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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 03-12-11, 05:58 PM   #1
radial1999
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Cyclocross bike over road bike for a recreational rider?

I'm finally pretty close to choosing the right bike but I'm just curious what the cyclocross riders think about a cx bike being better than a road racing bike for me.

There are some pretty rough roads where I live, and I have no intention of ever racing road bikes. For this reason, and the more upright position of a cyclocross bike, I think it makes more sense for me. I also think touring bikes tend to be more upright (like cyclocross) but heavier than cyclocross (and many touring bikes seem to have shifters on the bar-ends which doesn't appeal to me).

For someone who probably won't ever race, and has back issues (nothing serious), is the cyclocross probably the best choice? Are road bikes overkill for someone like me who cares about durability (even if it means an extra lb or 2 in bike weight), knows the roads aren't great in my area, would like to attach a rear rack occasionally (I've found a bike that can do this), and likes the extra brake levers on the top of the bars?

If I never plan to take the bike off-road, should I consider a touring bike more? (I probably would take it off-road if I thought it could handle a smoother/clearer mtn bike trail but I don't think a cyclocross bike would last very long doing that, so I have my hardtail mtn bike for that stuff).

I guess one other question would be - I noticed a lot of good reviews on a ti Motobecane (but they're sold out right now - http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._pro_ti_xi.htm). Would the ride quality be that different between that ti frame and the aluminum of the Fantom Cross Team (http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...ss_team_al.htm) considering both have a carbon fork and are designed for wider tires? Is durability the main advantage in that case? Or would the ti frame significantly improve the ability to dampen vibration?


edit: Also in case anyone has suggestions on specific bikes, I've realized as I've shopped that bikes without rear rack mounts are not very appealing to me, even though I may not use it every ride. And as much as I liked the way carbon road bikes I've tried have felt, I'm scared by the idea of failure that can't be predicted. I've never known anyone that had this happen but it seems to be a serious fear of a lot of riders and I feel like it would be on my mind if I went carbon (plus I'd probably have no option for a rear rack w/ carbon).

Last edited by radial1999; 03-12-11 at 06:10 PM.
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Old 03-12-11, 07:40 PM   #2
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I think it'd be a very good choice for you. Specifically one of the less race oriented cross bikes such as the Specialized Tricross Sport or the Motobecane Ti that you mentioned, would be a good choice as well. As far as dampening, I wouldn't worry too much about frame material. One of the beauty of cross bikes is you can fit quite a range of tires on them to make the ride as plush as you'd want. I run 28's on mine and it rides very, very nice over just about any road surface. The reason Bikes Direct sells Ti, is because people are asking for them. Ti sells. Nothing to do with the durability of the frame. I doubt very seriously that you'd ever wear out an aluminum frame bike. Yes, the carbon forks on cross bikes are designed to take up to around the 42-45 size tire.

The aluminum framed Tricross that I have rides as good as any bike I've ever ridden. It's how they design the frame that counts. Quite a few of the non-race oriented cross bikes have rack mounts so you shouldn't have trouble finding one that fits that need. Personally, I don't like carbon framed bikes either. The only reason is I feel like a poseur riding one and with the amount of abuse I throw at them, I'd be concerned that I'd crack something if I knocked it over or something. Never had a fear of it when riding though. They are very, very strong. Probably as strong as any other material due to how they were designed. Sure, you can crush the tube quite easily as compared to something like Ti, but the frame doesn't go under those types of stresses when riding. Run it over with your car and that'd be a different matter.

I think you'll be quite happy with a cross bike. I know I routinely choose mine over my dedicated road bike as I love taking detours down trails or dirt roads and I have no worries that my cross bike can handle it. I also haven't noticed much difference in speed on the road compared to my road bike. Acceleration isn't the same and climbing is a little harder, but I'm in no hurry so just drop it in the granny gear and enjoy the scenery.

Hope this helps. Let us know what you end up deciding.

Rick
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Old 03-13-11, 08:48 AM   #3
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I think it'd be a very good choice for you. Specifically one of the less race oriented cross bikes such as the Specialized Tricross Sport or the Motobecane Ti that you mentioned, would be a good choice as well. As far as dampening, I wouldn't worry too much about frame material
Excellent advice. Frame material has at most a minimal effect. You're much better fitting slightly wider and lower pressure tyres. Alu is a great frame material and avoids the problems of CF - if you don't know how to use a torque wrench and check a frame for delamination, then CF is something to avoid.

Also:

- Re. riding position: you can alter this a lot by changing the stem. Play with this once you've bought a bike.

-As for going offroad, I ride my crosser on light singletrack all the time. As long as you have reasonable tyres for the job - and don't expect a crosser to handle the drops and rocks that a 28lb MTB with 2.5" tyres will - you'll be fine. If you are going to use a crosser this way, it's nice to have a triple chainring.

- A crosser sounds like an excellent choice for you.

- Do a forum search for "fork mounted canti hanger" - these cost about $20 and you should almost certainly fit one. (They'll make your brakes quieter, more powerful, and modulate better.) Avoid any CF fork that isn't pre-drilled to take one. (Never drill into CF!)

- Classic first-time all-rounder crossers: Kona Jake, Tricross, Cross Check.
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Old 03-13-11, 09:15 AM   #4
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Excellent advice. Frame material has at most a minimal effect. You're much better fitting slightly wider and lower pressure tyres. Alu is a great frame material and avoids the problems of CF - if you don't know how to use a torque wrench and check a frame for delamination, then CF is something to avoid.

Also:

- Re. riding position: you can alter this a lot by changing the stem. Play with this once you've bought a bike.

-As for going offroad, I ride my crosser on light singletrack all the time. As long as you have reasonable tyres for the job - and don't expect a crosser to handle the drops and rocks that a 28lb MTB with 2.5" tyres will - you'll be fine. If you are going to use a crosser this way, it's nice to have a triple chainring.

- A crosser sounds like an excellent choice for you.

- Do a forum search for "fork mounted canti hanger" - these cost about $20 and you should almost certainly fit one. (They'll make your brakes quieter, more powerful, and modulate better.) Avoid any CF fork that isn't pre-drilled to take one. (Never drill into CF!)

- Classic first-time all-rounder crossers: Kona Jake, Tricross, Cross Check.
So as long as there aren't big rocks or a lot of roots on a mtn bike trail, the cyclocross bikes should handle it, even with a carbon fork? (assuming the proper, wider lower-pressure tires are fitted on).

Are the brake hangers you're talking about the ones that fit through where I fender would be mounted? The bike I'm considering has a housing stop on the steerer tube under the stem. This actually seems like it would be better, since the housing doesn't have to run all the way down to the the bottom of the headtube. But if there is some other benefit I'd consider switching it down the road.

The only drawback on these bikes at bikesdirect (and all of their cyclocross bikes) is they have a double instead of triple chainring. But most of their nicer road bikes are this way too, so it's just something I'll have to live with.
The touring bikes look great but I think the weight would make me not want to take it out and ride it as often as a lighter bike.

Any advice on how to check my carbon fork, if I do take the bike off-road, to make sure it doesn't fail on me? Like how to know if a scratch is really more serious than just a scratch? It seems this is a common warning to people regarding carbon frames. They may not know that a crash has severely weakened the part to where it isn't safe to ride anymore.

edit: Regarding the cable stop, this is the bike I'm probably getting: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...ss_team_al.htm
I'd spend a little more for the ti frame but they're sold out and it seems like that will be the case for another 5-6 months (and there's no way I can wait that long).

Last edited by radial1999; 03-13-11 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 03-13-11, 10:21 AM   #5
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A cross bike (and a carbon fork for that matter) can handle anything that the rider can. It's just like a rigid mountain bike without even a front suspension. Even worse because you can't even fit 2"+ size tires on it. The fork can handle most anything, it's the wheels that you need to worry most about. Not because they aren't sturdy, but because they don't and can't have enough volume tires on them to protect the rim. Just stay away from rocks and roots and you'd be fine. Smooth single track and fire roads are no problem for a cross bike.

Cross forks are quite burly and unfortunately most are heavy as well. I wouldn't worry much about breaking one. You'd most likely be able to look at a carbon fork and determine that it's not safe to ride anymore mostly because the rest of the bike is trashed also and you'd probably have to wait a couple weeks before you get out of the hospital anyways.

But if you're really concerned, look at the cross check and maybe the Masi CX Special. Both have steel forks.

Good luck.
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Old 03-13-11, 10:33 AM   #6
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I ride one, sort of fits the slot in the fast tourer, rando bike. However, they tend to be heavier than road bikes which becomes obvious when you're climbing. They are also not particularly aero, which become obvious when you push them past 18mph. Otherwise, fairly bombproof, you can make them comfortable for long rides, and you can get a reasonable cruising speed out of them on the road.

Note: The stock wheelset on your cx purchase are likely to be pretty heavy, maybe entry level wheels. If I were buying new the stock wheelset might influence which new bike I purchased.
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Old 03-13-11, 11:36 AM   #7
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So as long as there aren't big rocks or a lot of roots on a mtn bike trail, the cyclocross bikes should handle it, even with a carbon fork? (assuming the proper, wider lower-pressure tires are fitted on).
Yes. Rocks and roots you just have to handle carefully. My regular route is full of, umm, roots - it's a rooty route - and I have to pay attention and make sure that I hit each one straight on at speed.

Quote:
Are the brake hangers you're talking about the ones that fit through where I fender would be mounted? The bike I'm considering has a housing stop on the steerer tube under the stem. This actually seems like it would be better, since the housing doesn't have to run all the way down to the the bottom of the headtube. But if there is some other benefit I'd consider switching it down the road.
Read this thread and the linked article:

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...X-how-to-solve

But in short, no, what you describe won't serve the same function as a fork mounted hanger.

Quote:
The only drawback on these bikes at bikesdirect (and all of their cyclocross bikes) is they have a double instead of triple chainring. But most of their nicer road bikes are this way too, so it's just something I'll have to live with.
Look at a Kona Jake. They're a classic, the base bike is a triple, and you can find new 2009 models for about $800 instead of the usual $1400. I don't think there is any carbon on the bike. There's nothing wrong with the BD bike and nothing wrong with carbon, but in terms of fitness for purpose, I'd say you'd be better off with the Kona or a Surly Cross Check. The Cross Check is slightly heavier but it's tough and will take 1.8" tyres for off roading. I'm not sure how much one fitted with a triple would cost you. Possibly helpful thread:

http://www.singletrackworld.com/foru...check-opinions
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Old 03-13-11, 03:30 PM   #8
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Note: The stock wheelset on your cx purchase are likely to be pretty heavy, maybe entry level wheels. If I were buying new the stock wheelset might influence which new bike I purchased.
The one I'm considering comes with Mavic Ksyrium Elites. I think these are pretty good wheels but I didn't think that your high-end road wheels were okay on a cyclocross bike just by adding fatter tires. I guess this is the case though?
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Old 03-13-11, 03:41 PM   #9
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Look at a Kona Jake. They're a classic, the base bike is a triple, and you can find new 2009 models for about $800 instead of the usual $1400. I don't think there is any carbon on the bike. There's nothing wrong with the BD bike and nothing wrong with carbon, but in terms of fitness for purpose, I'd say you'd be better off with the Kona or a Surly Cross Check. The Cross Check is slightly heavier but it's tough and will take 1.8" tyres for off roading. I'm not sure how much one fitted with a triple would cost you. Possibly helpful thread:

http://www.singletrackworld.com/foru...check-opinions
Thanks. Unfortunately it looks like the 2011 Kona doesn't come with bolts to attach a rear rack and I'm not really considering bikes that don't have those bolts. It's too bad so many solid-looking bikes that would otherwise be great don't have any way to attach the rack.

The Surly actually looks nice, although it weighs about 6-8 lbs more than the Motobecane I'm looking at (and I highly doubt the fit will be any better for me, and I don't like the bar-end shifters although that could be an easy switch, I'm not really sure). If there was a place offering it with higher-end components to lighten it up I think it would be perfect for me though. If the Moto frame just doesn't work for me (I have super short legs/long arms for my height and have been told I should only look at bikes w/ compact geometry) I may look into a Giant cyclocross frame kit down the road since it appears they're one of the only ones making a compact geometry cyclocross frame. It seems like nothing can beat the Moto Fantom Cross Team AL. I think I'm going to have to just go for it and hope I can get the fit right with a different stem, since there's probably not a bike out there that will fit me well without some changes.

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Old 03-13-11, 06:53 PM   #10
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Not sure if this helps or not, but you can attach a rack to a bike without rack mounts. P-Clips are used by many people and I've even seen someone using them for touring on their road bike. I think they had about 30 lbs loaded on the rack and had already traveled around 600-700 miles with it. Wasn't their first tour with this setup either. I wouldn't let not having the mounts discourage you. There are always ways around it.
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Old 03-13-11, 07:38 PM   #11
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I have a Fantom CX from bikes direct - cheapest one you'll find - but its a rocking road bike. I have it outfitted for commuting, and I put some titanium studded Winter tires on it (40's) which fit, just barely, but they fit (I live in MN). Great flexibility if you want to run some big tires or little tires.... A lot of "experts" like to knock the components on it as cheap, but coming from an old Fuji with downtube shifters, having the STI shifters was a ridiculously nice upgrade - and at 499, I couldn't go wrong. I'm a big guy - about 260 so I wanted a sturdy bike - never rode a 17 ounce road bike, but this one rides super nice. I wouldn't be afraid to do business with BikesDirect (I might sound like a shill for them, but no, just a happy customer who really sweated before giving them my credit card - went as smooth as could be). if you went a little higher end, get the upgraded Carbon fork, you'd still be in under a grand. After spending my 499, I added a great rack, nicer touring style tires, lights, and still got in WAY under what just a similar bike at a bikeshop would charge. I assembled it, paid $80 for a tuneup to make sure it was safe, all good. I rode a mountain bike for years, had road slicks on it, and always hated riding it - love riding the road style bike.
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Old 03-13-11, 09:15 PM   #12
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I'm really liking my CX bike so far

I started cycling last July and after owning two undersized hybrids I realized through the riding of my really nice 1988 Fuji Sport Touring bike that my body type (6'; very short legs) is much better for a drop bar setup. To replace the second hybrid I recently acquired a 2010 Scattante X-330 (Scattante brand made by Fuji) from a local Performance bicycle shop (click on link in my signature for details). It's currently marked down from $999 to $599 and comes pretty well equipped. The bike is very comfortable with a friendly geometry. I have some things already planned for it including a third chainring and a second set of wheels so I can put some smaller 700 x 28 touring tires on it.

I can see a place for a CX bike in anyone's arsenal. As far as I can see I think that they are the most versatile of all bicycles. I say go get one, whether it's an economy priced one like mine or one of the fancier ones.

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Old 03-13-11, 11:00 PM   #13
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Specialized TriCross

I've had mine three years and love it. I rode a couple of different brand "rode" bikes before I bought mine. It has 32's and I'm about to change out to 28's, maybe even 25's. I bought it because of the kind of riding I do - all on pavement, but I want to get a little recreational use out of it if I want - ride with the grandkids at the park, wear my tenny shoes if I want, go off road IF I want (but never will). With a rode bike, you don't have a lot of options. I did the HH100 on it and had a respectable time. I was maintaining about a 19-20 mph pace the first 30 miles. I didn't get a flat either at the rest stops due to slightly bigger tires and a lot of luchk! My friends say I'm losing about 1.5 mph with the 32's, but it's probably my weight - I'm a big guy. My opinion: it's pretty much a rode bike with different brakes and tires. Has the drop down bars, and you can't tell it's not a straight rode bike without taking a good look. Really glad I have THIS bike - I think cross bikes are gaining in popularity because they're versatile.
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Old 03-13-11, 11:58 PM   #14
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I've got the low end double crank Fantom CX. It's my long distance road ride. Fenders/28s/Brooks. Being a bigger guy I had to replace the stock wheels on the cheaper model, but I pretty much knew that going in. I think that in many cases a CX bike is a much more reasonable choice more many riders than any of the road race style bikes.
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Old 03-14-11, 04:28 AM   #15
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My friends say I'm losing about 1.5 mph with the 32's, but it's probably my weight - I'm a big guy.
Your friends don't know what they are talking about - most people don't on tyres and just use a mixture of "Everybody knows" and "I watch the Tour and Lance was riding - ". Wide is faster until you get to very high cycling speeds - time trial stuff - where slight changes in aero resistance are important. As long as your 32s are fast slicks, like Marathon Racers, they're a good choice for sustainable speed:

http://www.bikeradar.com/news/articl...he-myths-29245

People cram 28mm tyres onto rando bikes if they can because they're faster for that type of riding, which is much closer to what you'll be doing that a TT or the TDF is. Changing to 25s would almost certainly be a big mistake. They'll be less efficient at sustainable speeds, puncture more, give poorer braking and turning, and be much less comfortable. Especially if you are a heavy rider.

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Old 03-14-11, 08:51 AM   #16
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Interesting article. Goes against even some of the things that our beloved Sheldon once stated.

Tread pattern matters, even on the road: The importance of tread pattern is no surprise to the off-road world but common wisdom says it's a non-factor on the road, where slick treads are assumed to deliver the greatest surface contact with the ground and thus, the best grip. However, asphalt is far from a perfect – or even consistent – material. Certain tread designs can provide a measureable mechanical adhesion to the ground.
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Old 03-14-11, 01:25 PM   #17
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Meanwhile, I don't claim to be an expert about any of this, and I'm not a finatic either. But, I don't do or believe everything I hear or see on TV as you might suggest. I also realize that a guy working at a bike shop, and even bike forum members like yourself, are not always "right." NO offense intended there, you're probably more knowledgable about bicycle tires than me, but to say my "friends din't know what they're talking about" is an ignorant statement to make. But, thanks for your input. At my level, I'm not real concerned with the science and engineering, the aerodynamics, sustaining high speeds, etc. Man I'm just here to have fun - the harder I pedal, the faster I go. Still think a cross bike is the way to go.
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Old 03-14-11, 05:45 PM   #18
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Meanwhile, I don't claim to be an expert about any of this, and I'm not a finatic either. But, I don't do or believe everything I hear or see on TV as you might suggest. I also realize that a guy working at a bike shop, and even bike forum members like yourself, are not always "right." NO offense intended there, you're probably more knowledgable about bicycle tires than me, but to say my "friends din't know what they're talking about" is an ignorant statement to make.
How can it be "ignorant" when it is a matter of fact? They're wrong.

I'm not saying that your friends are stupid or uncommonly ignorant - but the tyre makers and tyre testing labs do know what they are talking about! Have your friends read a single technical document on tyres in their lives? Bothered to look up rolling resistance test data? Do they know what hysteresis energy is? Do they know what power law wattage against speed follows for rolling resistance and air resistance? No - otherwise they wouldn't have told you what they did. Like 99% of riders they think that whatever is fast for the TDF must be fast in all circumstances and don't bother to RTFM.
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Old 03-14-11, 05:48 PM   #19
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Interesting article. Goes against even some of the things that our beloved Sheldon once stated.

Tread pattern matters, even on the road: The importance of tread pattern is no surprise to the off-road world but common wisdom says it's a non-factor on the road, where slick treads are assumed to deliver the greatest surface contact with the ground and thus, the best grip. However, asphalt is far from a perfect – or even consistent – material. Certain tread designs can provide a measureable mechanical adhesion to the ground.
Yeah, that one was a surprise to me. It makes sense though. Even though I think Sheldon was advised on tyres by the great Jobst Brandt, who designed one of the most influential clinchers of all time, the Avocet 28 Touring Slick... My, but it's sad that I know all this about tyres!

Don't take the article verbatim though - the idiot bike journalist made some mistakes; he thought that a 10% decrease in resistance would give a 10% increase in speed - if only!
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Old 03-14-11, 06:07 PM   #20
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In addition to a cross bike, you could also look into a sport touring bike, like the Soma Smoothie ES or the Raleigh Clubman. They offer big tire clearance, but sometimes a bit more road bike like handling than a cross bike (lower BB, faster steering perhaps).
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Old 03-14-11, 06:15 PM   #21
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I have a nice Cervelo road bike, but I don't want to trash it in road-salt, and we have these biike lanes that aren't cleaned out, so they gather a lot of detritus. I flatted last year, and it was not fun digging out the puncturing spicule, changing the tube, it was 54 degrees, I was in shorts and a long-sleeved jersey, but it started raining, and after finishing the tire change, I was drenched, and cold.

I notice with the CX bike, I can ride through the crap, over potholes (road maintenance has deteriorated with the recession). I had one crash, frame wasn't tested, because the handlebar, popped out wheel and brake took the brunt. I think CX is nice, a lot easier dealing with winds than my MTB. Not as fast as a skinny-tire bike, but you can take it through rougher stuff.
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Old 03-15-11, 07:04 AM   #22
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radial,
Folks have been giving lots of very good arguments for cross bikes... great jack of all trade. I only have one bike at the moment, a Bianchi Volpe set up as a commuter. I don't race. I sold my old road bike since all it was doing was collecting dust, though I do miss it sometimes.

Having room for fenders and fatter tires makes the bike so much more versatile than my old road bike. Trail riding is fine, but the mtb trails near me both have plenty of smooth single track. I put on some 32 combo cyclocross tires for trails and mud-season... I actually wish I had a Cross Check because it has room for even fatter tires. There's room for some studded tires for winter riding. I have some 28 semi-slicks for long road rides, but those only get weekend/special occasion use. I'm a big guy (6'1" and 205) and I commute 18 miles on a mixture of trails, pot-holed roads, dirt and gravel roads -- the bike is comfortable in all situations except really intense mtb trails. I've done 48-hour tours on it with no problem hauling 20 or 30-something lbs worth of stuff. A buddy of mine has done longish self-supported tours on his Cross Check. Just get the bike that fits you best, the rack mounts can be gotten around
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Old 03-15-11, 05:40 PM   #23
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In addition to a cross bike, you could also look into a sport touring bike, like the Soma Smoothie ES or the Raleigh Clubman. They offer big tire clearance, but sometimes a bit more road bike like handling than a cross bike (lower BB, faster steering perhaps).
The Clubman looks nice, but again it's about 6-7 lbs heavier than the Motobecane Fantom Cross Team AL. Plus the Moto comes with amazingly high-end components for only a few hundred more than the Clubman.

I appreciate the suggestions. And I suspect that because I have such short legs for my height, I may take a chance on the Motobecane and if it really doesn't fit, look into a custom frame later on. At 5'10", even a 50cm frame will give me zero standover clearance, and be inches short in terms of top tube length + stem length.

Is the Soma Smoothie ES only sold as a frame?
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Old 03-15-11, 05:44 PM   #24
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Just get the bike that fits you best, the rack mounts can be gotten around
The thing is, the bike I'm drawn to most I can't test ride since it's only sold online. The bikes at the same price point in shops have components that are nowhere near as nice. And I suspect no matter what bikes I look at, they won't fit right without replacing the stem.

While you say that rack mounts can be got around, this isn't necessarily true on all bikes is it? I would feel uncomfortable putting the type that clamp around the seatstays on a carbon bike, or a light steel bike, but I think not doing that to a carbon frame is probably common sense. It's too bad because in my days wrenching at a shop, the carbon bikes felt the best to me, but I really want something I can throw a rack on for longer rides.
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Old 03-15-11, 05:50 PM   #25
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While you say that rack mounts can be got around, this isn't necessarily true on all bikes is it? I would feel uncomfortable putting the type that clamp around the seatstays on a carbon bike, or a light steel bike, but I think not doing that to a carbon frame is probably common sense. It's too bad because in my days wrenching at a shop, the carbon bikes felt the best to me, but I really want something I can throw a rack on for longer rides.
How about something like this?

http://www.detours.us/product_info.p...=115&language=

Put a nice aluminum seat post on the bike and you're golden. This is what I use for up to 200 mile rides. Works great. Quick release as well.
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