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Are these bikes suitable for CX as well as commuting?

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Are these bikes suitable for CX as well as commuting?

Old 10-30-14, 09:38 PM
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Are these bikes suitable for CX as well as commuting?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Iím planning to buy a new bike, which will be my first serious bike of any kind. I will be using it for a 16 mile round-trip commute 3-4 times a week and also I have just discovered cyclocross, which I plan to try next year.

The following are the bikes Iím considering and Iíd like help understanding to what degree they are suited to commuting and to CX, mainly in terms of the geometry (I know nothing) but also stuff like tires and gearing. Before I decided that Iíll use the bike for actual CX as well as commuting I was leaning heavily towards the new Felt V85. Now Iím not sure how well suited it is to CX usage.

Felt V85
  • I think well suited to commuting due to more comfortable position from the long head tube (about 210mm for a 58 frame vs ~170mm for CX bikes)?
  • How well suited would it be to CX?
  • Seemingly excellent value for a full 105 setup

Felt F75x (2014)
  • I can get a leftover from 2014 at a discount. I assume itís racier than the V85 due to shorter head tube although there may be more to it than that?
  • How comfortable would this be for commuting, which is the primary use?
  • Cantiís seem to be a downside (I read the sticky FAQ and it seems complicated)

Giant TCX SLR 2
  • This bike is about $200 pricier than the others. Does it seem any better for either of my uses?
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Old 10-31-14, 05:42 AM
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The V85 would be bad for shouldering. I've always thought that Giant frame was sexy looking but that's beside the point.
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Old 10-31-14, 08:47 AM
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Geometry: Whether the longer head tube is an advantage depends on what you need for fit. I find being too upright on the commuter is actually less comfortable, so I only have about a 1cm difference between that and my CX bikes. With spacers you could safely add 40 mm to the CX bike bringing stack up to what you'd have on the V85 with no spacers. If you need to be more upright than that for commuting, it's questionable whether you can get there on the CX frames. If you haven't had at least a basic fitting to know what you need from a stack and reach standpoint, I strongly recommend that as your next step.

Tires: You don't want to commute on CX tires. They wear fast and lack grip on pavement and don't offer much puncture protection. The tires on the V85 are ok commuter tires (though you might need something much tougher depending on where you ride).

Gearing: Totally depends on your fitness and where you ride. The V85 has a wider range than the CX bikes at the expense of bigger jumps between gears. Gearing is relatively easy/inexpensive to change. If you're buying from an LBS, many will swap cassettes and chainrings at little to no charge.

Suitability for CX Racing: The F75x and TCX SLR 2 are both very competent CX race bikes. The V85 is less optimal, but still perfectly usable for beginner CX. The V85 will be less nimble and harder to shoulder, so it may slow you down a little in the technical sections. But unless you're coming into CX as an experienced road or MTB racer, it will probably be a while before it's the bike keeping you off the Cat4/5 podium. For what it's worth, my SSCX bike is a '92 Schwinn Crisscross hybrid converted to drop bars and single-speed. It's not terribly nimble and weighs a good 5 lbs more than a lot of the other bikes out there, yet I still have a blast racing it

Cantilever Brakes: Kind of polarizing (people either love 'em or hate 'em). If mechanical disc brakes were as good as hydraulic, it would be a no-brainer to go disc. Unfortunately, they're not (but they're getting better). Cantis can be made to work very well if you make the effort to learn how to set them up. However, the CX world has pretty much made the switch to discs on all new bikes, so if you rely on a shop to do your wrenching, it's going to get harder and harder to find one that can do cantis right. Discs do have some wet/muddy weather advantages, so if you commute or race in those conditions, that's another plus in their column. Rule of thumb: if you don't know why you would want cantis, you probably don't.

Other: Racks and fenders make frequent commuting far more enjoyable. Carrying gear on the bike is infinitely more comfortably than carrying it on your body (no matter how good your backpack or messenger bag is). Some CX race bikes are pretty limited in what they offer in terms of rack/fender mounts. Make sure you're getting what you need.
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Old 11-02-14, 09:15 AM
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Thanks very much for both replies. I went back to LBS and they agreed that with the addition of CX usage the F75x would be better suited. They're ordering one in and we'll see how well it fits.
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Old 11-12-14, 07:27 PM
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If you get seriously into 'cross you're going to end up with another bike anyways. Setting up your bike to race will make it less and less suitable for anything else - well maybe some trail riding. The ideal 'cross gearing is too narrow of a band to ride on the street IMO. Changing tires and putting on and taking off fenders and racks and bags and lights every week would be a pain in the ass. Your 'cross bike needs to be stripped down with knobby soft tires. It's going to get filthy. 50/34 is far from an ideal crankset.

Plus you're going to need to train right? The ideal training method is to get a road bike and ride the snot out of it the other 9 months of the year. You can commute on that.

BTW whatever you do, cantis, especially on the front, suck. If you do a search on this site you'll find plenty of descriptions as to why. You don't necessarily need discs, just get a mini-v brake for the front. This one is awesome: MiniMoto from Paul Component Engineering but there are others.

People think they are the SUVs of bikes but I don't think so. Probably lots buy them for commuting, and that's fine, but trying to race and commute sounds like jack of all trades master of none.
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Old 11-13-14, 05:50 PM
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For casual racing while keeping the bike road rideable, a second set of wheels and a cassette are all you need. My bike has seasonal plumage from stripped down with knobbies and a 12-27 cassette during cross season to full winter setup with slicks, fenders, 2 bottle cages and an 11-28 cassette for easier climbing and extra top speed on the road. Then in late spring I take off the fenders and start occasionally mounting the knobby wheels for trail rides and Kermesse races, before ending up back in race trim in September.
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Old 11-14-14, 11:16 AM
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Sure that's one approach SlowJoe, but you only go through the whole conversion process once, setting it up for commuting after 'cross season and converting it back before. I assume you use one of your other bikes to commute on or whatever road riding you do during 'cross season. Going through the conversion process every week in the fall would just be painful. There's a reason why most cyclists have multiple bikes!

OP my suggestion is to get an older used rigid mountain bike for a second bike / commuter. You can find these cheap on craigslist / co-op bike shops / Goodwill / yard sales. Seriously like <$100 if you hunt around. Set it up for commuting with slicks, fenders, lights, and a rear rack if you want to use a pannier. I mount a U-lock to the seat tube so it's always there. These are tough bikes and not very attractive to thieves so you can feel ok about locking it up outside in all kinds of weather. You can run fairly wide flat resistant tires. Save your Felt for racing / training.
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Old 11-14-14, 12:24 PM
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I wouldn't rely on one bike for both,, how will you get to work if you Break things Racing on the weekend?
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Old 11-14-14, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Niloc
If you get seriously into 'cross you're going to end up with another bike anyways. Setting up your bike to race will make it less and less suitable for anything else - well maybe some trail riding. The ideal 'cross gearing is too narrow of a band to ride on the street IMO. Changing tires and putting on and taking off fenders and racks and bags and lights every week would be a pain in the ass. Your 'cross bike needs to be stripped down with knobby soft tires. It's going to get filthy. 50/34 is far from an ideal crankset.

Plus you're going to need to train right? The ideal training method is to get a road bike and ride the snot out of it the other 9 months of the year. You can commute on that.

BTW whatever you do, cantis, especially on the front, suck. If you do a search on this site you'll find plenty of descriptions as to why. You don't necessarily need discs, just get a mini-v brake for the front. This one is awesome: MiniMoto from Paul Component Engineering but there are others.

People think they are the SUVs of bikes but I don't think so. Probably lots buy them for commuting, and that's fine, but trying to race and commute sounds like jack of all trades master of none.
I don't think a cyclocross bike is necessarily the ultimate commuting bike, but there is so much wrong here it's hard to know where to start. The gearing range on a cyclocross bike is perfectly adequate for an average person with an average amount of climbing to do. More than that is impossible to say without getting hopelessly tangled up in individual needs and preferences. But Ottawa is not an unusually hilly city.

Cantilever brakes are perfectly good provided they are set up correctly. That's the jumping-off point for a big discussion (and big argument), but suffice to say: cantis don't suck, and brakes are a stupid reason to dismiss a cyclocross bike.

The rest depends a lot on how one prefers to set up a commuting bike and how one approaches the challenge of using one bike to do two very different jobs. Personally I do not like to have racks and panniers on my commuting bikes, so removing them is not an issue. When it comes to fenders, the trade-off I have made in the past is to use easy-on/easy-off partial-coverage fenders like SKS Race Blades and accepted the reduced coverage in exchange for being able to install or remove the fenders very quickly. Dealing with tires is, in my opinion, the biggest actual problem in this list. If you're only riding very short distances to work, you can get away with leaving cross tires on the bike, but otherwise it's not ideal. As SlowJoeCrow already said, the simplest way to deal with this to have a second set of wheels with their own tires and cassette. That way you can have one wheelset set up for road/commuting use and one wheelset ready for cyclocross.

There's no doubt that it's not ideal to use one bike to both commute and race cyclocross, but if you have limited room for bikes in your life, it's a viable option. It requires some more work and commitment, yes. These days I do have bikes specifically for commuting and cyclocross, but I have commuted on my cross bike in the past and will probably do so again. It worked out fine, thanks.
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Old 11-14-14, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
There's no doubt that it's not ideal to use one bike to both commute and race cyclocross,
and that was my point.

However I notice the OP is "planning" to try cyclocross next year. So in reality he's getting a commuter for now. If he actually tries 'cross and gets into it, he will likely find that it would be highly worthwhile having another bike to commute on, at least during 'cross season. If you read my other post I make a suggestion as to how to solve the matter inexpensively.

So I guess if he doesn't want to use a rack or panniers, and he's willing to deal with not so great for coverage race blades, and swap tires every week then it can work for both.

I checked Felt's site and yeah the gearing would work ok for both. What I meant was that most "cross bikes" are more set up for the road than actual cyclocross, but at least this one doesn't have a 50/34.

Cantilever brakes may work OK on that particular bike IDK. But there are plenty of bikes in which it is impossible to set up the front brake to work without chatter and squealing and just some form of not-so-great braking. I could not get mine to work very well and I tried. I've been riding mountain bikes with cantis since the late 80s and I tried all kinds of tricks on my cross bike. If you look on this forum you'll find plenty of folks posting about problems with cantis on cross forks and I've heard the same from folks in person. I've talked with professional mechanics who've said the same. The cantilever brake on a cross fork is basically a design flaw, at least for many bikes and the way many are sold in the shops. You *may* be able to solve it with tricks (fork mounted cable hanger is your best bet) but a really great way to solve it is just replace it with a mini-v. This will work so much better and is less fiddly to adjust as well. There are some new 'cross specific options out there.
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Old 11-16-14, 12:01 PM
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Thanks for the continued discussion. I picked up the Felt F75x yesterday after getting fitted up. So I'll give it a go next year using it for both commuting and racing cross next fall. I understand the opinion that 2 bikes would be best and that may happen down the road, but I'm already in for more dollars that I originally planned so will wait until that becomes a real necessity.

I'll see how it goes switching my tires from slicks to knobbies for training over the spring summer and if/when I get fed up with that then I'll spring for a second wheelset.
Undecided on the use of rack and bags. I figure I can CX train with the rack on and just take it off for the actual races in the fall.

The Felt has cantis so I'll see how they go but I've noted the opinion that they might not be ideal particularly on the front. My LBS seems great and genuinely interested in my best interests versus pushing sales so I have an ally there for this and other matters.

Thanks for the tip on fenders, I'll check out SKS Race Blades and similar. How much work/annoyance is taking fenders on/off versus racks? We're talking about a few screws for each item right?
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