December 16 2022 – Wilde Bikes
All Images by Jarrod Bunk
If y'all follow my Bike Jerks work, you know I'm passionate about vintage mountain bikes. I love the emerging technology, the big triangles, the creativity and the craftsmanship.
A must on any mtb collectors checklist has to be a bike built by the master himself, Tom Ritchey. One of the earliest builders of dedicated mountain bikes and absolutely absurdly productive, Tom's bikes are icons of the industry and the foundation of my own collection.
If you're looking at an older Ritchey, the thing to most be aware of is that if it's TIG welded, it was made in Japan. Those frames were made by Toyo, shipped to California as 90% completed and then the bridges and finishing touches were done by Tom. So his torch did bless those frames, but they are typically not what fetch collectors desires.
The good stuff, are the fillet brazed frames such as this one that were 100% made in Tom's workshop with the master himself laying the fillets. To me another crucial factor is having a frame with canti-studs front and rear instead of the under the chainstay u-brake. This is a personal aesthetic preference of mine.
The bike you see here is my cherished 1985 Timberwolf, which was the first fillet brazed frame in my size that I was able to acquire. The Timberwolf is a lower end Tom built model and can be compared to a "B" frame or a Mt. Tam, which it essentially replaced in the lineup.
If you're not familiar, fillet brazing is a method of joining tubes similar to TIG welding. It was often used for mountain bikes instead of lugs because lugsets in the angles needed for these new mountain bikes had not yet been developed, and lugged builders were familiar with the fillet brazing process as lugged building has it's foundation in brazing.
The builder lays down fillets of brass at the joints, instead of beads of TIG weld. The tradition is to build up quite a bit of material, and then to file and sand it smooth creating the pleasing transition that you see above.
It's a labor intensive process, but I think it's the most beautiful way to join tubes.
I built this bike with my favorite parts, mixing a few eras, and not caring about its "correctness." Some highlights include a King no logo headset, Cooks Cranks, Paul's brakes in a special Team Fulton ano, formerly new old stock Ritchey wheels, and an XT M730 drivetrain with M732 shifters. Also of note is the unicrown fork, which was also fillet brazed.
This is a forever bike for me, it's a keeper, and I consider myself to be blessed to own and ride it.