Is this an appropriate place for a Ritchey story? Well, since nobody can stop me...
I went up to Seattle for the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) rally in maybe 1983. I was in the bike biz, and a bunch of other companies were participating and displaying as well. The legendary Estelle Gray, manager of R&E Cycles in town and a friend of mine (as well as Race Across America tandem record holder), organized a mountain bike ride for the industry folks. We drove to an area called Snoqualmie Pass, way up in the piney woods, and cycled into the mountains on some really pretty singletrack. Coming back out, we were bombing down the same trail, dodging pine trees and dancing with the dirt. I was riding my Ritchey -- same one I ride today.
So, I'm freighting down the mountain at warp speed, weaving and sliding on that beautiful trail, missing the trees by mere inches, when something suddenly seemed decidedly NOT RIGHT. I instinctively straightened out, and brought the bike to a smooth stop, whereupon the handlebars fell off. D'OH! You see, the old Bullmoose bars clamped over a tube that was soldered into the fork's steering tube. That extension tube had split clear through at the top of the steerer.
So, there I was, several miles from the cars with no handlebars. Being a macho and seriously studly dude -- a legend in my own mind -- I declined help from the riders passing me. What could they do, after all? One of Estelle's friends stopped to help, though, and we did some serious brainstorming.
This was back before I repainted the Ritchey and added braze-ons for the racks. I had been using Blackburn low-rider front racks for touring, and had just the U-bolts around the fork blades for that ride. I also had a toe strap holding my spare tube under the seat, and another keeping the water bottle from bouncing out of the cage. I had a Swiss Army knife. I had some allen keys and a crescent wrench. I had Estelle's really innovative friend. Sadly, I had no alchohol or combustibles. Nevertheless, the solution was inevitable!
First, I cut and whittled a fallen tree branch into a plug that fit inside of the steering tube and extended three inches above. Hammered it in securely with a large rock. I slipped the Bullmoose bars over the plug and cinched them down. That positioned the bars, but the plug just twisted in the steering tube when the bars turned, of course. "How to handle the torque so the bike can be steered?", I asked myself with excessive punctuation. The answer lay in the classics...
The mystery lady friend and I collected a couple long, thin branches from the forest. We whittled them down to graceful rods of an appropriate diameter. At their bases, we fastened them to the fork blades using the U-bolts from the Blackburn low-rider racks. At their tops, we lashed them to the Bullmoose bars with the toe straps. This formed the equivalalent of the fork struts on an old Schwinn cruiser.
With a branch jammed in the steering tube, and branches forming struts from the fork blades to the handlebars, I could actually steer the bike. Granted, it took seeming seconds for a twist of the bars to pass through the very sloppy lashings and struts to effect a turn of the forks, but I was able to ride that bike out of the wilderness.
On my return to San Diego, I called Tom Ritchey and told him what had happened. He graciously fixed the fork without charge. He had no explanation for what had happened, but he did comment that he had no idea what Charlie and Gary did to his forks when they assembled their Mountain Bikes.
Damn, but I've had some fine times in the dirt!