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  1. #1
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    Cyclocross Vs Mtn Bike

    Hey guys, I'm new to to the cycling world and I'm trying to figure out whether I should get a cyclocross or a mtn bike. I'll be riding daily, probably in the evenings after work around town which wouldn't require a mountain bike but I'd like to hit some trails on the weekends or join a cycling club that rides trails (probably once a week). After going around to the bike shops I decided that - I love the lighter, faster feel of the cyclocrosses, Im a girl with a thin/athletic build so I felt much more in control and fluid on the cyclocrosses, -Shocks on the mountain bikes made rough terrain SO much better, but again they're kind of bulky.

    So basically I was hoping if you guys could tell me how well cyclocrosses handle on rough terrain. I definitely liked them better for street riding (obviously) but I can't afford two bikes and I don't want to buy a bike I can't take on too many trails. Im in good shape but since Im a newbie I wont be tackling anything too crazy. Will riding a cyclocross be too rough if I'm out there for 2 or more hours? Or are there some lighter versions of mountain bikes? Do you guys reccomend any specific models? I'd appreciate the help, since some of your posts are pretty much a foreign language to me I know I sound pretty novice but I'd really like some input. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Get the stick. darkmother's Avatar
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    I think it depends on what kind of trails you plan on riding, and what your goals are. I find that it is possible ride almost everything I ride on my MTB with my cross bike, but it is way easier on the MTB. Really steep rooted downhills are not exactly ideal for a cross bike but most I encounter can be ridden cautiously. Can you test ride one of the cross bikes off road on the trails you plan to ride to see what you are getting yourself into?

    I ride with a local moutain bike club ride on my cross maybe once a month, just to mix it up a little. I find that I am way faster than the MTB guys going up hills, way slower going down, and more or less equal on the flats, although I have to be more careful about the line I pick. I suppose the bike beats me up a little more, but it has never bothered me much even on longer rides. At times, the strengths and weaknesses of each bicycle type are at odds with one another-you will find the MTB guys are holding you up on the climbs where you want to conserve your momentum and spin your way up, and they will be breathing down your neck on the downhills as the stutter bumps torture you in new and unusual ways.

    If it were my choice-like if I had to choose only one bike for everything, the CX bike would be it, hands down. Absolutely no question about it. Riding a mountain bike, even with slick tires on the road is not my idea of a good time.

    One final thing-I do think riding a cross bike off road will make you a better technical rider. If you do decide to get a MTB down the road, your experience on the CX will not be wasted.

  3. #3
    Portland, OR i_r_beej's Avatar
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    Hello,

    Are you in the PDX area? I ride my mountain bike up in Forest Park every other weekend or so (unfortunately i've morphed into something of a roadie in the past few years) and lately i've been taking my CX bike and riding the same trails i've been riding my MTB on. Yahoo!

    I'd say go with the CX bike. If you put some skinny road tires on it-- presto! A decent road machine. Some knobbies? Ride whatever you dare!

    One thing that i've noticed about riding my CX bike: It's very "retro" and reminds me greatly of my early experiences riding off-road. No suspension and the philosophy "If you ain't hinking, you ain't mountain biking" ruled. Now it seems that the technological development of mountain bikes and the mindset of their riders is to "ride everything". Suspension, fat fat fat knobby tires, and low gearing go a long way towards this.

    I've had to dismount and run up obstacles, run down super steep and technical descents; dismount and "suitcase" the bike over potholes and drainage trenches.

    This return to the "roots" of mountain biking is super fun-- riding my CX bike off-road has revealed a little of the lost joy of cycling for me.

    I have a couple of recommendations for you, as you purchase your CX bike:

    Buy good brake pads right away. Kool-Stop's dual compound "Mountain Pads" made a world of difference in the braking performance of my bike. The pads are black in front and "salmon" colored in the back.

    I found the traditional road-style drop bar (even the ones, such as Bontrager's Race CX bar, or Richey's Bio-Max that are supposed to be designed for CX) are pretty terrible for serious off-road control and comfort. Get On-One's "Midge" handlebar. This is a TERRIFIC handlebar-- so comfortable and very secure feeling. It's style is sometimes referred to as a "dirt-drop" style.

    www.on-one.co.uk

    They have a US distributor and thus their bars can be found on many on-line resellers.

    www.webcyclery.com

    I picked mine up at Veloshop in downtown PDX.

    Enjoy!

  4. #4
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    Hery, thanks for the info, it's nice to have some firsthand expriences instead of the speculations (which of course are completely opposing in opnion) of every bike shop worker in town. I'm actually over in Bend, but my brother lives in Portland and he uses his bike excusively for trasportation... alright, so maybe he uses the MAX once in awhile. But Im down there at least once a week.

    So what kind of Xc's do you guys ride? What might you reccomend for a beginner? Im willing to spend about 1k... but Im not scared to spend less either, ha. I know this kind of defeats the point of the whole cyclocross experience but does anyone ever put shocks on their XC bikes? Or is that just an utterly ridiculous question? Thanks again for the input.

  5. #5
    Portland, OR i_r_beej's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OregonGurl
    what kind of Xc's do you guys ride? What might you reccomend for a beginner? Im willing to spend about 1k... but Im not scared to spend less either, ha. I know this kind of defeats the point of the whole cyclocross experience but does anyone ever put shocks on their XC bikes? Or is that just an utterly ridiculous question? Thanks again for the input.
    After a few months of research i bought LeMond's Poprad. It seems that most 'cross bikes start at $900 and go up to $1300. The Poprad cost me $1199. I had initally considered a Redline Conquest but the fact that the bike is made in China and STILL costs $1050 really bugged me. I felt that if i was going to spend over $1000 i wanted a US made bike. The Poprad is made in the US and so is the True Temper tube-set used to manufacture the frame.

    That said i was all set to buy the Surly Cross-Check Complete (complete as in this is the only bike that they sell as a complete bike-- everything else is frame only. The local bike shop can build it up or just sell it as a frame).

    (WARNING: Guy in short-shorts and half-shirt ahead!!)
    http://www.surlybikes.com/bikes.html


    Surly, as a company, has such a great vibe and are highly responsive. I had a rather lengthy e-mail correspondence with Andy Corson--nice guy, very helpful-- and almost bought a Surly just because they seemed so damn nice!! I had originally thought that Surly was a Portland company because of their vibe but they're based in Minneapolis, Minnesota! Ha!

    Anyway, they really seem to care about bikes and bike culture (whatever that might mean to you-- these guys aren't "lycra lizards") and apparently care about who actually makes their bikes. So Andy told me that they have their frames made in Taiwan-- "free China" as he put it-- where the "working conditins and wages are better".

    The Surly Cross-Check is well thought out and designed. One design feature-- oh they design all their own stuff, they don't just re-brand OEM stuff from the Taiwan manufacturers-- that i thought was brilliant was their "gnot-rite" rear dropout spacing. It's inbetween road and MTB spacing and since steel is flexible compared to aluminum you can wedge in a MTB hub or squeeze in a narrower road hub. Brilliant! They tout the Cross-Check as a do-all, be-all bike. And it really can.

    I talked to a couple of bike shop employees around town and everyone spoke favorably of the Surly.

    I found a couple around PDX going for between $850-$900. The "Cross-Check Complete" is spec'd with Shimano Tiagra stuff.

    So if i'm going on and on about the Cross-Check, why did i buy the Poprad? I guess because i'm a snob or something. Actually i found more that i liked on the Poprad in terms of frame, materials, components, and country of origin. Plus i wanted a bike for 'cross. Not as a commuter, townie-bike, trainer, whatever. Cyclocross.

    So... if you wanted to get one bike i'd recommend the Surly. Very flexible. Durable. No-nonsense. Available only in black and dark green (not as attractive to theives).

    Try to get a bike with a steel frame. Steel does ride a bit more smoothly than aluminum. When i take my Cannondale R400 (aluminum frame) out on the road, i definitely feel more of the road than i do with the Poprad on the same tires.

    Oh. About the suspension fork. Forget it. It just adds complexity to your bike. It DOES kind of defeat the purpose and intent and spirit of a cyclocross bike, but, IMHO it's the added complexity (meaning stuff that can break down and cost a lot to fix) is just not worth it. And on a road bike it won't really make much difference. And off-road it won't make enough.

    Hope this helps rather than confuses!

  6. #6
    Geezer Member Grampy™'s Avatar
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    Another vote for the Surley. Great Bike, and will allow you to ride some really big knobbies for your off road aspirations.... put on some 23's (skinny tires) and it will be as fast as you can make it go... One of my ridin' Bud's got one and loves it. Nice ridin' bike.

    The Poprod isn't all that bad either.... Be very finicky on bike fit which ever way you go.
    Carpe who?

  7. #7
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    Another cyclocross type bike to check out is the Bianchi Volpe. Very similar to the Crosscheck. The main difference is that you can fit some ridiculously wide tires on the Crosscheck, while on the Volpe you can get up to maybe 35mm - 38mm wide - which should be plenty wide for most applications. The stock Volpe comes with better gearing for all-around riding than a stock Crosscheck complete, which has more race-oriented gearing.

    Do some searches on the touring and commuting lists, too - since your use will have some overlap.

  8. #8
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    For $1000, you can get an entry level road and mt. bike. If you are really on either singletrack or on pavement, you might be happier w/ 2 cheap bikes than one nice one that is designed for something else.
    Another option is to get two wheelsets. W/ the surly, you could probably get a lot of cushion out of some nice fat tires for singletrack. Yet another option is one of the many cyclocross style bikes w/ flat bars, which would at least let you get way back behind the saddle on steep downhills. Only you can know the best solution.
    If you are riding cyclocross on trails, though, I would insist on having the extra brakes on the top bar.

  9. #9
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    Another Newbie

    Hey guys,

    I just read Oregongirl's thread and all of your comments. Very helpfull. Like her, I am really interested in getting into cyclocross. I have been riding road for about a little more than a year and really like it. I am interested in cyclocross because the sport seems like a lot of fun combining road, MTN, and running. I really like hitting the roads etc. but variety is also the spice of life.

    I have been researching bikes for a while. Budget is really crucial. I am looking for an "intro" bike I can ride for a while and also use to commute into DC during nastier weather. My road bike is great but I am not really looking forward to commuting in winter on it.

    I did find Motobecane Fantom Crosses at bikesdirect.com for just under $700. Are they worth it? Am I better off saving a little longer and going for a LeMond or Kona Jake?

    Also, does anyone know of groups or courses to for cyclocross in the DC area? I am having a hard time finding information.

    Thanks in advance.

  10. #10
    Luggite bsyptak's Avatar
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    Don't know if you're in a Craigslist crazy locale like I am, but CX bikes come up pretty frequently here. I waited patiently for about a month or 2 and scored a Waterford X-11 dressed in full Dura Ace for less than you're about to spend on a new bike. A definite option if you can wait.

  11. #11
    Senior Member bidaci's Avatar
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    Before I reply to anything I should de-qualify myself as I have never ridden a CX bike. That being said I think that whatever you purchase will be somewhat of a compromise between road and trails so you should decide what is your primary purpose of the bike. If you primarily want to club ride on the road a CX would seem a better choice. If the trail rides are more important you could try a rigid MTB. I recently converted an old MTB to a rigid for a commuter and then decided to throw on some knobbies and try it on the trails. I am very pleased in how the bike rides to the trails and am even more suprised by how it handles offroad. This is how I ended up in this forum as I am intrigued by riding rigid offroad yet I primarily ride road. Space limitations (read too many bikes) currently keep me from getting a true CX bike.

    So I guess the real question is what to you put a priority on Road or Trails?
    Last edited by bidaci; 07-10-06 at 08:15 AM.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bidaci
    Before I reply to anything I should de-qualify myself as I have never ridden a CX bike. That being said I think that whatever you purchase will be somewhat of a compromise between road and trails so you should decide what is your primary purpose of the bike. If you primarily want to club ride on the road a CX would seem a better choice. If the trail rides are more important you could try a rigid MTB. I recently converted an old MTB to a rigid for a commuter and then decided to throw on some knobbies and try it on the trails. I am very pleased in how the bike rides to the trails and am even more suprised by how it handles offroad. This is how I ended up in this forum as I am intrigued by riding rigid offroad yet I primarily ride road. Space limitations (read too many bikes) currently keep me from getting a true CX bike.

    So I guess the real question is what to you put a priority on Road or Trails?

    As far as trail riding goes, about ten years ago I did a fair amount of single track. It was a mixed bag for me. I found I enjoyed the rides that were similar to what XCross is now. Since getting into road and hearing about Xcross I thought it might be a good way to combine all of my interests into one sport I can do "during the wet months."

    Realistically most of my riding will be commuting and while my road is fine for that, I think having an Xcross bike will be a little better during the winter.

    Like I said earlier, I am interested in starting off in Xcross. So, while I think LeMond and Kona produce some amazing bikes, I am not sure if $12 - 15,000 is a price I want to pay when starting off. I really would like to find something good for or less than $1,000.

    Any suggestions?

  13. #13
    Just shy of 400W ranger5oh's Avatar
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    I will give you one suggestion for purchasing a bike... don't ride anything out of your price range! Go to your LBS, ride the XC bikes in your proce range and buy the one you like best. Stay away from the ones that are too costly because you will love them and end up spending 2x what you planned .... trust me on this one.
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    60% of the time, it works everytime.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_r_beej
    After a few months of research i bought LeMond's Poprad. It seems that most 'cross bikes start at $900 and go up to $1300. The Poprad cost me $1199. I had initally considered a Redline Conquest but the fact that the bike is made in China and STILL costs $1050 really bugged me. I felt that if i was going to spend over $1000 i wanted a US made bike. The Poprad is made in the US and so is the True Temper tube-set used to manufacture the frame.

    That said i was all set to buy the Surly Cross-Check Complete (complete as in this is the only bike that they sell as a complete bike-- everything else is frame only. The local bike shop can build it up or just sell it as a frame).

    ...(snip)
    I was thinking of getting the redline conquest frameset and building up my own bike. Do you know the weight of your Poprad compared to the Conquest and other features that are in favor of the Poprad?

  15. #15
    Portland, OR i_r_beej's Avatar
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    MuShu:

    I don't know the exact weight of my Poprad. Dirt Rag ran a review of the 2006 Poprad and indicated that the weight of the 55cm model tested weighed in at 21.6lb. (without pedals).

    I've got a 49cm model with eggbeater sl's and On-One's Midge h-bars. So it's probably 21-22lbs.

    I can't compare it to the Conquest. Your best bet would be to have your local bike shop weigh a built-up model. That'll give you a good idea what to expect if you build similarly.

    I could only recommend a Conquest if you got a good discount on the frameset and already had a bunch of components to transplant. Otherwise you might actually wind up paying more than a factory-built Conquest and i really don't consider the Conquest to be worth it. If you want to go the DIY route i'll have to recommend the Surly Cross-Check (It's also available as a frameset only). www.surlybikes.com/crosscheck.html The guys at Surly have done a really smart job designing the Cross-Check. Stuff that you won't find on just about any other bike.

    Otherwise, my reasons for buying the Poprad in my original post stand: US-made TrueTemper OX Platinum steel tubeset; US-fabricated frame; steel, in my experience, DOES ride better than aluminum (i have two other aluminum bike-- road and off-road). Furthermore, since i needed/wanted to buy a complete bike i liked the parts spec on the Poprad (Bontrager stuff is A-OK in my book).
    Last edited by i_r_beej; 07-12-06 at 03:43 PM.

  16. #16
    Senior Member IchbinJay's Avatar
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    I do a lot of powerline rides in the Cape Cod and Plymouth area and I've found that a cyclocross bike can only go so far. That being said, I've done the same ride on an SS MTB and have had much better results. Alot of it, however, has to do with tire width. If you do get a CX bike, the best thing to do is have a wheelset for offroad, and a wheelset for road. Just make sure that whatever bike you do get has enough clearance for at least 35 c tires. Ideally, being able to run 45c or 29" tires is awesome, but is also going to beef up your frame.

    P.S. I've also had my @$$ handed to me in road races by a guy on a SS MTB. That's right, he whooped my but for two miles and I was on a 24 speed road bike. The lesson I learned: it all depends on the engine.

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