Based on Tom Ritchey’s pioneering contribution to the sport of cycling, his racing successes, thirty five years of product design innovations and the international growth of his bicycle frame and component manufacturing company; some might think cycling runs deeply through the Ritchey family blood line. It does not. Tom Ritchey Sr., in fact, spent the early part of Tom’s life as an inactive smoker, until that is, the family moved to California.
The Ritchey family moved out west from New Jersey in the early 1960s when Tom’s father, an engineer by trade, received a new job in the R&D group of AMPEX, headquartered in the Bay Area. It was at that point, Tom describes, that a change occurred in his father, “a light went off in his head and he got into all sorts of outdoor activities.” Several of Tom senior's coworkers were small boat racers, so he too, became a sailor. He also joined the Sierra Club. Tom Sr. began riding to work on his daughter’s Raleigh 3-speed and was soon riding every day. He began to itch for more adventure than his weekday 7 mile route provided, so he set out on weekend rides of up to 50 miles around Palo Alto and Woodside. Led by Tom Sr., every weekend soon became a Ritchey-family adventure - including: hiking, sailing, cycling or any number of other outdoor activities. Tom’s father joined a riding group and purchased his first bicycle, a Raleigh Carlton, which at the time, in the mid 1960s, sold for about $100.
Tom Ritchey's father
It was not long before Tom began to show his own interest in cycling. Around 10 or 11 years old Tom went on his first ride with his father…and was summarily dropped. It should have been no surprise to Tom that his father would be a significantly stronger cyclist at the time, given he had some experience under his belt with the local touring club. Never the less, Tom was not pleased. Discovering his competitive nature, he recruited his buddy, Donny, to join him on after school rides and the two began to whip themselves into shape.
One day, during one of these afternoon rides, the two boys encountered a pack of older boys riding together. The pack, Tom recals, "all wore the same jerseys." They were from the Belmont Bike Club. “They invited us to ride with them,” Tom said, so “we did.” The boys soon invited Tom and Donny to attend a local twilight race, so they went. Tom recalls his first experience in a race, “ I kept up pretty well with most of the guys,” (who were all older than he), and so his interest in racing was sparked.
Tom and buddy, Donny McBride
Around 14 years old Tom decided he was ready for another ride with his father. The two headed back out towards Woodside and Alpine where they had shared previous rides. Having grown stronger, this time, Tom dropped his dad. Besting his father, whom he looked up to as somewhat of a god with regards to his cycling abilities, was the undeniable catalyst which launched Tom into competitive cycling.