Bike Jerks HQ: The Tale of the Ritchey Prototype Bi-Plane Fork Crown May 15, 2018

Bike Jerks HQ: The Tale of the Ritchey Prototype Bi-Plane Fork Crown
Words and photos by Jeff Frane

Behold, perhaps the coolest thing that has crossed my path since I inadvertently started collecting vintage bicycle stuff. One of the rarest for certain. What you’re feasting your hungry eyes upon is one of the few examples of the legendary bi-plane fork crown that Tom Ritchey produced during the heady and formative year of 1983. Now, I have no actual idea how many exist, I should probably ask Tom, but I’ll leave the actual journalism to the professionals. Or the commenters.

It never saw production, as Tom instead decided to focus on the uni-crown, but was later famously copied by Grant Peterson for his legendary MB-1. How was this acquired? Well, my good friend Jeff Schmidt purchased it directly from Tom to potentially use to build a fork for a giant size Ritchey he had previously acquired. See below for their correspondence.

Tom: Here’s another option – I got a few of these that I made in 1983- you could have your builder make a fork with Columbus blades ……

Jeff (to be clear not me, other Jeff): That’s a great looking crown! What were you going to use those on originally?

Jeff: I really like that crown quite a bit. Do you think it would work with Columbus SP blades?

Tom: Yes, that’s what I designed it for. Here’s a piece of history – I was also designing the uni-crown, and it won out. So the investment cast two plate evolution died. I only built up one and I don’t know where it is.

Jeff: If I’m correct in my history, that’s the crown B-Stone emulated in the early 90’s?

Tom: Correct-I originally made it, but then I let Grant copy it.

Hot dang! How cool is that: Tom is all like “I just happen to have this amazing fork crown that is incredibly historic and will blow the minds of people who care about mtb history. NBD.”

Swoon.

So Jeff got it and then I lucked into something that he really wanted, so boopity boop, I’m the current caretaker. How rare is it? I’ll probably find out. How much is it worth? I have no flipping idea. It could be $500 to the right person, it could be $2500. Don’t know, don’t really care. I’m in love and stoked to share it with ya’ll.

____

Follow Jeff on Instagram and follow Ritchey on Instagram.

  • It’s beautiful 😭

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Trade up for a Ritchey Chicken Coop:

    http://forums.mtbr.com/vintage-retro-classic/1980-ritchey-chicken-coop-926237.html
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/72157646028275558

    Or just make the collector nerds sweat and throw it in the parts bin.

  • rocketman

    nice, but personally I like the two plate brazed versions Tom used early on.

  • Janko

    Some know these as “can opener” fork crowns, as the long lugs have been known to pierce the fork blades over time. Thankfully it hasn’t happened yet on my ’94 MB-1, but apparently Grant Petersen recommends grinding them down. Beautiful forks though, clearly influenced the new Crust Bombora.

  • ciabattaman

    Can you do a post on your vintage collection? That is, if you feel comfortable doing so. I love shit like this!

    • Jeffrey Frane

      I’ll try get some more stuff ready.

  • Bert

    Pretty interesting that the unicrown won out in an era of rim brakes only. I’d imagine the gap is even bigger with disc brakes now. Looks lovely though.