Category Archives: ultracross

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 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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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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DIESEL FUEL RECIPE: Car Brewed Tea

Everyone has likely heard of sun tea, if not sampled the drink. The idea is to put a few tea bags out on a hot sunny day to brew. How many have heard of car tea? Likely none because I think I just invented it today.

Brewing your iced tea in a car can make sense in many circumstances. For example, if one lives in a city and doesn’t have private space, or if one lives in a colder clime and wishes to take advantage of the warming greenhouse effect of car windows.

What does this have to do with endurance sports? I propose iced tea is a wonderful drink to take with you on a ride or run for the following unscientific reasons:

  • it’s mostly water and will hydrate you
  • add honey for simple carbs and quick energy
  • the caffeine can give you energy (and is known to decrease perceived exertion)
  • antioxidants in many teas can help reduce free radicals from training and sun exposure
  • it doesn’t leave that crappy taste in your mouth like some sports drinks (especially if you add something extra refreshing like mint
  • much cheaper than sports drinks
  • So what do you need to make some car tea?

  • glass container that seals (try TJ Max where I got mine for
    $5)
  • water
  • a few tea bags (I prefer green tea)
  • raw local honey, or other sweetener
  • Simply add the tea bags to the water jug and sit in your car for a few hours. You can adjust the temperature by placement of the jug, or rolling down windows. After it’s sufficiently brewed, remove tea bags, stir in honey, and serve over ice cubes in your water bottle.

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    DIESEL FUEL RECIPE: Baked Oatmeal

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    Lance, if you are reading this, you can stop now. Baked oatmeal is not some code word used to describe a pharmaceutical concoction that is injected intravenously. Rather, it is a delicious recipe that can be used as a pre-workout meal, post-workout meal, or delicious snack or dessert. Like shrimp and grits, the baked oatmeal is greater than the sum of it’s parts, and also has a surprising and unique texture. Ground zero for baked oatmeal is the Lancaster, PA area as it’s a popular Pennsylvania Dutch recipe.

    Nutritionally, baked oatmeal offers a good mix of complex carbs, simple carbs, and some protein. By adding fruits and nuts to the mix, you can add additional vitamins, antioxidants, healthy fats, etc. For the base recipe, you can also substitute apple sauce for butter, cut down on the brown sugar, or substitute xylitol or splenda. Below is the basic recipe followed by some ideas for variations.

    Recipe

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    3 cups instant oats
    1/2 cup melted butter
    1 cup milk
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 cup brown sugar
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon salt
    1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
    Splash of vanilla extract

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    Combine all dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine all other ingredients (don’t forget to take the eggs out of their shell!). After wet and dry ingredients are combined separately, combine all the ingredients together. Place in a greased vessel, approximately 9×9 in a preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until it looks done. Your guess is as good as mine.

    Once baked, serve warm in a bowl, with some milk poured over (see picture below). Once eating is commenced, the cake-like structure will fall apart like a Schleck brothers’ season and will become a delicious porridge. The leftovers can be eaten for days, just remember to warm up the cake, before you pour on the milk.

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    Variations

      Cherry Garcia Baked Oatmeal: add cherries and dark chocolate chips. If you just ran a half marathon or greater, you have earned a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
      Mother-in-Law Baked Oatmeal: add chopped walnuts and sliced almonds for some excellent Omega 6 fatty acids and a truly nutty experience
      Orchard Baked Oatmeal: Add diced apples, pears, and peaches and you will almost be able to smell the Spring blossoms and pesticides on the trees
      Obama Baked Oatmeal: add nothing because you can’t afford it with higher taxes. In fact, with this variation, you must give half of the recipe output to the guy who was too lazy to make his own.

    Lance, I was just kidding. Call me, we will go for a ride.

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    Excerpt from “peloton”

    “The moment of clarity through the ice cold, crystal clear feel of pain reveals something I’ve been thinking about a lot this year. I’m addicted to riding my bike. I’m a junkie. I need the pain in my legs, the feeling of exhaustion that slowly wells up from your muscles proper and seeps into your bone marrow, and eventually, it floods, and your legs and your body cry, but it’s not a cry of sorrow, it’s the happy release of struggle and hard work and knowing that you’re making your body do things it doesn’t want to do, things it probably shouldn’t do, but exactly what you want it to do.”

    ~Jered Gruber, March 2013 peloton

    peloton is an awesome magazine. The photography and writing is way more Rapha than Nashbar. It’s sister magazine, Switchback, covers the mountain bike side of the sport and is also highly recommended.

    “peloton” magazine

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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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