A while back I mentioned and talked a bit about how cyclocross season was coming. Well, now it is here and in full swing all across the country. The cow bells are ringing and the vuvuzelas are honking. The frost and mud is being kicked up and we're all getting dirty.
I decided to jump in feet first and give it a go. Problem was, I didn't have a cyclocross bike. I have my road, triathlon and mountain bikes, but nothing sport specific for cyclocross.
What makes a cyclocross bike? Well, it's somewhat of a hybridization of a road bike and a mountain bike, but more of like a 70/30 split between the former and the latter. The look exactly like a road bike on the face, but a few minor tweaks make them much more usable on rugged terrain.
One of the biggest things you will notice first off is the amount of tire clearance. Depending on your braking style of choice (disc or cantilever, more later) you can choose from a wide assortment of tread patters and tire widths. Comparing these brakes to a road bike, the caliper style rim brake provides minimal clearance but gives a different braking feel and more aerodynamic setup. Aerydynamics aren't the end-all in cyclocross, so cantilever brakes are more than acceptable.
When it came to building up my bike, I decided to go the disc brake route. First off, I was looking for a complete build. But with the sport being so hot, and Trek carrying a very resonably priced line of offerings, the bikes I was looking for weren't to be found. Carbon sounded great, The Boone, but it was out of my price range. For the aluminum version, the Trek Crockett, I couldn't find the 9 anywhere in my size. The 7 was out of the question with it's mediocre SRAM Rival build, and the Crockett 5 was kind of sort of. I was going to be ok with the Shimano 105, but I liked the idea of Ultegra much better. And trying to get another wheel set and upgrade a few other components, the cheaper option was to build from the frame up.
Above you can see the amazing colorway of the frameset I was stuck with. This is the cantilever version, but I opted for the disc version. Disc bikes, in general are a bit heavier, but I was looking beyond the weight when building so I could use this bike in inclimate weather and for gravel riding without worrying about my braking surface being compromised being so close to the ground.
For the build I decided to go with everything Shimano Ultegra on the drive train. For the wheels I went big with the Bontrager Affinity Pro wheels. They are lightweight, stiff and have reinforced spoke nodes on the rim, something a bigger guy like me likes to hear.
Overall, the build of the bike is one of the best setups I could imagine. I contemplated going with a SRAM drivetrain, something like Force CX1, their 1x11 drivetrain, but I just wan't sure about doing that right off the bat. Now having ridden more, I can definitely see a 1x11 as a great option for the sport. The other feature I could see being beneficial here is Di2 from Shimano. Whether it's Ultegra or Dura Ace, the electronic shifting would be nice as cables get banged and dirty, even though there are no exposed cables on the bike, having a lever swing can be a little troublesome.
I'll tell you more about my bike as I go into my first couple races in the next posts.