Create an Account | Login

So, what frame do I have?

Many Ritchey frame didn't come with the model name decals on the bike, which can make identifying them difficult. However, once you've looked at enough of them, in most cases, determining the model is pretty easy. The guide below should help anyone determine what model they own.

Is my bike a Ritchey?

The first task is to determine is your bike actually a Ritchey. Throughout the 1990s Ritchey sold frame parts: forks, dropouts, and tube sets; and components: stems, headsets, cranks, pedals, rims, etc. Just because a bike is built with Ritchey componenents, or has "Ritchey" stamped into the dropout, it is not necessarily a Ritchey.

The best indicator of a Ritchey frame are how the seat stays attach to the seat tube. Ritchey almost exclusively used "fastback style" stay attachments (see the picture to the right). There are a few exceptions: the Soft Tail and "Beam" bikes do not use this style of attachment. However, if your bike does not have the stays attached in this manner it is likely NOT a Ritchey.

Make sure your bike has seat stays that attach behind the seat post and have a bolt passing through them to secure the seat post. Otherwise it is likely NOT a Ritchey.

Identifying frames by Frame Features

Coming soon...

Identifying frame by Serial Numbers

Serial numbers are useful for identifying most Ritchey frames, particularly for those made from 1983 to about 1990. Before and after these years, the serial numbers are less consistent. I'll start off with the easy to follow numbers and go from there.


The serial numbers of this era fall into one of two schemes based on the construction method:

Fillet brazed frames were built in California by Tom Ritchey and follow one scheme.

TIG welded frames were imported from Japan and follow a different scheme. A handful of TIG wleded frames do follow the fillet brazed scheme, and these frames are likely US-made (but presumably not by Tom Ritchey); these were likely built in-house due to either quality or supply issues with the imported frames.

Fillet Brazed Frames
These frames follow the scheme: NLNNN
where N=number and L=letter, and the trailing numbers can be 1 to 3 digits

Size*ModelBuild Order**

* Frame sizes ranged from 16 to 25 inches. The final digit of the size in inches (measured center to top) is represented.

** For build order, in this example, this is the 227th 21 inch "B" frame built.

The model is reprsented by:

AAnnapurnafaux-lugged model
AAscent CompTIG welded; although the serial number looks like this scheme the first digit does not conform to the frame size
BTimber Wolfframe has rear cantilever brake
BTimber Compframe has rear roller-cam brake
BCommandopainted in camo paint with black components
CTeam Comp1984-86
CSuper Comp1987-89
EEverest1990s frame that follows this scheme
PP-series Team1990s frame that sometimes follows this scheme
UUltraalthough TIG welded, some frames follow this scheme;
some later Utlras omit the size (first digit)

Estimating the year a frame was made can be a bit more difficult. If components are original to the bike, the manufacture date codes can be used to fairly accurately estimate the date that the bike was assembled.

The serial number can also be used to estimate age. Lower build order numbers tend to have been built earlier. However, the build order numbers are by size, so more common sizes will ascend more rapidly than less common sizes. For example, "6C1" was the first 16 inch C-frame built. This would initally seem to be from 1984. However, it is actually a Super Comp introduced in 1987. Apparently no 16-inch Team Comps were ever made, and the first 16 inch frame was not built until '87. So "6C1" is from 1987 while "7C1" is likely from 1984.

Ultimately, components are the best way to extiamte age (assumging the components are original). Use their date codes on the components to determine about when the bike was assembled.

TIG Welded Frames
These frames follow the scheme: LNLNNNN or NLNNNN
where N=number and L=letter, and the trailing numbers can be 4 or 5 digits

Examples: 5L00079, 6D00168, A8C00071

These serial numbers provide less information. The first digit (above: 5, 6, and 8) are the year the frame was built (above: 1985, 1986, and 1988). The letter after the year is very likely the month of manufacture, with A = January and L = December. So, "5L" is December, 1985. The remaining digits are the build order, apparently for the year and likely for all Ritchey TIGed frames.

The leading letter, most often/always an "A," is not on the all of the frames. I'm unsure what is means.


The frames made in 1983 follow a similar scheme to the later '80s frames and are also easy to figure out.

In 1983, there were three models. The "Mount Tam" was the basic model which offered fewer options and less detail work. The "Everest" which was most similar to the original MountainBikes frame. And the "Competition" which was made from lighter frame tubing and included faux-lugs at the head tube and seat tube cluster.

These frames follow the scheme: NNLNN
where N=number and L=letter, and the trailing numbers can be 1 to 3 digits

SizeModelBuild Order*

* For build order, in this example, this is the 28th 23 inch "Mount Tam" frame built.

The model is reprsented by:

BMount Tam

1979-1982 Mountain Bikes

Deciphering pre-'83 bikes can be a challenge. Some frames follow a convention, while others definitely do not.

Some frame follow a NLNNN or NLNNNN pattern. These include: 1R0087, 1R0151, and 2R031. For these frames, the first digit refers to the year: 1981 or 1982. The "R" stands for Ritchey and the reminaing numbers are the build order. These does not seem to be a reference to the model ("MountainBikes 1" or "MountainBikes 2" frameset). To determine the model and year you'll need to look at the "frame features" section.

Outside of the frames that follow the above sequence, there does not seem to be a pattern. To determine the model and year you'll need to look at the "frame features" section.

Pre-1980 Road Bikes

Not all of the road bikes made by Tom prior to 1980 had serial numbers; however, some that do follow the following pattern:

Example: T11798R

In the example above, the "T" and "R" are for Tom Ritchey. The "11" is the month and the "79" is the year - so November of 1979. The final digit, "8", is either the size (58 cm) or the day of the month of the build - I'm still working that out.

1990-2000+ Bikes

After several years of identifiable serial numbers, Ritchey reverted back to less decipherable serial numbers. Throughout much of the early 1990s the "P-series" frames had numbers that don't seem to mean anything. An excpetion were the US-made fillet brazed frames: the Everest and the P-series Team frames, which often follow the 1980s scheme (see above).

Frames from the later 1990s tend to include model names in the serial numbers, with things like "SOFT" appearing on "Soft Tail" frames, and "SC" appearing in "Swiss Cross" frames. For these frames, identifying the model name is much more clear.

Narrowing down the year of a bike for 1990s frames is also difficult. Some models can be narrowed down by looking at catalogs. For example, the P-20 was introduced in 1995, so it can be narrowed down to 1995 or later. Other models like the P-23 are less easy to narrow down (although they are from the early '90s), and original components can help identify the year (most components have a manufacture date code stamped on them).

When estimating the year a frame was made, keep in mind that Tom did not change the models significantly from year to year. A bare P-23 frame bought in 1990 was likely no different from one bought in 1991. The catalogs can isolate year ranges, and that is often as close a guess as we can make - unless the components are original.