N1NO’s 5th chapter of his #huntforglory webisode is all about a journey to the roots of Mountain biking. The 3x MTB World Champion meets one of the Godfathers of Mountain biking, Tom Ritchey, at his home in Skyline, California. Tom Ritchey is the guy who was already racing bicycles, which we call “Mountain bikes” today, back in the 1970s on his backyard trails in the hills of Skyline and Santa Cruz. He built the first Mountain bike frame, and since those early days, every new invention has been chased by another.

Over the years Tom’s focus has shifted from frame building too component design, but his obsession with functional, lightweight and reliable equipment has not waivered. Many Ritchey designs and manufacturing methods have become industry standards.

A Long Love Affair with Racing

 

Mountain bike racing has always been something Tom Ritchey was passionate about. 3x World Champion Thomas Frischknecht was part of Ritchey`s Racing team in the 1990’s. Still today, Tom creates World Championship winning parts for the top guys- like N1NO. As a Co-Sponsor of SCOTT-Odlo MTB Racing, Tom contributes to the Team`s success with his innovative products and experience.

 

Tom Ritchey is a pretty down-to-earth guy. It’s amazing to meet and ride with this legend, and it’s a privilege to have him on our side. Check out Hunt for Glory – Chapter 5 and watch how we treated the trails, of which Tom stated, “That’s where it all started.”

Nino Schurter

N1NO and Frischi not only went out riding the single tracks where Mountain biking was born, but Tom Ritchey also showed them where the first frames were welded and where all of his inspiration comes from. N1NO got to know more about the early days, and Tom Ritchey explained how Mountain Biking came into existence.

The story of Tom Ritchey and Thomas Frischknecht

 

The story of Tom Ritchey and Thomas Frischknecht goes back to 1990, when the Swiss was one of the first Europeans racing mountain bikes in the USA. Frischi recalls being able to race for the already then established Team Ritchey, a highlight in his career.

At just 20 years of age, Frischi not only found a very familiar team (for training camps the team usually stayed at Tom Ritchey’s house in Skyline, which is considered the birthplace of mountain bikes), with Tom Ritchey, he also found a mentor, that taught him what mountain biking is all about.

Coming from a cyclo-cross background, young Frischi soaked up everything Ritchey, a pioneer in mountain biking had to offer. This went far beyond just riding a bike. Tom showed his riders, how to fillet braze frames in his work shop in Skyline. He even let the riders do some work on the frames which they would be racing on. The riders had to build their own bikes, instead of purely just racing on them, so that they would get familiar with the technical aspects of a bicycle.

At this stage, Tom was 34 years old, he was still super fit and took part in every training ride that his pro riders did. As much as Tom’s riders learned from his know-how and history, Tom learned a great deal from them as well, often asking the riders for their feedback and ideas.

The sport of mountain biking was in a huge experimentation phase in the 90s and unlike road or cyclo-cross, nothing was impossible.

Both Tom and Frischi had developed many ideas together, which would later become standards in the bike industry at some point. Some of these ideas included, turning a triple chainring into a 2x drivetrain to get a better Q-factor and a low rolling resistance tire used in the 1996 Olympics, which would become to be known as semi-slicks. They also developed the Mount Cross which was a bicycle that was a mix between a mountain bike and a cyclo cross bike that had 28” wheels.

This strong collaboration between Tom Ritchey and Frischi continued when Frischi started his own Team with SCOTT (formerly Swisspower) in 2002. Nino Schurter, joining the team in 2003 at the age of 17, found a similar structure as Frischi had enjoyed in the 90s.  It was a team which focused on the importance of team spirit and involvement in product development.

A new star was born

 

As a junior rider, Nino had to build up his own bike as a form of training, just as Frischi had to do in the old days.

When Nino asked to play around with different wheel sizes, Frischi took his advice and brought it up with SCOTT. In 2012, Nino’s bike was fitted with 27.5” wheels and this became the new standard for wheel size in the bike industry. SCOTT-Odlo, aside from racing, continues to be heavily involved in product development, utilizing its athletes’ many years of riding experience to its advantage.

Now, Nino has known Tom Ritchey for more than 13 years and both have tons of respect for each other for what they’ve achieved in life. Tom, Frischi and Nino are from three different generations, but they all share the same honor of being icons in the history and sport of mountain biking.