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Ridgeback was founded in London by South African Errol Drew in 1983 who, after spotting his first mountain bike in New York in 1982, stated: “This is the future of cycling”. Prior to this Drew owned London's Beta Bike Shop and the Madison Distribution Company which published the Freewheel Catalogue. Ridgeback was created in 1983 to bring mountain bikes produced in Japan1) into the UK. 2) Today Drew runs Delta Cycles, a bike parts distribution company in Massachusetts.
Ridgeback was the first mass produced mountain bike sold in the UK, predating the S&G Muddy Fox. Their claim that they are Europe's first mass produced mountain bike may only be correct in that earlier European mountain bikes didn't sell as well: Schauff, Centurion, Bianchi or Puch. Raleigh produced mountain bikes starting in 1982, but sold them only in the US 3).
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The picture of their first mountain bike to the right, supplied by Ridgeback, appears to match their 1984 Ridgeback XT catalog.
1983 Ridgeback XT ridgeback
1984 Ridgeback XT
XT to advertise Shimano's deer head gracing the Ridgeback's derailleurs. The next model down was the STD, shown below. STD should already have been marketing anathema by 1983, but perhaps in this early pre-AIDS awareness age, “std” simply meant “standard”, which Ridgeback thought was a solid, dependable image to attract people dissuaded by mountain biking's unconventional hippy reputation.
1984 Ridgeback STD retrobike
1984 Ridgeback XT retrobike
1985 Ridgeback 501/531
Presumably Shimano told Ridgeback to cease and desist appropriating their XT brand reputation. In 1985, after discovering that STD wasn't the best association, they tried transferring some of Reynolds credibility into their lineup with the introduction of the 501 and 531 model numbers, using Reynolds 501 & 531 tubing. Funny, none of their bikes from this time bore the Reynolds decals. Ridgeback dropped Reynolds 4) a couple of years later. 5)
1985 Ridgeback 531 retrobike
1986 Ridgeback S
Budget, half-price version of standard Ridgeback.
DNP Climber derailleur. Impossible to date.
1986 Ridgeback S retrobike
1987 Ridgeback 531
1987 Freewheel Catalog shot. £389.50 in 1987 == £940 in 2022, or $1174 in today dollars. Not cheap. However, they saved money by using out of date parts. Full Shimano Deore 700, which was three years out of production by this point and already superseded by two groupset iterations.
1987 Ridgeback 531 retrobike
1989 Ridgeback 601 SIS
Low end Shimano Exage Country derailleurs.
1989 Ridgeback 601 SIS deadrats
1990 Ridgeback 703DX
1990 Catalog shot. Full Shimano Deore DX groupset. Tange Prestige tubing.
1990 Ridgeback 703DX retrobike
1991 Ridgeback 700LX
Exage 400LX and 300LX front and rear derailleurs.
1991 Ridgeback 700LX shpok
1992 Ridgeback 707RS
1992 Catalog shot. Al frame, full XTR, unknown PowerFork RS3 shocks 6) 26.5 pounds. £1595 ($3700 in 2022 dollars)
1992 Ridgeback 707RS retrobike