Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: St. Pete, Florida
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Racing SSCX on a Fantom Cross Uno
I've had a Motobecane Fantom Cross Uno for a little over a year now. It's been a fun commuter/recreational bike, but it wasn't getting much use so I decided to try racing SSCX with it. I ran it in Cat 4 and SS at the race in Dunedin, FL a few weeks ago and figured I'd share my experience for anyone who might be considering the bike as a low-cost option for CX racing.
Now, I'm pretty much still a noob at CX. I did a couple races last season (on a geared bike) and loved it, but I had just started cycling so I was still a pretty weak rider. A year of cycling has helped greatly, but I still have a long way to go. A seasoned CX veteran may have a completely different take on this bike, but those folks aren't likely to be considering it. The bike has the "mandatory" FCXUno upgrades: bars, seat, stem, seatpost, and brake levers. I also changed the gearing from 38:16 to 44:22 (which proved to be a bit low).
The course was mostly a typical Florida CX course - not much elevation, mostly grass, lots of sand (especially late in the day as the grass got chewed up). One spot went through a drainage area (to get a little elevation change). It was bone dry when we had a clinic the night before the race, but thunder showers the morning of the race filled it with water and gave us Floridians the full CX experience -- MUD
So how did the FCXUno do? On the mild parts of the terrain it was great. The FCXUno has a track-like geometry (low trail, short chainstays) so it's very agile and feels much lighter than it is (the bike tipped the scales at just under 23 lb). But in the sand and mud the aggressive geo became a significant liability. The twitchy bike was a real handful in those sections and trying to maintain control while also putting down enough power to ride through was mentally and physically draining. The biggest problem, however, was mounts and dismounts. Shifting my weight around at low speeds getting on and off had me wobbling around like a pre-schooler riding without training wheels for the first time. I had several near crashes and people quickly learned that passing me in the barriers was a high-risk maneuver. I can mount/dismount my other cross bike cleanly, so though some of this is lack of skill, the FCXUno's handling significantly raises the skill level needed. Not ideal for a bike that targets a beginner budget.
My conclusion was that the FCXUno is just not well suited to beginner level CX racing. It's usable, but it's hard work and CX is hard enough without handicapping yourself. If you're a beginner looking for an inexpensive way to get into CX, picking up a used cross bike is probably a better choice. By the time you add in the upgrades the Uno needs right out of the box, the cost of a basic used cross bike is not that much more.
The Uno now has a new owner - a local university coed who is going to powder coat the frame glow-in-the-dark white and ride it as a fixie commuter