Category Archives: Cyclocross

Building a Cyclocross Bike on the Cheap (Part 4): Photo Wrap Up

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Notice the rigged bolt for the hanger

20130905-120746.jpgThe most aggressive 35 mm wide tires I have tried. My local courses tend to feature a lot of long, wet grass. My 30 mm wide tires weren’t cutting it.

20130905-120913.jpgThere isn’t much clearance

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I would say it looks pretty good for $400.

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Building a Cyclocross Bike on the Cheap (Part 3): Completion

After a few nights of wrenching, my Redline cyclocross bike is finally in one piece with no live cable ends dangling, ready to snag you when you walk by the bike in the garage. Amazingly, I
was able to meet my goal of building the bike for under $400. After a week into my project, I thought $500 was a more realistic goal. However, I got more for my “leap of faith” donor frame than anticipated, and the shipping was less also. Please note, my spreadsheet shows >$400, but this does not include the eBay sale of the road brakes that I anticipate will bring me under the 4 bills threshold.

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Build
-Redline Scandium Frame (year, model?)
-Bontrager SSR paired spoke wheels
-Ritchey WCS Alloy seatpost (parts bin)
-Shimano MT55 canti brakes (parts bin)
-Kenda 35 mm Kross Supremes (new)
-Bontrager saddle, stem, and bars
-Sora shifters
-Tiagra rear derailleur
-Shimano non-series front derailleur
-Bontrager triple crank
-Bar top in line levers
-Bontrager handlebar tape (from donor bike to keep price down)

The only real snag was mounting the fork mounted hanger in the front. My aluminum fork had a simply drilled through hole which the mounting hardware did not fit. A quick trip to Lowes, and I had a heavy bolt that just fit (hello, hammer) and was just about the right length. I had to use a bolt between the hanger and fork to clear my headset. A little clunky, but it works.

A full photo gallery will be posted soon, as well as additional thoughts once I have time to run it around my personal 3 acre test track. Still have to tune up the brakes and derailleurs….

Part 2
Part 1

Building a Cyclocross Bike on the Cheap (Part 2): Donor Bike and Brake Choices

Part 2.1: Donor Frame–A Leap of Faith

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I crunched some numbers and confirmed it to be cheaper to buy a complete bike to source my cheap cross bike rather than buying individual pieces. Since I was looking to do this build on the cheap, I was willing to settle for lower end parts. In fact, I would probably feel bad racing Ultegra part in the mud and gunk of a cross course, and would prefer the lack of worry that comes with Sora.

I found a bike on eBay. The complete description: “Good condition”. Nothing else, nada, c’est complete, full stop. This will work to my advantage, as will the 0 rating of the seller. Most people buying the bike care about the size (or even model) of the frame. Most people would also hesitate to purchase from an unrated seller. I don’t care about frame size since I will only be reselling, and I have faith in eBay and my credit card company to protect me in case the listing is a fraud. So the poor listing ability of the inexperienced seller worked to my advantage by decreases the market and allowing me to pick it up for a lowball price.

From the picture, it looks like the bike is a triple, with Sora shifters. Perfect! If I don’t decide to convert to 1x crank, the triple will be great in Ultracross type rides and events. The pedals may even be SPD. If so, ka-Ching! I may swap these wheels onto my wife’s road bike and take her flat grayish color Alex rims as I may go with a silver theme for this bike to go with the white frame. I hope the seat post is the correct size for my frame, but I know the high rise stem will have to go!

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Part 2.2–Brakes?

The frame nor fork have disc tabs. The “standard” would be to go with cantis and a headset mounted hanger. However, I had that setup on my Bianchi tourer turned ‘cross bike and I wasn’t impressed. In fact, the fork shudder was a complete turn-off. I went with a Tektro 926 mini-v and was pleased. So I looked at the price of a mini-v and adjustable noodle. Came in around $20. Not bad, but I have a cantilever set in my parts bin. Why not try a fork mounted hanger? In a Velonews post a few years ago, Leonard Zinn admitted to running a fork mounted hanger on his cross bikes with success. I think it was the challenge of using the fork mounted hanger that really pushed me in that direction.

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Total current cost: $547.53

Over budget: $147.53

Part 1

Update: I emailed LBS to see if they had a fork mounted hangar in stock. After publishing this post, I received a reply that they didn’t have any in stock. Understandable. I was surprised however that they said none of their distributers had this part listed. I am not sure if fork mounted hangers are that rare, if the LBS just over looked the part in their book, or if the part doesn’t work so no one wanted one. I hope it’s not the latter.

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Building a Cyclocross Bike on the Cheap (Part 1)

I gave into my obsession. Again. I was happy with my bike quiver, and had no intention of re-expanding it. A few circumstances conspired to cause me to make another purchase.

1. I got some birthday cash. I asked for cash as I was looking at buying an old truck for sale that I pass everyday, or another .22 rifle to screw around with. I talked myself out of the truck, as it is hard to justify owning one, and I really don’t shoot much anymore. The moral is, I had “me” money in my pocket.
2. My around the house project list has shrunken dramatically the last few weeks.
3. I decided the focus of the second half of the year for me will be the Central Pennsylvania Cyclocross Series.
4. There was a Redline frame on eBay that I have been watching. And the price kept dropping, and dropping, and dropping.

In the past we have all made excuses as to why we need another bike. I have seen a joke where the optimal number of bikes to own is n + 1, where n is the current number of bikes owned. In this case, I will be the first to admit that I don’t need another bike, nor do
I really have room for it. I am making the purchase for the pure joy of searching for cheap parts and building the bike. You can say I am looking forward to the journey, not necessarily the destination.

To be fair, this does fill a gap in my current bike lineup. I currently have 2 “crossable” bikes. One is a heavy steel frame tourer, the other more of a disc bake commuter that fits large tires. Although both can be used for racing,
neither are ideal.

I shelled out $210 for the frame and shipping. My goal is to keep the build under $400. I know this is quite ambitious, but I do have some cantis in the parts bin and cross tires hanging on my wall to use. To keep the build cheap, I am hoping to find an inexpensive used complete road bike to scavenge a drive train and maybe sell the donor frame to recoup some cash. If that plan fails, I haven’t ruled out a 1x drivetrain or even a single speed as a last resort.

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Now for the actual frame. Its listed as a 1998 Redline Scandium frame. I have liked the Redline brand for some reason, maybe it’s their small, yet legit company, or perhaps their lack of presence in the pure road market.

As for the scandium material, I did some quick research and I think it’s not truly 100% scandium, but rather an aluminum alloy with scandium. I haven’t solidified the benefit of scandium, but I think it’s properties work symbiotically with aluminum to strengthen the metal and allow smaller tubes. The smaller tubes help with ride quality by providing a measure of compliance.

Total current cost: $210

Part 2

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Entry Level Monstercross / Gravel Grinder Bike List

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There is much debate about what constitutes a “monstercross” bike. What most can agree on is this is a fun and fast growing segment of the bike world. I thought it would be a fun and helpful exercise to gather a list of such bikes. It’s fun for me because it’s like electronic window shopping.

I work as a Data Governance Analyst for a large worldwide financial services company. In my daily job activities, I see everyday that trying to get everyone to agree on a definition of even elemental items can be like roping the wind, or getting oil from a water spout <edit: with nat gas fracking, the latter actually is possible, so bad analogy>. For the purpose of this post, I am defining my population of bikes as between $1000 and $2000 in cost, can fit large tires, drop bars, and disc brakes. I know disc brakes are entirely not necessary to either to be defined as a monstercross bike, or to function as one; however, this criterion allows me to narrow down the population to a more manageable number. If there is a 3 dimensional continuum of bike genre, these bikes are somewhere where commuter, tourer, cyclocross, and road bikes overlap. Just as a congressman leans left or right, many of these bikes lean towards one genre harder than another.

This is precisely where the beauty of this type of bike lies; they are at home on a B group road ride, or on smooth singletrack. Which bike is right for you? That would depend on where on the multidimensional continuum you lie as a rider.

I am sure there are those who will disagree with my list, or cry about an omission. Please remember, I am not a professional bike journalist who gets to travel expenses paid to product launches or gets faxed press releases!

The table below list the bike manufacturer and model name, frame material, and a link to either brand website, or review. I also included a short and subjective description.

Kona Rove steel new breed of dedicated gravel grinder
Raleigh Tamland steel another new breed of dedicated gravel grinder recently announced
Raleigh Roper steel commuter leaning, but rugged and versatile
Redline Metro Classic steel commuter leaning, but rugged and versatile
Specialized Tricross aluminum or steel similar in scope to Raleigh Roper above
Trek Crossrip aluminum multipurpose and versatile, commuter centric
Salsa Vaya steel follows in lineage of pioneering adventure bike
Surly Disc Tracker steel like the Vaya, follows in long line of adventure type bikes
Giant Anyroad aluminum most road leaning bike on the list, brand new design

Noticeably absent are some good entry level bikes like the Focus Mares AX 2.0 Disc, Felt F65X, etc. I decided to leave them off the table above since they are cyclocross racing centric. However, any of those would also make a great gravel grinding type of bike suitable for races such as R2D2, Iron Cross, etc. so are included below.

Focus Mares 2.0 AX Disc aluminum cyclocross
Felt F65X aluminum cyclocross
Jamis Nova Disc aluminum cyclocross
GTR CX Elite aluminum cyclocross
Kona Jake aluminum cyclocross
Redline Conquest Disc aluminum cyclocross
Airborne Delta aluminum cyclocross

Also absent were the offering from BikesDirect.com. I don’t personally have an issue with this company, but I think buying in this method is different enough to exclude the Motobecanes and Gravitys they offer.

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Iron Cross Bike Race Links

Unfortunately, I will be in California during Iron Cross this year, so
I won’t be partaking in the melange of gravel, singletrack, roads, and run ups this year. However, for those folks who are thinking about racing this event and are looking for more information, I am reposting a list of links I put together last year, along with adding some others. Hopefully you will be motivated by these historical posts to enter the foray that is IC XI.
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Iron Cross Home Page
Iron Cross Bike Reg
What the heck is Ultacross?
Cycling Dirt Video
Dirt Rag 2010 Report
Roger Masse 2011 Repor
Iron City Bikes 2011 Report
Fit Chick 2009 Report
Cycling Dirt 2011 Report
Pez 2005 Report
Liberty Sports 2011 Preview
NYC Velocity 2011 Review
Hill Junkie 2008 Review
Race Ramblings 2010 Report
NE Race Redux 2010 Report
Danielle Musto 2009 Report
Monika’s 2010 Report
Liberty Sports 2011 Results
Guys Racing 2010 ReportTeam Ommegang 2011 Review
Alicia Parr 2006 Review
Rawland Cycles Review

Bike Setup Specific
Hill Junkie Blog – CX or 29er?
Forum thread on gearing
Forum thread on bike setup
Another forum, talks about tires
XXC mag
Bicycle Times example
Soiled Chamois post about bike choice
Iron Cross organization recommendations
My bike from 2012

2012 Iron Cross X Links
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XXC Mag Preview
Iron Cross Website Results and Review
Cycling Dirt Video
A.E. Landes Photography
SSR Race Report
Pflug’s Report
Hans MBM Race Report
Lance Byrd Report
Mike Festa Report
Cyclocross Magazine Report
Chris’s Report
LWC Youtube
Second Hand Spoke Blog
Ryan Dudek Pictures
Tongue in Chic Blog Report

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Singletrack on a ‘Cross Bike

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It can be done.

It should be done.

It does get done.

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Benefits and Installation of Bar Top Levers

Bar top levers, in-line levers, cross levers. Whatever you call them, I like ’em and if you don’t, you can go to hell. If I have been riding my ‘crossers a lot and hop on my roadie, I find myself reaching for brakes on the top of my bars. It’s nice to not have to move your hands to the drops to brake when you aren’t on the hoods or in the drops. This is especially handy when riding more technical trails and you are keeping your weight over the rear tire, but it’s even convenient when you are riding with one hand (such as when you have a sloped driveway, and you are holding an iPhone to start your Strava ride). Drawbacks? A teeny bit of weight, maybe. I have used in lines with discs, cantis and v’s and have never noticed a drop in performance.

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Installation

    Make sure you buy levers with a clamp compatible to your bar diameter. Some come with shims so they can be used with multiple diameters.
    Take off old handlebar tape
    Remove brake cable from caliper. Slightly squeeze brake lever and pull out brake cable. Cable ball end sits in hole in picture.

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    Loosely install lever.
    Cut brake outer where it will enter lever. You can use any heavy wire type cutter.

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    Use an awl or nail to round out the inner lining that is crushed.

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    Install brake outers into in-line lever.

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    Run cable back through the outer and install back into caliper.
    Cap end of cut cable.
    Tighten down levers clamps.
    Adjust brakes.
    Reinstall bar tape.
    Do other side in same way.

There you have it. Takes
30-60 minutes depending upon your skill and experience.

Try bar top levers. You will never go back to riding without them on your cross/gravel bike.

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Converting a Road Bike to Single Speed Cyclocross Bike

No doubt about it. Cyclocross is fun! So is tinkering with bikes using cutting edge hillbilly engineering. Combine the two, and you have a project to convert an old road bike into a single speed ‘crosser!

The cost of this project may range from $50 to around $200, depended upon what you have laying around in your garage. My personal project cost me about $40. I started with a ’70’s Raleigh frame that someone gave to someone, and it kinda got handed down to me. I used old wheels and narrow cyclocross tires I had laying around. My only costs were new handle bar tape, the single cog with spacers, and a new saddle (I wanted a white one for bling). I also purchased a decal as I repainted my frame.

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How my frame started life

First, as a base for your Frankenstein creation, it’s best to get an old frame with the following characteristics.

  • 27″ inch wheels
  • horizontal or semi-horizontal dropouts
  • center pull brakes
  • Drivetrain doesn’t really matter since you will be ripping all of that off (and potentially selling it on eBay to recoup some costs if it’s anything retro grouches will buy).

    A bike designed around 27″ wheels will have more room for ‘cross tires on 700c wheels since 700c wheels are smaller than 27″. This is a way to get the extra clearance needed for a ‘cross bike. If you are lucky, the center pull brakes will be able to be adjusted down enough to work on the 700c rim.
    As shown in the picture, there is plenty of room for muddy 30mm wide ‘cross tires. Semi-horizontal drop outs allow you to easily take up the slack in the chain once installed.

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    Here is an example of stuff to buy in case your garage is empty of parts.

    Frame
    Craigslist frame $75

    Wheels
    Cool looking aero wheels
    You can also get by with used wheels, but these wheels on an old frame would be as cool as this:

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    Cross tires:
    eBay–look for something on the narrow side

    Single speed kit
    From pricepoint.com

    The first recommended step is to strip all parts off the frame. When stripped, clean everything. At this point, you can get out that can of primer grey left over from the ’87 Camero (or any other color you may prefer, even camo) if your frame is rusty, or you want to change the color. It was at this point I realized my stem was stuck (even a torch was useless), and I wouldn’t be able to remove the cranks because the bolt cover was stripped. No biggie. Many of the parts will not be going back on.

    I kept the chrome accents on the fork and rear triangle, but painted the frame stealth flat black and used a gold decal.

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    Next step is to convert the crank to a single ring. Take off the big ring. This may or may not require shorter bolts. You can also try to rig it up using washers to take up the slack caused by the absence of the big chain ring.

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    After that, you can install the single speed conversion kit, using the combination of spacers to get a straight chainline to the crank. You can reuse your chain and take out excess links, after a good greasing of course. Because you obtained a frame with semi-horizontal drop outs, you can simply pull the chain tight and tighten the quick release. If you started with a vertical dropout frame, you would need some sort of chain tensioning device.

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    When installing the components you removed from the frame to clean, remember you no longer need shifters or either derailleur. Most center pull brakes will be able to be adjusted for your 700c wheels.

    (Summer yellow road tire are on the bike in many of these pictures).

    You are basically done with your single speed cyclocross conversion! If you are a city type of folk, you can use this doohicky to fetch groceries or meet your cardigan wearing friends at the coffee shop. If you are a racin’ type of folk, you can use this as a pit bike, or race the beginner or single speed class for fun. If you a a country living folk like myself, you can use your contraption for fetching the mail down your dirt driveway, or riding to the outhouse after Tuesday Wing Night at the Dew Drop Inn.

    Yeeeehawwww!

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    2012 Iron Cross X Ultracross Race

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    It’s been quite awhile since the end of Iron Cross 2012. I didn’t feel like writing about the race after the event because I felt as though my writing skill couldn’t do the experience justice; the uniqueness and beauty of my words and sentences would be no match for the challenge of the terrain and the scenic views earned in the saddle of that October day.

    I won’t give a play by play of my race. Considering I was riding at the backend of the race and was often by myself or with a very small group, I don’t have any stories of strategic break ways, or attacks and chasing them down.

    At the risk of cheapening the value of the Iron Cross experience, I would love to share a few personal memories.

    -Eating at Cafe Bruges in Carlisle the night before. What better meal than frites with homemade ketchup and mayonnaise along with a beer sampler at a Belgian redtaraunt before a ‘cross race!
    -Camping in a tent the night before the race. It’s pretty cool to be sleeping a few hundred yards from the start/finish line. It was also a very cool atmosphere to wake up to a bustling ‘Crossville in the parking lot in the morning.
    -Pre-Walking some of the course in the pitch dark with my mom the night before the race.
    -The doomsday pre-race email threatening rain, ice, and certain hypothermia!
    -Falling at the very very end of the sand beach section of the “prologue” and hearing the sand grind in my derailleur.
    -Super support at the aid stations. It was like a Sonic in the middle if the woods. They took my specific order and delivered it, making sure I save every bit of my energy for pushing the pedals. One volunteer even asked me how many scoops of HEED I wanted in my bottle.
    -The huge orchard on the first road section. It seemed like a drove for miles through orchard which covered the entire hollow. Residents even had apple trees in their yards.
    -Surprise when a volunteer at one of the course turns told me only 7 people were in front of me. I was arguing with him as I ride downhill because I thought it couldn’t be right! I didn’t realize how few racers were doing the half course. The shock turned to motivation for a top 10 after a few minutes of dismissing the possibility of the 50k peleton taking a wrong turn en masse leaving me in the top 10.
    -The run up the powerline. I actually felt bad for the dude that cut the weeds up the trail! I was thinking it would take hours to cut the narrow trail with power equipment where clearly no trail existed before. And it was as loose and rocky as a trip on a Greek cruise ship.
    -Possible delerium about 2/3 of the way through the race. At an aid station, I asked if there was in fact 5-7 miles to go in the race (based on my cycling computer). They told me I was about half way! A few seconds later, I started driving back up the road I came from. They yelled I was going the wrong way, so I turned around and took the wrong crossroad again. Exhausting all possibilities, I finally got on the right route. A few minutes later, I could swear I was stung by a bee (but I don’t think I was). This was the woodsy trail section, so at this point I was nervous I had impaired cognition from the physical and mental effort and was lost on the trail. It was a huge win each time I found another trail marker!
    -Almost wrecking one of the leaders. I was on a singletrack downhill. As soon as I heard the guy, I pulled off the trail. He was flying chasing down the leaders. My wide girth blocked his view, so he didn’t see the giant downed tree in front of me. He barely stopped in time! I can remember the squealing of his cantis and a few profanities (not directed at me, buy rather at his near demise). On a related note, when the guy that won the 100k passed me, he was going so fast, the moto following him had trouble keeping up!
    -Some of the very fast and long downhills were on very loose gravel. Although it was dangerous to go fast, it was even more dangerous to brake or change your line. Some sections deep in the woods were freshly graveled and piles of loose gravel, and deep equipment tracks. Confidence and good balance on the bike really helped in these sections.
    -Wicked Wash was set up in the finish area and cleaned all finisher bikes for free. I didn’t believe the bike they brought back was my bike. It was so clean, I didn’t recognize the deepness of the blue paint.
    -Immediately upon finishing, I was already excited for next year!

    As far as logistics, I think the match up between a ‘cross bike and a mtb is pretty even. Even on the singletrack, I never felt as though I was pushing the ‘cross bike passed it’s limits. If anything, I would think a ‘cross bike may be an advantage because if the lower weight on the carry ups. Of course, you can build a light hardtail, but it’s just as easy to build a lighter ‘cross bike. I think the shape of most mtb front triangles would hinder carrying the bike, as well.

    As far as food and hydration, the aid stations are well stocked with many options and are spaced well. I only carried one bottle, and had no problems between fill ups.

    I don’t think tire choice is as critical as I thought it would be. I raced on 35mm Speedmax tires, but I think my 30mm Hutchinson mud tires, or 35 mm hybrid type tires would have been fine as well.

    Can’t wait to start training for Iron Cross XI in 2013.

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