NICA supporter Tom Ritchey hand-built a one-of-a-kind fillet brazed 19” 605B to be sold at auction as a NICA fundraiser. NICA followed-up with an interview to learn more about this special frame, fillet brazing, Tom’s personal history with 650B, and Tom’s hopes for NICA’s future.
You can bid on this frame here. 100% of proceeds will go to NICA.
NICA: Tom, thank you for Ritchey’s years of NICA Sponsorship and for donating this frame you made with your bare hands. How many of these 19” fillet-brazed Ritchey P-650B frames have you made?
Tom: This is the second one I’ve made.
NICA: What makes you excited about your fillet-brazed frames?
Tom: Fillet brazing, when done right, is a superior way to join steel tubing. It’s lower temperature so I’m able to make a better frame than with TIG welding. TIG welding is fine, but you often see TIG welded frames with extra gussets because the abrupt joining of two pieces of material. Doing fillet brazing right means you’re very careful with the torch. You carve the fillet with a torch rather than with TIG welding where you need to do a lot of finishing afterwards.
Fillet brazing is a unique skill that’s hard to manage and maintain. It’s time consuming to learn, I think my first fillet frame was in 73’ or 74’ as a result of trying to play with different diameters of tubing and make my frames as light as possible. I created some different techniques that I don’t see being utilized today. I’m excited that it’s a skill you get and it stays with you. I can pick up a torch and do it at anytime. I’m happy to do it for these few frames.
NICA: What was your first experience with the 650B or 27.5” sized wheels?
Tom: Most people don’t realize the 650 wheel has been around much longer than these past few years. In my background of serious cycling, the 650 came before the mountain bike. It didn’t have the selection of wide tires it does now. The diameter and the light weight of the wheels that were available back in the mid 70s and the influence of cyclocross in my life back then previous to mountain biking took me on more of a performance direction. Knowing John Finley Scott and hearing him rant and rave I knew I wanted to build a 650 bike before I wanted to build a mountain bike. As I built more mountain bikes I was still very excited and told Gary and Charlie (Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly are also founders of mountain biking) and others how valuable the 650 was in terms of performance because of the diameter and weight savings. Back then the weight savings was significant. A bike was 10lbs heavier if it was a 26” wheel bike. The exercise especially for tall people made a difference. With more selection it makes a smaller difference, but for me in my size it’s more optimum than any other size bike for the type of riding that I do.
NICA: What are your hopes for NICA these next few years?
Tom: NICA is only in the beginning of rolling out something that’s going to become a new phenomenon in the high school sports arena. The excitement is not just well-to-do kids, but kids in less well-to-do places will discover cycling through the program or through unique individuals who stand out in the community. It will have no less of a coolness factor than other sports.
I would hope that NICA reaches out to smaller and smaller communities where it’s more difficult for kids to find ways to break out of community issues. Other things happen in their lives, which can be debilitating to a lot of them, and hold them back in their careers and lives. The bike is a freedom tool. It’s not something that a child just grows up with under the Christmas tree. It stays with them throughout the rest of their life. A program in high school that shares bicycles with communities large and small is my hope.