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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 03-05-05, 08:46 PM   #1
BostonKate
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Dreams of summer - help me choose a bike!

Back story: I am about 60 pounds into losing half my body weight (estimated goal time, some time this late summer). I'm 5'8" and female, with long femurs and relatively short arms. I currently ride a Diamondback Response MTB which was (a) cheap when I didn't know if I'd like to ride, and (b) sold to me as the bike which would support my weight when I was pushing 280. (The shop owner had a No Fat Chix sticker on his truck, which I didn't know until later but explains a lot of the sales process.)

Fast forward a while - I really like to ride. I want to ride more, but the Response has, shall we say, limitations. I want a bike that will let me do whatever I'm in the mood to do: commuting 15 miles each way on hills, some touring, the bike leg in sprint/Oly triathlons and yes, possibly even actual cyclocross races if I can find some nice muddy New England races where it's okay to be a beginner. Oh, also some fire road/not too technical singletrack unpaved riding. It seems like a 'cross bike is the best solution, what with the beefier frame to stand up to my weight plus the chameleonic ability to load it up for whatever.

Am I on the right track here? If so, let's move to question 2 - what should I buy? I'm dithering between a Volpe and a Crosscheck, though a guy I know keeps saying "don't rule out a Novara Rivet just 'cause it's an REI house brand and an ugly color". The Bianchi is, well, a Bianchi, and it's celeste green! That's cool! But is an Italian 'cross bike too roadie in its soul for true all-purpose riding? OTOH, the Crosscheck has the urban attitude you need to ride in Boston, and I have a trustworthy local bike shop to help me build it up from the frame (Harris Cyclery, where the inimitable Sheldon Brown labors, though they also sell Bianchi). Guess I ought to throw the Poprad in there, too.

Thanks for any help you can throw my way.
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Old 03-05-05, 09:38 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by BostonKate
Back story: I am about 60 pounds into losing half my body weight (estimated goal time, some time this late summer). I'm 5'8" and female, with long femurs and relatively short arms. I currently ride a Diamondback Response MTB which was (a) cheap when I didn't know if I'd like to ride, and (b) sold to me as the bike which would support my weight when I was pushing 280. (The shop owner had a No Fat Chix sticker on his truck, which I didn't know until later but explains a lot of the sales process.)

Fast forward a while - I really like to ride. I want to ride more, but the Response has, shall we say, limitations. I want a bike that will let me do whatever I'm in the mood to do: commuting 15 miles each way on hills, some touring, the bike leg in sprint/Oly triathlons and yes, possibly even actual cyclocross races if I can find some nice muddy New England races where it's okay to be a beginner. Oh, also some fire road/not too technical singletrack unpaved riding. It seems like a 'cross bike is the best solution, what with the beefier frame to stand up to my weight plus the chameleonic ability to load it up for whatever.

Am I on the right track here? If so, let's move to question 2 - what should I buy? I'm dithering between a Volpe and a Crosscheck, though a guy I know keeps saying "don't rule out a Novara Rivet just 'cause it's an REI house brand and an ugly color". The Bianchi is, well, a Bianchi, and it's celeste green! That's cool! But is an Italian 'cross bike too roadie in its soul for true all-purpose riding? OTOH, the Crosscheck has the urban attitude you need to ride in Boston, and I have a trustworthy local bike shop to help me build it up from the frame (Harris Cyclery, where the inimitable Sheldon Brown labors, though they also sell Bianchi). Guess I ought to throw the Poprad in there, too.

Thanks for any help you can throw my way.
I have been looking for a Cyclocross bicycle also and the Kona Jake The Snake is my pick at this time. The reviews usually describe it as amazing for all tasks including racing.
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Old 03-06-05, 10:35 AM   #3
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You are on the right track. Cross bikes, particularly the more versatile, non-high-end-racing ones you've mentioned, are perfect for what you've described. They are good transition bikes for those accustomed to riding mountain bikes, and they can do most anything.

That said, buy the one that fits you the best. They all have different dimensions, both tube lengths and angles. The best way to figure fit out is to ride them. Only you can really tell, although a good bike seller can help out a lot. Sounds like you have the good bike seller part under control. Almost every bike manufacturer has fans on these forums, and you will likely get a full range of opinions and suggestions. I have a Surly and a Bianchi (neither are cross bikes) and I love them both. But go with the bike with the best fit. It will make achieving your fitness and cycling goals that much easier.

Another to keep in mind is that as you get more involved in cycling, you may end up wanting bikes dedicated to your specific cycling interests. It happens to the best of us. In my experience, once you make the leap from one bike to two, the third, fourth, and fifth come quite easily. Its a very slippery slope.
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Old 03-07-05, 01:06 AM   #4
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Jake the snake is a nice ride, but it's more of a racing set-up. I'd go with the 'Jake'. Same frame as JTS, but it's configured more as a general purpose rig (triple chain ring, etc.). Another great choice is the Surly Cross-Check. Solid Chromoly frame, decent components at a reasonable price. The retail is around $900, but you can usually find them on-line (ebay) for about $650-700.

I have a 2002 Trek XO-1 I really love, but unfortunately the current model is set up more as a racer.
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Old 03-07-05, 06:44 PM   #5
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Check out the Giant OCR Touring, since you want a touring bike.

I checked out the Rivet website and watched their little video on the bike, it's nice, aluminum too like the Giant touring.

If you want more comfort, go with the Bianchi Volpe or Brava (which is cheaper than the Volpe), which are steel.

What's your budget??

Cannondale has CX and Touring models too for around $1200.00
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Old 03-07-05, 06:49 PM   #6
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I'd only get a full-fledge (loaded) touring rig if you plan on doing actual touring. Touring bikes are too slow and slow-witted for general usage.

As far as touring bikes by major companies, the Trek 520 is the best. Solid cromo frame, bar-ends, etc. Very durable ride. Think it's around $1200 now.
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Old 03-07-05, 08:10 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Fixed Up North

But go with the bike with the best fit. It will make achieving your fitness and cycling goals that much easier.
What he said--a good fitting bike is more important than any other single factor! Enjoy your ride!
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Old 03-07-05, 08:56 PM   #8
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I have a date with myself at the bike shop this week to try out the Volpe and the CrossCheck, plus the Poprad. My budget's somewhere in the $1K range, +/- a couple hundred bucks (been working a lot of overtime lately for this particular purchase), so I'd rather get an $850 bike and dude it up than a $1200 bike and live with components I wouldn't have chosen were I building it up myself.

Thanks for your help!
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Old 03-08-05, 06:08 AM   #9
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i know the surly fans are going to hate me for this... but if you plan to race, also look at some of the lighter bikes. the kona jake the snake is a great all-arounder. i is a bit racier than some of the more touring-oriented bikes, but it certainly isn'y as racy as a full-on road bike.

have fun bike shopping. don't go alone... and if you do, leave your wallet in the car. give yourself time to think before you put the money down.
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Old 03-08-05, 03:29 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by velocipedio
i know the surly fans are going to hate me for this... but if you plan to race, also look at some of the lighter bikes. the kona jake the snake is a great all-arounder. i is a bit racier than some of the more touring-oriented bikes, but it certainly isn'y as racy as a full-on road bike.
Agreed. The cross-check is definetely a little heavy for competitive racing. JTS is a nice all-around bike, but I'd like to have a triple chainring on a general purpose rig.
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Old 03-08-05, 05:08 PM   #11
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Oh, if I decide I adore racing (fully possible - I grew up in western Oregon and love to run in the mud), I will probably talk myself into a more race-specific bike for 'cross and casual tri. I'm pushing 40 with marginal knees - unlikely I'll ever be seriously competitive except in my mind. Sadly, my commute is hilly and potholed enough that I do want a triple and a heavier frame for my daily ride.
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Old 03-08-05, 06:00 PM   #12
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For an already built-up bike, for the $ it's hard to beat the Volpe, unless you spy the Novara Randonee during one of REI's really serious sales. And the Volpe has a stock triple. I view the next step up from these would be a Soma double-cross frame with Mirage ergos, Mirage RD, and mostly XT or 105 for the remainder, but that is a project.
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