Bicycle, bikes, Cyclocross

New bike day…

I’m giddy for tomorrows MFG Cyclocross race.  I’ll be racing on a new CX bike.  You may remember the SSCXWC as it was in Seattle last year?  Well I’ll be on one of the frame sets which are now no longer available- you snooze you lose…  Anyhow- it sat in the basement for 6 months waiting to be built- me wondering a little if it would ever happen.  Through the support of Gates Carbon Drive and one of our Soft Like Kitten sponsors- Recycled Cycles as well as the master mechanic-ing of Mr. Blaise Curry, I’ll be rolling up to the start on a bike that is by far the nicest I’ve owned to date.  It weighs in at 16lbs and change and is built super solid for a Clydesdale such as myself.  If I wanted to knock off a little more weight- it would be in the wheelset- but carbon wheels are a big expense.  One that I don’t have in the budget at this time.  These wheels are still lighter that my old Surly 1×1/Velocity A23 combo with clinchers.  This will be my first real go with the Gates Carbon Drive which I’ve been raving about purely on the theory of it.  I hope that it performs well in our (typically) muddy conditions here in the Northwest- and I’ll be reporting back with thoughts on it’s performance in different conditions.  You may notice that as with the Traitor that I’ve been riding- the steerer is uncut.  I’m looking for some guidance on bike fit for cyclocross (any shops I should talk to?)- and am leary to cut the steerer at the moment.  I want to be sure that it’s right.  If you can forgive that, then enjoy the photos.

I went with V-brakes in order to both reduce the possibility of brake shudder as well as getting solid braking power.  They are mini-v’s so they don’t require the long pull that v-brakes normally do.  We’ll see how they do with mud clearance.  Coupled with v-brake specific drop bar levers- they feel solid (at least dry).  The cranks were a trade out- because the FSA Gossamers that I ordered- I ordered with an incorrect BCD.  So Blaise took care of me with some stuff he had around.  Dura-Ace is what is on now.  Boo-yah.  The Chris King hubs will be my first- and I’m looking forward to seeing what all the hullaballo is about.  They are brown- because they will be muddy soon enough.  I like the Major Tom rims- built wider and as a cross specific rim from Velocity.  I’ve been running their clincher version- the A23 on the Traitor.  The Challenge Grifo tires are pretty popular in the NW and the rear tire is switched around the other way for more traction in muddy conditions.

I’m not typically a weight-weenie as it were; mainly because when a fella weighs over 220lbs and starts getting carbon levers to shave 15 grams here and there, they have too much money.  Like Donna Summer, I work hard for my money- and my goal with this build was a balance of weight, strength and cost.  If only allowed 2 of the 3- I chose my usual cocktail composed of strength and value.

The bike gets lots of comments and though I’m not one that typically likes the flashy side of things- I’m hoping I can get a shirt for the bike that says “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

This was the original idea for the bike.  It came out pretty spot on huh?

Build details:

  • frame: 2010 Raleigh carbon SSCXWC frame with ENVE carbon fork and integrated FSA headset
  • wheels: 32H Chris King classic road hubs laced to Velocity Major Tom rims
  • tires: Challenge Grifo 32’s
  • handlebars: Salsa cowbells 44cm wide
  • tape:  Fizik glossy black
  • levers:  Cane Creek Drop bar V levers
  • brakes:  TRP CX-9 mini V brakes
  • stem:  PRO
  • saddle:  Fizik Arione
  • seatpost: FSA carbon SL-K (soft like kitten?)
  • cranks: Dura Ace
  • drivetrain: Gates Centertrack CDX belt drive 55T chainring 24T cog
  • pedals: Crank Brothers egg beaters

You can see a few more photos over on the Flickr.

Once again- a big ol’ wet sloppy kiss to Blaise for helping me out.  To Raleigh as a sponsor of SSCXWC without which I wouldn’t have the bike to begin with, to Recycled Cycles for being a rad sponsor of an amazing team, and of course to Gates Carbon Drive for doing what they do.  As a parting shot- here is Blaise doing what he does and one of the reasons that he’s so bad ass.  Your cheater bar is weak sauce.  His is a gun.  A fucking gun.

(not sure who took this photo- I’ve had it on the computer forever and this feels like a proper time to use it)


*Update 10/30/11

Yesterday was a great course for me out at Magnuson Park.  MFG rarely (ok, never) dissapoints.  As I was in the line waiting to start- I got a few comments on my bike to which I replied:

“Well I was going to go on a diet- but said fuck it and just got a bike that is 5lbs lighter”

Which would be funny if I was joking.  But I’m not. 5lbs is a lot for a bicycle.

I was really excited to race this bike as I said before- and it really didn’t matter to me that I’m not in tip top shape.  When I picked it up from the shop- actually picked it up- I was blown away.  So light!  Plastic bikes are AWESOME.  Everything was so fresh and so clean- a real race machine.  For how light it felt- it didn’t feel fragile.  It felt stout- meant to be ridden hard.  I was impressed straight out of the gate.  I was however, a little concerned about the belt feeling so loose.  Other belt drives I’ve seen had the belts so tight they sounded like a bass string.  We checked the belt tension with the Gates belt tension checker and it was in the green- which one would assume would be “Go.”  I also didn’t have a tensioner on it, so I was a little concerned about slippage.  I purchased a Surly tugg-nut and though I should have installed it there, didn’t.  When getting to the race early Saturday morning- I was still nervous about the belt tension- so after riding the course with no issues I decided to keep riding up a steeper hill next to the course- really trying to throw the belt or to get it to jump.  On the second or third sprint up the hill the belt popped off.  This obviously didn’t build my confidence in the tension meter.  There is a chance that we were using it incorrectly of course, but I don’t think so.  At that point I had to figure out how to fix it.  I took the Tuggnut off of the Traitor- which I brought for somebody to borrow with no takers :(.  Without a tension meter on hand (and not having a lot of faith in them anyway) I just tightened the belt to what seemed like a fair amount of tension.  I did a few more hill climbs with no issues and decided that it would have to be good enough.

It was.

The bike felt great on course.  Fast and responsive- the brakes did their job very well with no squeal and the belt didn’t ratchet or get gummed up by any mud at all.  The drivetrain ended up being one of the cleanest parts of the bike as the race finished up.  Picking the bike up over barriers and the stair section was incredible.  Like it wasn’t even there.  Loving the TRP CX-9 V-brakes, the Challenger Grifos are solid with good traction in the mud, the Salsa Cowbell bars are sweet, the angry bees in my hubs made me smile, the belt was quiet and felt very effective, and the Fizik saddle was comfortable.

My first race on this bike and I’m super pumped.  So do you need a carbon bike?  No- you don’t.  I still love my Traitor Crusade frame.  If I had more money to put into the Traitor build it would have been much lighter.  I’ve seen other Traitors that are very comparable to this Raleigh.  I don’t think I’m really at the point where I can speak about how one material is more “real” than the next- because there are a lot of different elements in this equation.  I’m running tubulars for the first time.  The cockpit is set up different than the Traitor.  If I were to have the same build on different bikes and be able to ride them side by side I may be able to give you an accurate comparison.  But bikes are bikes- they are different.  That is one of the reasons that we sometimes have a growing collection of bikes- making excuses why we can’t get rid of one.  I will say that I felt like I rode more aggressively with the Raleigh (though my standings may not have shown it) and that it felt more stable beneath me)  Will the bike last as long?  Time will tell.  Carbon bikes are very strong.  They are far more likely to break from something stupid like forgetting it’s on your roof rack or locking it to a pole and it getting messed up than it is to fail while racing.  Carbon bikes and components are getting more and more engineering with every iteration- and though light-they are not dangerous to use if used as intended.    Companies making carbon bikes and components know that liability is an issue.  They don’t want the failure of carbon to cause a lawsuit.  When carbon fails- it is typically a catastrophic failure- similar to attempts at “sexy clown costumes” and John McCain’s presidential campaign.

I hope to keep the Traitor around for more use.  It’s a beautiful bike. I still put it out there that if you are wanting to try single speed cyclocross and ride a 56cm- lemme know.  I’ll bring it out to a race.  But be careful- you might just fall in love.

So that’s a raceday recap for you. Hope you enjoy.  Cross season in Seattle is damn too close to being over.  It’ll be time to head north to Bellingham for Cascade Cross- which goes into January.  Good thing we’ve got the camper now.

And the shower show.  Yeah.  We have a shower.  On our truck.

See more pics from MFG Race #5 at the Flickr.


One Comments

  • FLX

    November 12, 2011

    steel is real, titanium is forever but carbon is better. i like it

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