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  1. #1
    Senior Member JeffOYB's Avatar
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    CX race bike handling: does it vary a lot?

    I've been racing this season on a TCR road bike with 28mm tubie knobbies. It's been a gas. It corners like lightning and is superlight. It's also been great for climbing and traction -- the wheels are very tight together under me, short stays, etc. I gain on riders around me any time that cush isn't a factor. (Or lots of power also. But that's my fault.)

    The drawback, of course, is that it's a frickin' roadbike and can only fit harsh little tires. At 175 lbs, I bottom out with what my pump says is 30psi. I suppose with 30-32's I could be running 25psi and getting more cush.

    On a smoothish course it's been great. Last weekend I did a race with frozen chatter ruts for 1/2 mi. Bangety-bang! Ouch. ...And slow! Tons of speed scrub from those little tires banging along. (Still, it was fun enough.)

    Basically, I go slower than others on a chattery course.

    Anyway, I look forward to getting a real CX frame -- but the only change I really need is to fit wider tires.

    Is it likely, tho, that to accomplish that the wheelbase will have to get longer and the steering slower, etc.?

    I'm not sure I'll be able to be much of a chooser, more of a beggar. I'll need to get something 2nd-hand and cheap.

    But do some CX race bikes try to keep more of a roadbike feel in the handling?

    I suppose a slightly longer wheelbase might increase speed in the chatters -- along with the wider tires. But then you might have to slow down more in the twisties and technical offcamber fun climbs and such. (I have a sport-tour bike with 30's that is, like, 5" longer than the TCR! And I have to brake a LOT more just to make it around corners!)

    A tight front end might mean toe-overlap with fat tires. Is that such a big deal? I haven't experienced overlap trouble yet (my size 10's can't hit my tire in my TCR). Can you usually just adapt OK? ...Or is it splatsville.

    I'll probably get something like a TCX or a Crux -- whatever might commonly hit the used market in a thrifty way. In that price-range are there brands/models to look for in terms of lively handling and some to stay away from?
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  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    the 3 people on the podium, at the end of the race are probably better at it..

    you still carrying on about avoiding just getting a proper Cyclo-Cross bike?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Number400's Avatar
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    I now have two functioning cross bikes. One is a Raleigh Rx 1.0 and is all stock, including the easton carbon fork. It feels just like my road bikes and is fast yet it can go over lots of stuff. It is a rough ride ride though and the narrow tires pull me in all sorts of directions. When the pressures are low enough it feels pretty good until I ride over something a little too hard, then the wheels and I take a beating.

    My other cross bike is a drop bar mountain bike conversion with 26" tires and really short cranks. It feels balls slow in comparison but can go over or through anything and is as comfy as a couch on all surfaces. I am running 1.6" tires. The geometry is a good bit more laid back and it feels great around corners where my short 700c bike is very twitchy.

    In any case, toe overlap sucks and can put you down fast. I moved my cleats forward so that I have no contact whatsoever on my short cross bike.

  4. #4
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Look. You really don't know what you want from the geometry of your cyclocross bike. You think you want a tight, fast front end, because you like the bike you have now, and that's a characteristic of the one you have. But you have literally zero basis for comparison. It could be that you go and buy a 'cross bike with relatively high trail. Chances are pretty good at that point that you will realize just how godawful your old bike actually was. As you noticed yourself, you're not exactly getting around the courses very fast on your current bike. If you think the only change you need to improve your times is the ability to fit wider tires, you're probably wrong.

    Here's the thing. For low speed cornering in cyclocross, the front end geometry isn't very important. The wheelbase of the bike is more important in how quickly you can get around slow turns. And you just don't have a lot of control over the wheel base, which needs to be a certain length to accommodate appropriate tires and position your weight correctly between the wheels. It's basically a function of bike size. For higher speed turns, geometry is more important, but doesn't need to be road bike tight, and in fact too steep a head angle will probably make the bike much too perturbable over ruts, bumps and other surface irregularities. What you want is a bike that will turn when you tell it to and carve smoothly. There are a range of geometries that will make this work.

    Regarding toe overlap: normally, I think toe overlap is a non-issue that people blow way out of proportion. But on a 'cross bike, it can be a real problem. I've never put myself down thanks to toe overlap, but I've come close once or twice. Once you get used to where it will happen, the problem recedes a bit. I've tapped my front tire with my shoe a couple of times this season, but no big deal. Still, it is better to avoid it if you can.

    You are way, way overthinking a subject that you know nothing about. Just go out and buy a damn 'cross bike. Even if the handling isn't ideal, it'll make you way faster than your current bike. Once you've got some experience with that under your belt, maybe start thinking about what could make a better bike for you. For now, though, stop worrying, stop writing philosophical treatises and just go buy a stupid bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffOYB View Post
    I've been racing this season on a TCR road bike with 28mm tubie knobbies. It's been a gas. It corners like lightning and is superlight. It's also been great for climbing and traction -- the wheels are very tight together under me, short stays, etc. I gain on riders around me any time that cush isn't a factor. (Or lots of power also. But that's my fault.)

    The drawback, of course, is that it's a frickin' roadbike and can only fit harsh little tires. At 175 lbs, I bottom out with what my pump says is 30psi. I suppose with 30-32's I could be running 25psi and getting more cush.

    On a smoothish course it's been great. Last weekend I did a race with frozen chatter ruts for 1/2 mi. Bangety-bang! Ouch. ...And slow! Tons of speed scrub from those little tires banging along. (Still, it was fun enough.)

    Basically, I go slower than others on a chattery course.

    Anyway, I look forward to getting a real CX frame -- but the only change I really need is to fit wider tires.

    Is it likely, tho, that to accomplish that the wheelbase will have to get longer and the steering slower, etc.?

    I'm not sure I'll be able to be much of a chooser, more of a beggar. I'll need to get something 2nd-hand and cheap.

    But do some CX race bikes try to keep more of a roadbike feel in the handling?

    I suppose a slightly longer wheelbase might increase speed in the chatters -- along with the wider tires. But then you might have to slow down more in the twisties and technical offcamber fun climbs and such. (I have a sport-tour bike with 30's that is, like, 5" longer than the TCR! And I have to brake a LOT more just to make it around corners!)

    A tight front end might mean toe-overlap with fat tires. Is that such a big deal? I haven't experienced overlap trouble yet (my size 10's can't hit my tire in my TCR). Can you usually just adapt OK? ...Or is it splatsville.

    I'll probably get something like a TCX or a Crux -- whatever might commonly hit the used market in a thrifty way. In that price-range are there brands/models to look for in terms of lively handling and some to stay away from?

  5. #5
    Senior Member JeffOYB's Avatar
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    Okay...

    Which bike? (Among the kind I mention.)

    And are they a lot different from each other?

    (Original question still stands. If you don't like reading bike stuff, don't.)
    Jeff Potter
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  6. #6
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffOYB View Post
    Okay...

    Which bike? (Among the kind I mention.)

    And are they a lot different from each other?

    (Original question still stands. If you don't like reading bike stuff, don't.)
    Whichever one comes in the nicest color.

    Are they different from each other? Of course they are. They come in different colors.

    Yes, they have differences in part spec and possibly some differences in geometry. But so what? You don't seem to have any more ability to make an informed decision on those grounds than you do based on color. So pick the one that looks best.

    I mean, you should be concerning yourself with bang-for-the-buck and which the bike will fit you best. That's the real answer. But instead you're going on and on about questions that, even if you get answers to them (which isn't anyone's job - you can find info on geometry on a manufacturer's website pretty easily), would not help you make a decision. Because you don't know squat about what's important in 'cross bike geometry. That's not an insult, that's just the cold, hard reality of inexperience. Even if I had strong opinions forged from years of experience racing 'cross on the geometry of the perfect 'cross bike (which I don't), I wouldn't be able to make a recommendation based upon this question. Because I'm not you, and I don't know how you race.

    So pick the bike that looks prettiest, or if you want to actually make a good decision, the one that fits you best, buy it, and stop worrying about it.

  7. #7
    bf is my facebook. ljrichar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grolby View Post

    So pick the bike that looks prettiest, or if you want to actually make a good decision, the one that fits you best, buy it, and stop worrying about it.
    Yep. Fit is really the only thing that matters especially if you're on a budget. After that, getting a pair of tubular wheels/tire choice/pressure will make the biggest difference in handling. And if you really wanted to be more competitive you should be asking questions about training vs what bike you should buy. Engine & handling skills will save you minutes. A different bike only seconds. And this is coming from guys who have been racing longer & in higher cats than you. Feel free to disregard/not read our responses as well.

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Time to buy a Ridley cross frame, they are Belgian. Cyclo-cross.. it's a winter religious gathering there .

  9. #9
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Time to buy a Ridley cross frame, they are Belgian. Cyclo-cross.. it's a winter religious gathering there .
    Plus, that yellow and black X-Ride they put out last year was just beautiful.

  10. #10
    Ghost Ryding 24/7 Ghost Ryder's Avatar
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    I don't get why you need to make another thread for something you already know the answer to.
    @ this point you come off looking like a troll.



    I'll just add you can go over your other thread to find the exact answers you'll get here.

    Quote Originally Posted by grolby View Post
    Look. You really don't know what you want from the geometry of your cyclocross bike. You think you want a tight, fast front end, because you like the bike you have now, and that's a characteristic of the one you have. But you have literally zero basis for comparison. It could be that you go and buy a 'cross bike with relatively high trail. Chances are pretty good at that point that you will realize just how godawful your old bike actually was. As you noticed yourself, you're not exactly getting around the courses very fast on your current bike. If you think the only change you need to improve your times is the ability to fit wider tires, you're probably wrong.

    Here's the thing. For low speed cornering in cyclocross, the front end geometry isn't very important. The wheelbase of the bike is more important in how quickly you can get around slow turns. And you just don't have a lot of control over the wheel base, which needs to be a certain length to accommodate appropriate tires and position your weight correctly between the wheels. It's basically a function of bike size. For higher speed turns, geometry is more important, but doesn't need to be road bike tight, and in fact too steep a head angle will probably make the bike much too perturbable over ruts, bumps and other surface irregularities. What you want is a bike that will turn when you tell it to and carve smoothly. There are a range of geometries that will make this work.

    Regarding toe overlap: normally, I think toe overlap is a non-issue that people blow way out of proportion. But on a 'cross bike, it can be a real problem. I've never put myself down thanks to toe overlap, but I've come close once or twice. Once you get used to where it will happen, the problem recedes a bit. I've tapped my front tire with my shoe a couple of times this season, but no big deal. Still, it is better to avoid it if you can.

    You are way, way overthinking a subject that you know nothing about. Just go out and buy a damn 'cross bike. Even if the handling isn't ideal, it'll make you way faster than your current bike. Once you've got some experience with that under your belt, maybe start thinking about what could make a better bike for you. For now, though, stop worrying, stop writing philosophical treatises and just go buy a stupid bike.
    Quote Originally Posted by grolby View Post
    Whichever one comes in the nicest color.

    Are they different from each other? Of course they are. They come in different colors.

    Yes, they have differences in part spec and possibly some differences in geometry. But so what? You don't seem to have any more ability to make an informed decision on those grounds than you do based on color. So pick the one that looks best.

    I mean, you should be concerning yourself with bang-for-the-buck and which the bike will fit you best. That's the real answer. But instead you're going on and on about questions that, even if you get answers to them (which isn't anyone's job - you can find info on geometry on a manufacturer's website pretty easily), would not help you make a decision. Because you don't know squat about what's important in 'cross bike geometry. That's not an insult, that's just the cold, hard reality of inexperience. Even if I had strong opinions forged from years of experience racing 'cross on the geometry of the perfect 'cross bike (which I don't), I wouldn't be able to make a recommendation based upon this question. Because I'm not you, and I don't know how you race.

    So pick the bike that looks prettiest, or if you want to actually make a good decision, the one that fits you best, buy it, and stop worrying about it.
    Here here!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by ljrichar View Post
    Yep. Fit is really the only thing that matters especially if you're on a budget. After that, getting a pair of tubular wheels/tire choice/pressure will make the biggest difference in handling. And if you really wanted to be more competitive you should be asking questions about training vs what bike you should buy. Engine & handling skills will save you minutes. A different bike only seconds. And this is coming from guys who have been racing longer & in higher cats than you. Feel free to disregard/not read our responses as well.
    Don't bother...
    "The force is strong in this one!"
    Let him chase his pipe dream, while we progress in our hobby.
    We with open minds, make suggestions based on experience, not just "hearsay".
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  11. #11
    Senior Member JeffOYB's Avatar
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    No need to get harsh. I guess I'll just hope to test ride a few. The other threads haven't been about the different kinds of CX bike handling. It seems like some common brands might be known for quick handling, others for slower.
    Last edited by JeffOYB; 12-06-13 at 06:49 AM.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffOYB View Post
    No need to get harsh. I guess I'll just hope to test ride a few. The other threads haven't been about the different kinds of CX bike handling. It seems like some common brands might be known for quick handling, others for slower.
    Boy, you're really determined to not actually a learn a damn thing, aren't you?

    I'll make one more try: Get. The. Bike. That. Fits. You. Best.

    Do not concern yourself with "handling." Erase all thoughts of "handling" from your mind. You have no way to make an informed decision based on "handling." A bike that "handles" a bit slower but fits you will actually handle MUCH better than a bike with "quicker handling" that doesn't fit you right. Bike handling in cyclocross is about the match between the rider and the bike.

  13. #13
    Senior Member JeffOYB's Avatar
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    ? All my bikes fit me fine. And they all handle differently.

    I'm sure I'll end up with a dandy fit whatever bike I get. And if I test a few bikes there will be one I like best.

    I can see the question of fit being relevant if CX tends to be particularly fussy, say, in terms of how TT length interacts with stem length and saddle setback. So the same fit/position might end up with different stem-lengths on various makers' Large frames, say -- and would end up handling differently.

    (Like, I have an old mtbike with long stem. It fits but handles hugely different from a modern mtbike with long TT and short stem.)

    Yeah, I'll be using handmade tubulars. I've already learned how much I like those. (As regards training, I'm good there, too -- and it's not a training thread.)

    But, as I said, my situation of needing to get a 2ndhand bike/frame might limit my test-riding. Bike models/brands typically have handling reputations. So I was wondering about how some of the better known common models that might show up cheap on 2ndhand market might play out. Not the exotic high-end. I'd think some Fuji, TCX, Crux, Redline items would be likely candidates.

    Or maybe GRADE of frame tends to be important in terms of handling. On the affordable end there might a handling style that dominates the designs. It might be a good reason to search hard for a better frame. You're right: I don't know.

    You're right I could check the various brand geometries. But you're right again in that I don't know what the numbers really mean in terms of CX. I know the range of what I like for the road. What kind of numbers seem to be preferred for CX for the different styles of handling? There have to be designs with cushier handling and those that are quicker, say.

    Anyone who likes to discuss CX handling should feel free to chime in.
    Last edited by JeffOYB; 12-06-13 at 01:37 PM.
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  14. #14
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    This question comes up all the time. Ultimately, I'm certain that grolby's answer about fit is entirely correct and is the only meaningful answer you'll get online.

    But, if you want to geek out over geometry and try to wrap your head around it before going out and buying the bike that fits best, I'll share something I posted recently in response to someone else asking the same question and not being satisfied with being told to buy the one that looked best.

    -------------------------------

    There are a few general things to look at in geometry. Most CX bikes will have a head tube angle around 72.5 degrees and a seat tube angle around 73 with a chain stay length around 420mm.

    A steeper head tube angle (larger number) makes the bike more nimble but less stable. A slacker head tube angle makes the bike hold a line better but it won't carve a corner quite as sharply. A slacker head tube angle also helps minimize toe overlap, especially on smaller frames.

    A slacker seat tube angle tends to put your weight back over the rear wheel a bit more, which is good for traction when accelerating or climbing (as long as the grade isn't too steep) but is somewhat bad for handling. In practice most people probably cancel this out by adjusting their saddle fore/aft position for comfort (that is, relative position of the saddle and the bottom bracket) and adjust their body weight as needed for technical riding. Smaller frames often need a steep seat tube angle to make room for the rear wheel, especially with short chain stays. (Note: the relative position of the saddle and bottom bracket has performance implications and the seat tube angle influences the starting point there, but that may be leading this discussion astray.)

    Shorter chain stays make the bike more nimble and put more of your weight over the rear wheel. Longer chain stays make the bike more stable in straight lines. If you ever want to use a rack and panniers, longer chain stays are important to avoid heel strike, though some rack designs mitigate this problem.

    The other significant variable (outside of fit issues) is bottom bracket height. There's a lot of disagreement about this. Traditionally CX bikes have had high bottom brackets with the idea that it kept you from hitting your pedal on roots and rocks and such. Recently though CX courses have tended not to have many such obstacles, so there is a trend toward a lower bottom bracket, which generally has more favorably handling characteristics (makes the bike less tippy).

    All of these are relatively small effects, but noticeable when you push the bike to its limits. The key point you should take away is that there is no good or bad geometry, just geometry which is better or worse suited for particular riding conditions. All geometry choices improve some characteristic while degrading another. It's a matter of which trade-offs you want.

    -------------------------------

    I'm neither an expert in bike geometry nor an expert in bike handling. The above is just what I've gotten from a lot of geeking out on the topic and reading everything I could find. Some of it might be wrong.

    Now let me share my decision process for the 5 CX bikes I've had:

    1. I bought a 2008 Kona Jake for commuting. Geometry didn't matter. A guy at my LBS recommended it and it looked like what I was after. I ended up racing it and I liked the way it handled.
    2. I bought a 2009 Surly Cross Check because I wanted another bike and everybody seemed to love them. I raced with it. I used it as a road bike. I commuted on it. I didn't like the way it handled on a CX course. The fit wasn't great. I sold it.
    3. I bought a 2008 Kona Major Jake because I wanted a dedicated race bike and I liked the geometry of my other Jake. I went up a size to get a better fit.
    4. I bought a 2013 Kona Jake because I wanted a disc-equipped commuter. I liked the fit and geometry of my Major Jake, and while Kona changed things a little after 2010 it was close enough that I knew what I was getting.
    5. I bought a 2013 Kona Jake the Snake because I wanted to build a singlespeed race bike. I liked the fit and geometry of my Jake and Major Jake, so I knew what I was getting.

    Do you see a pattern here? There really might be a bike out there that I would like the handling of much better than Kona's Jake series. I'll probably never know because I like my Konas enough to keep buying them.

    So here's my recommendation based on my accumulated knowledge. Buy a Kona. They're great.

  15. #15
    Senior Member JeffOYB's Avatar
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    Thanks. Makes sense! The frame size info is neat, too. So me as a weak nimble 6-foot skinny dude who likes offcamber twisties might prefer a different kind of bike from a short stocky powerhouse who really digs gravel roads. I'll start trying to mooch test-rides from pals my size, etc...
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  16. #16
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    I have three cross bikes from three separate manufacturers with three different geometries and two different bb heights. I can't tell a bit of difference in how they "handle". They're all just fine.

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