Tom Ritchey: Unicrown Fork Pioneer Feb 18, 2010

Scans from Old Mountain Bikes

Yes, we’re all lucky to have durable forks now for our fixed gears. Remember all those photos and videos of kids snapping their forks a few years ago? After the fixed freestyle crew picked up on 26″ rigid MTB forks, or unicrown forks, there’s been very few instances of snapping forks. Most people want to thank the BMX industry for that and it’s true, early BMX bikes did use unicrown forks. The late 1970’s introduced the first BMXs, which were beefed up Schwinn Stingrays. On the bigger-wheel side of the cycling world however, we have one person to thank; Tom Ritchey.

Scans from Old Mountain Bikes

Ritchey, in many ways, was the unicrown fork pioneer. His earliest fork prototypes, shown above, eventually lead to his development of the unicrown fork and later, the re-appropriation of this technology by many manufacturers. Would the unicrown exist today if it wasn’t for Ritchey’s innovation? Probably. We still should give this man his much-deserved respect. The old Ritchey mountain bikes are some beautiful bicycles.

Here’s a PDF from the MB1 and MB2 Bridgestone Catalog where Bridgestone discusses the Ritchey-designed fork crown.

  • sorry charlie

    funny you should post that. the guys at the shop i worked at for awhile just cleaned out the owners office and found an old bridgestone catalogue that had all kinds of info about ritchey in it amongst others. if i get an opportunity to do some scans i will send them your way.

  • RyanK

    I dig the bike info.

  • Spencer Wright

    Cool post.

    There are a bunch of amazing pictures of old Ritcheys at First Flight Bikes.

    Including this one, which sports an early unicrown and a bunch of 14k gold plated parts.

    That old lugged twin-plate crown is pretty cool too. Kirk Pacenti actually reissued a similar crown a few years ago for use on classically styled MTBs. I bought a few of them when they came out but haven’t had a chance to build them up yet.

  • [email protected]

    pretty sure that’s charlie kelly in both those photos, not tom ritchey. ‘stache isn’t fluffy enough. charlie’s writing is pretty awesome and is worth a read. thanks for a cool post!

  • prolly

    Anyone else confirm that?

    Thanks for the heads up.

  • wade

    the unicrown was quite an advance, but the biplane is still gorgeous
    ’81 Ritchey Biplane:

    of course Fat City made a road version of the Yo Eddy mountain fork …
    saw one the other day on supposedly the last production road frame Chris made custom for someone. the picture doesn’t do it justice, the taper an the ovalized tubing is gorgeous. the paint was “cherry love” – that says it all …

  • wade

    huh, apparently Serrotta was making some for Chance for a while after they bought Fat:

  • Name

    FYI: That drawing is a lugged supercrown fork not a unicrown fork.

  • mitch

    joe breezer, gary fisher, tom ritchey, more….

    this is an awesome photograph. the original which i cant really find anywhere (except in the background of breezer’s 2010 catalog) has all of the riders’ names. first mountain bike team. zang!

  • prolly

    Name, read the description under the first photo / illustration.

  • sizemore

    I’m in the middle of building a replacement fork using the Pacenti mtb crown for a Bridgestone MB-1… It took a while to track down the specs, but it’s pretty interesting how bike design changes, the MB-1 stock fork had 54mm rake, seems slow, but it was an amazing bike… I can’t wait to see how it actually will ride! Those bikes are super good for sure!
    Awesome post.

  • mattie d

    is it bad i thought that photo was from an urban outfitters ad at first? LATFH.

  • Repack Rider

    Coming in a little late here, that is me (Charlie Kelly) in the photo, on Gary Fisher’s first Ritchey bike, 1979 photo by Gary Fisher.

    Check out my website.

  • Adam Newman

    None of the forks pictured in this post are unicrown forks. 

    I have no idea what’s going on here. 

    EDIT: It doesn’t matter what that description says, it’s still wrong.

    • John Watson

      Did you read the post?

      “Ritchey, in many ways, was the unicrown fork pioneer. His earliest fork prototypes, shown above, eventually lead to his development of the unicrown fork”