My first year racing mtb in Wisconsin Off Road Series and having fun and improving greatly...thinking of riding cross this fall. We get great deals from our lbs and I need a cross bike/frame to start commuting and cross dabble...
We can get Trek or Lemond at just above cost...or think I can get the Surly frame for 20% off (and build up my bike (with 20% off parts from the lbs or ebay etc.))
Any opinions...Trek or Lemond I get the whole bike, but Surly I could build up the bike with the exact parts I want, pull parts off my old road bike, etc. Cost is somewhat of an issue. Leaning towards Surly
Regarding Surly...any thoughts about running SS for cross/very short commuting vs. 1x9???
In cross are you on hoods, drops, or top....bar con shifter??
If you are going racing, check with the rule book as to what equipment is allowed. I think that disc brakes are not allowed.
I have a Surly cross-check built up for trails, light touring and all-around usage. It is not raceworthy but I enjoy it. Mine is built up with a 109 triple and STI shifters. If you look at the photos on this site, you will see several different configurations.
dont take this the wrong way, but you are asking some very huge questions that there is not really any "right" answer to. ss cross racing has its advantages and its disadvantages, as does a 1 chainring set up. i would recommend doing some searches on each topic because you will find that an entire universe of answers await you on each and every one of them. as for the new bike, at the most basic level, maybe you want to first consider if you want steel -vs- alum.
For what it's worth, I race with a single 38t chainring and a 12-28, 9 speed cassette with bar-end shifters. This works well for my purposes, though the bar-end shifters are sometimes hard to grab on bumpy courses, and it's really tricky trying to shift when you're out of the saddle. The advantage of them is that they work flawlessy in really crappy conditions, and they don't break when you crash. Eliminating the front derailleur with the single ring setup removes one more mechanical liability. A singlespeed setup would be even more reliable.
As for riding position, I use the hoods for climbing, the drops for sprinting, and the tops for everything else. I use cyclocross levers on the tops. I also reversed my brake controls, so the left brake lever operates the rear brake. This is useful for high-speed dismounts, where you typically dismount on the left side. Reversing the levers allows you to slow the bike without locking up the front wheel while approaching an obstacle.