I was seriously considering a Surly Cross Check. I liked everything about it except the color choices. Then I saw the Motobecane Fantom CXX online at Bikes Direct. http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...fantom_cxx.htm The geometry is identical to the Cross Check (at least in the 56 cm size), it comes in yellow, and itís $400 cheaper (considering that I would have to pay sales tax for the Surly and make component changes). I finally took the plunge and bought the Motobecane a few weeks ago. This is a steel frame cyclocross bike with mostly SRAM Apex components and Tektro cantilever brakes. I wanted a versatile road bike with rack and fender mounts and fairly low gearing, which I plan to use for commuting and recreational road riding. It can also take fairly wide tires (up to 700x42), so I may get a wider set of knobby tires for occasional trail riding.
A lot of cross bikes come with pretty high gearing. I have long-term pain in one knee that flares up if I try to grind away in high gears, so I wanted a bike that would go reasonably low in stock configuration, or could be converted to lower gearing without a lot of part swapping. This one has a double crank with a 34-took small ring on the front and an 11 to 32 cassette on the back, producing a 28.7Ē low gear. I think Iíll be ok with that.
The bike arrived in good shape except for a couple very minor dings that I decided to just not worry about. It was carefully packed and well padded, but apparently gentle treatment by UPS is too much to askÖ.
The thing about Bikes Direct is that you have to do some assembly or pay a bike shop to do it for you. This is what it looked like out of the box:
I have done quite a bit of maintenance on my own bikes over the years, so I felt I could get through it ok. On this particular bike, I needed to: (1) install rear derailleur (cable was already connected), (2) install stem on steerer tube, (3) install handlebars, (4) install brifters, (5) run brake cables, (6) wrap handlebars, (7) true wheels (they tell you up front you will need to do that), and (8) adjust brakes. People say you should check over these bikes pretty carefully to make sure that the pre-assembled parts are right (e.g. bearings are greased, bolts are tight, etc.). This bike checked out pretty well. The hubs were well-greased out of the box, but the bearings were just a little tight. The completed bike looks like this:
I decided I wanted to install a fork-mounted cable stop for the front brake. Iíll post more on that later.
I struggled with the wheels a bit. I wanted to make sure the wheels had consistent spoke tension and the spokes would be properly stress-relieved before putting any significant miles on the bike. I bought a Park Tool spoke tensiometer and a dishing gauge (I already had a truing stand). The front wheel went great. The rear wheel did not, but after some frustration and a cooling-off period, I got it worked out. I had never done this before, so I think the problems were mostly my fault and not the wheelís.
I did the bike assembly a little at a time over a few weeks (just busy, didn't really take that long in terms of hours). I finally got it finished last weekend, and took my first real ride on MLK day. I only rode a little over 11 miles, so my experience with it is still a little limited. I think Iím going to like it a lot. My main basis for comparison is my 2005 Bianchi Volpe, which is similar in some ways to this bike. However, I think the emphasis with the Volpe was more on all-around riding and touring, and this bike feels more tuned for performance. Itís a bit more nimble and feels a little more responsive when pedaling, especially when standing. The ride feels pretty smooth, although I was mostly on well-maintained roads. The brakes are pretty strong. I replaced the Tektro brake pads right away with Kool Stop pads, so I canít comment on the Tektro ones. I donít worry too much about bicycle weight, but I think it weighs about 23 - 24 pounds (using the none too precise ďbathroom scale methodĒ). The saddle seems a little cheap. It was fine for an 11-mile ride, but we'll see how it works out.
Overall, I think I made a good choice. I think the bike will be exactly what I wanted. Bikes Direct shipped quickly, the assembly wasnít a big deal, and the price was great. Iíll definitely give Bikes Direct another look before buying any future bikes.