I put on my road bike project, and it has come time to check in and see how everything is holding up. Over the past several months, I’ve put at least a couple thousand miles on this bike, including some pretty decent climbs and hairy descents, not to mention almost daily abuse riding through the city. I think it’s safe to say these components have been put through the ringer and survived, but that’s only part of the story. Get the rest of the story after the jump…
The Bars: The best of the components was definitely the WCS EvoCurve Alloy handlebars. I must confess, I’d owned these bars on my cyclocross commuter bike when they very first came out. I liked them then, and when Ritchey told me those were the bars they wanted to send out, I was stoked. Spending more time on these bars only solidified my love for them. The 4 degree sweep, coupled with slightly larger, ovalized tubing in the top section makes for several very comfortable positions across the top of the bar. Additionally, the relatively shallow and short Curve drop has a very positive feel and was one of the first drops I ever felt comfortable down in for any extended period of time. As with most quality alloy bars, there’s almost no flex, which translates well into the bike’s handling, but did lead to some soreness in the hands that I wouldn’t normally experience with a more vibration-dampening carbon bar. I consider this bar’s shape nearly perfect, and noticed that Ritchey has since began to offer the same bar in carbon, which would likely resolve the soreness (although at more than twice the expense, $129 vs. $299).
The Seatpost: My second favorite of the goods was the SuperLogic Carbon One-bolt seatpost. I literally stuck it in the frame, bolted the saddle to it and didn’t worry about it again. No slippage, no creaking, nothing. I did feel a little ill at ease at first, considering my butt was perched at the end of one of the lightest parts on the bike, but that soon dissipated. It’s an odd sensation, being aware that the post is flexing, and knowing that is making the ride smoother, and more comfortable.
The Stem: Aiding in the exceptional handling of the bars, was the WCS Carbon Matrix 4-Zxis stem. Ultralight and super stiff, this component was nearly another bolt on and forget about it scenario (it technically was on the handlebar clamp end). However, I experienced some issues with keeping the headset tight for the first couple months, and I have to partially attribute that to the stem. Ideally, once it is locked down the stem should prevent the headset from loosening, and that wasn’t happening here. Of course, the stem can’t be completely to blame, which takes me on to the fork…
The Fork: The WCS UD Carbon fork was quite impressive out of the box. It’s so light in your hand, and the installation was fairly smooth and easy. On the road, it joined the handlebar/stem combo for an extremely predictable and responsive steering column. There was some noticeable flex front to back, which helped make the bike more comfortable while riding straight down the road. However, that flex wasn’t present side to side, when I pointed the fork into the turns.
But I stated earlier, no matter what I did, I couldn’t keep the headset tight. The compression plugs were slipping in the steerer, and clearly the stem wasn’t gripping either. Eventually, after running the course of mechanic tricks (sanding this, carbon pasting that, trying different plugs, carrying a torque key in my jersey for mid-ride adjustments, having other mechanics look it over for anything I missed), the issue was resolved and everything stayed tight. I can’t say which exact thing fixed it and that haunts me, making me afraid to make adjustments for fear that I’ll undo my fix. Additionally, the same front to back flex that I originally appreciated for its added comfort will often taunt me into thinking the loose headset is back.
The Final Thoughts: Having worked on a lot of bikes, I understand and want to make clear to you readers, that this is just “one of those things.” I know as consumers that can be hard to hear, but sometimes parts slap together and work from the first time you torque the bolts down, and sometimes they don’t. There are more factors here than just the Ritchey components, such as my frame and riding conditions. Therefore, I don’t blame Ritchey, nor do I think there is anything wrong with the parts. In fact, when they were all in proper working order, they performed exceptionally well. As a group, they helped this bike track like it was on rails on the descents, and helped to take the edge off what would otherwise be an overly harsh riding aluminum bike.
In the end, the choices for a complete, quality component package are few and far between, if you’re looking to include a matching fork. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Ritchey WCS setup, as the performance wasn’t overshadowed by the lingering installation issues. Just be sure to have everything installed by a qualified, professional mechanic to lessen your chances of any issues.
(for those of you who are interested in other full component package options, ENVE Composites has provided me with a similar setup for comparison. Be on the lookout for an initial review post in a few weeks.)