1997 Ritchey Plexus
Story of the bike
Thomas Frischknecht's Ritchey Plexus from the World Cup season 1997.
It still has the UCI tags on the top tube:
0042 (under 0013) : WC #3 Sankt Wendel, GER - 1st place (I was actually there that day)
0013: WC #4 Budapest, HUN - 4th place
0009: WC #5 Spindleruv Miln, CZ - dnf (stomach)
I did not find any photos or evidence of other races.
This is supposedly one out of only 2 Plexus frames ever made with the extended seat tube. The second bike belongs to a former Ritchey employee.
Serial# is T3019
Figuring out, finding and replacing parts:
The rear shifter case was broken. The SRT-900 shifters are 3x8 but Ritchey raced with the then new 2x9 custom drivetrain. I assumed that they had modified the rear shifter by adding a position, so I bought a NOS rear shifter, just to figure out that they have used the front as rear and rear as front, so I found another set and got those as well.
The segments on the original race bike twister are much closer, I don’t know if this was part of the next generation ESP 9.0 or a prototype. I kept the twister part with the rubber grip and just exchanged the case.
Luckily I was able to remove the sticker from the old shifter and transfer it to the new one.
A fair amount of material, especially the threads for the small chainring got removed to save weight as they were not needed anymore. This looks very prototype-ish and I wonder what the cranks looked like that they sold to the public.
The bottom bracket spindle has to be adjusted very precisely, as the crank arms come really close to the chain stays. You can even see the damage or scratches on the Taya sticker, maybe this happened with the crank arm bending when under load.
The freehub body is a 8 speed, but the bike came with a standard XTR M950 cassette and the additional 33t titanium cog. Only way to mount this is without a spacer between the cassette and the 33t cog. When using the big front chainring and smallest cog, the chain is rubbing against the seat stay. I wonder if someone replaced the cassette afterwards. I would think they narrowed the spacers of the lower cogs and added a small spacer towards the 33t to avoid this. Besides of that, all gears are shifting pretty well.
At some point when cleaning the drive side chain stay, I saw that there was a sticker underneath the chain stay protector. Looking at original pictures of the bike, this "carbon look" Sram protector must have been added later. Underneath I found the original Stay Tuff protector and the Taya Chain sticker. I figured out that Taya made some narrow chains back then with a quick lock system. I contacted Taya directly and they were super stoked about the project and very helpful, not only to tell me the model of the chain - a Taya pro super 92 9-speed chain - but they also directed me to a seller in Italy who had a NOS one!
This bike should have all Ride Gore housing, the cables with Teflon and yellow liner. I even have new boxes with black housing but on this bike the shift housing was silver braided with no logo, still using the yellow liner and Teflon cables. The old housing was still on the bike when I got it, but rusty inside and broken in a few spots.
Up to this day, this is still a mystery, no one from Frischi to former Ritchey employees knows the answer. I assume it was maybe a Sram housing. Sram is still offering similar housing nowadays under the Ride Gore logo, I guess they bought the company, not sure.
The modern housing is not available as braided shifter housing and it would be 4mm anyway.
That said, I had some braided Jagwire housing on my modern Hardtail, so I replaced that, just to use it for the Ritchey when I realized.. oh yeay, the yellow liner won't fit through 4mm housing, of course.. I felt dumb.
Even worse, but lucky at the same time, I had silver braided housing laying in a box underneath a disassembled Mountain Cycle San Andreas that I had forgotten about as well.
- btw, I kept the original length of the housing, making the pieces from shifter to frame even a tiny bit longer, but man are they short, I guess he was steering with the rear brake!?
Thanks to Matthias from Germany for the WCS bar ends, the autograph card and the candy! - On this particular bike, Frischi raced with very short, straight bar ends. I can only assume that they were cut off, but as these are NOS.. I can't do that. Maybe I'll find some used ones and replace them one day. On all his other bikes he used the full length, so it's not too wrong.
I was assuming Speedmax or Z-Max WCS with blue sidewalls, but finally figured out that he was racing on Ritchey Racing K Force 1.9, front and rear. To make it really difficult, they were black walls, a very rare tire nowadays. Again the community was helpful and Norman - also from Germany - was willing to send me a NOS pair that he had laying around. I got really lucky on that one and didn't mind the shipping time of over 2 months till they finally arrived.
For months I was searching for a pair of red Avid Ultimate SD brake levers, when finally Mike from Canada contacted me - and they even had the V-chip for V-brakes - score!
Thanks to Hugh from California for the saddle and bars!
Thanks to Team Scott-Sram mechanic Brad Copeland for forwarding my questions to Frischi!
Thanks to the " Ritchey Mountain Bike" group on Facebook, the most helpful group ever!
Thanks to Malcolm Fearon at Bliss Images for the original photo of this bike at the World Cup in Sankt Wendel! (Photo at the very bottom of this page)
Thanks to every one else who was involved and helping!
Take also a look at the "How the bike arrived" photos for further details.
The bike is currently on display at the MTB Hall of Fame in Fairfax, CA.
How the bike arrived
Rear shifter case broken
Cockpit might have gotten updated a few years after Thomas raced it
Fork is still working, just a bit dirty
Not cleaned in many years
Original stem or not?
A bit of corrosion
Torn saddle (not original)
Original braided shift housing
Lots of polishing
About time for fresh grease
Those stickers remind you that it's worth it!
This bike has seen the world
Custom weight saver: 3x -> 2x
2x9 specific 33t titanium cog
Just add it and don't ask questions
Sometimes you need many to make one good one
Left: Frischi's original 9s (prototype?) - Right: standard 8s
Removing the sticker from the cracked case
Nothing feels better than saving a 23 year old sticker. Transfer successful!
What do we have here!?
Original NOS Taya chain
The bike friends and vintage community was just amazing helping me with parts!
More correct parts
And these quite rare tires
Even Ritchey tubes
WCS tube similar to latex
Race ready! 21.09 lbs
St. Wendel World Cup 1997 (photo taken by Malcolm Fearon)
Budapest World Cup 1997
Budapest World Cup 1997