It’s June and cycling is back in the minds of the masses. Families and couples are taking trips to the park for picnics and casual rides. You see more commuters on the roads as the summer weather makes the ride to work as much of a pleasure as a way to save some money. Bike tourers abound. Mountain, track and road racing are in full swing, and you can even watch pro racing on the television. There are of course those of us that- though we enjoy the sunshine, are looking forward to fall- the rain, mud and cold in combination with the camaraderie and beer drinking that defines northwest cyclocross.
During last year’s cross season, Joe at Traitor Cycles in Bellingham sent me their new offering- THE CRUSADE. I received it in the middle of helping put together the SSCXWC (which was amazing) and mainly because of a lack of time- I was unable to build it. 2010 was my entry into racing cyclocross and though I didn’t get to race the SSCXWC I finished out the season with a few MFG and Seattle Cyclocross races under my belt.
Before my first CX race…
…And after my first CX race.
Traitor cycles is based in Bellingham (Ferndale to be more accurate) and shares a space with their parent company Transition Bicycles. A rider owned company- both Transition and Traitor are born from of a love of bikes and you can see it not only in the design, but in the attitudes of the small number of folks that work there- that and the fact that they have dirt jumps to play on at lunch or when they aren’t making things happen in the warehouse. Designed in the Northwest- the bikes are made overseas by a company that they’ve built a good relationship with. The manufacturer is an ex-pro road racer and Dutch custom frame builder- each employee is trained by the owner, Jan.
When I first saw the photos of the Crusade- I was really impressed. A beautiful bike with nice lines and details in the design that show a good amount of thought went into them. I love the top tube cable routing, rear brake bridge and the modest looking paint scheme. The paint isn’t flashy at all- a straight forward white frame and fork is what I’m riding and the decals look good too. It’s also available in a blue/white color scheme. The Traitor logo is simple and the headbadge (though I was not a fan of it at first) looks good and is metal, as opposed to a sticker or decal. Along with Devin and Charles at Wright Brothers- I couldn’t help but notice the Columbus Life tubing decal on the frame. Nice. Steel is real after all- and Columbus…. Well I’m sure you know of Columbus. Their LIFE tubing is triple butted. High strength and low weight. I’ve been told that it uses a cutting edge process involving the blood of unicorns to increase it’s stiffness- but I haven’t been able to confirm.
For how awesome the bike as a whole looks- upon closer inspection the welds looked decent on the frame but are a little rough on the fork. That, and there was very little fork clearance while running Hutchinson 34c Bulldogs. On muddier courses- I’ve had to stop and scoop out debris that slowed me down to a crawl. Switching over to an ENVE fork is on my list of things to do after I win the lottery. As I’m figuring out more and more and can afford to put better parts on my frame- it will get lighter than the 21lbs that it currently weighs in at.
The frame is setup for cantilever brakes only- with no disc tabs welded on. I imagine that we’ll be seeing more SSCX bikes that are disc brake compatible since the UCI legalized them last year. Disc brakes of course work well- better than V-brakes even, but at least currently- when push comes to shove- they aren’t that popular on cross bikes. Whether it be that they don’t look as classic, or maybe the fact that people don’t want to slow down- traditional cantilever brakes are still king on many cross bikes. That said- Traitor does have a little project going- not sure if it will continue onto the Crusade SS though…
The Cross Crusade is currently available as a frame and fork, and I hope they’ll be offering it as a complete in the future. They do have a build kit available which doesn’t look too shabby- for $959. That will get you a race ready SSCX bike for $1658. The frame and fork alone retails for $699. For those looking for a good looking SSCX bike- especially if you have a soft spot for Columbus- it’s definitely a contender.
In addition to being a solid cross frame, the Cross Crusade would also be well suited to a single speed around town, with braze-ons for fenders. The rear dropouts have a rear facing adjusting screw that I removed in favor of a Surly Tuggnut. The stock adjusting screws work fine- probably better than a Tuggnut even- but I don’t like having to use a small allen key to loosen them. Maybe if they had a wingnut screw I’d like them better? The waterbottle braze-ons aren’t that important for a cross race- but you may appreciate them if ripping around town looking for trouble.
You can find Traitor Bicycles in Seattle at Recycled Cycles, Counterbalance and Second Ascent. They are available in 16 states and through authorized online resellers. You can check out their dealer page HERE. They’ve also got a number of other well thought out bikes including a road bike, a fixed gear trick bike, and a slick little urban commuter.
I’ve got a feeling that my Traitor Cross Crusade will never sit idle for too long. It’s a really fun bike and I’m already looking forward to getting it muddy again.
A bike thanks to Joe and the guys at Traitor for being so awesome. If you find yourself up Bellingham way- you’ll probably see Kevin or Joe around town or on the trails. Say hi- they’re good folks.