No. 1 of several in a series hyping up the 2014-2015 FLCX Cyclocross series
Yes, it’s almost August, and that means that there’s less than 30 days until the first date on the Florida Cyclocross Calender at Little Everglades in Dade City. Dan Milstead, promoter, is bound and determined that the entire United States is going to learn about Dade City hospitality, and has managed to get a race in Florida onto the US National Cyclocross Calender. This is exciting, and this is big news!
Hopefully, by now, you have figured out what you’re riding next season, but if not, I have some thoughts on the subject. Particularly if this is your first Cyclocross bike. If you are under the age of 30 and don’t have a job that allows you significant amounts of discretionary income, you are not out of luck- there are still deals to be found out there on the used market for a fancy bike for a flimsy price. We are dangerously close to the danger zone of it being too late to get a bike by the start of the CX season, but we’re not there yet.
So if you don’t have a ton of money to spend, first look at the classifieds on Facebook or craigslist or ebay for someone’s used fancy race bike. You can often find a bike that’s a year or two old for a fraction of its original cost.
Used Empella. image from HERE
Then look at your favourite local shop- even if they don’t have anything in stock they may be able to grab a sweet deal for you. As the manager of a small shop, I encourage you to come to my shop, but I’m a realist, and I understand that you probably have a local shop that you frequent that usually gives you a deal and always helps yo out in a bind. Wait- you don’t have one of those? You buy everything you use online and you know how to work on your own bike already? Then why are you reading this? This is to help out newcomers and people too scared of giving their credit cards to internet retailers. Which isn’t totally irrational. Hackers suck.
If you don’t have one preferred local shop that you frequent, I encourage you to find one. Mine, preferably, but not everyone lives in Orlando, so pick one that’s close to you that’s open when you can get there, and make friends with the manager and/or owner and/or head mechanic. Shopping there consistently, bringing them beer/food/cookies/coffee, and do the shop rides; these are all a good way to start. This will benefit you for years, not just for right now, so choose wisely. Don’t be that guy who chases the best shop team deal to every shop in town every year, nobody likes that guy.
Every single major bike company is unveiling a new gravel-grinder bike for 2015. Yes, they will technically work for CX, but they have a longer wheelbase and more relaxed geometry than a true CX bike, so they will handle a bit sluggishly compared to a true CX race bike. As a beginner, you can certainly ride a gravel grinder bike, but I think you’ll find that as you get more serious about racing CX, you’ll be happiest on a true CX race bike. Particularly on a course that I design with a billion hairpin corners, but
Yes, they are the cheapest way to get a CX bike, but I discourage the $500 Motobecane/Scattante/BikesDirect.com CX bike, because it weighs a million pounds and by the end of your first race you hate CX so much you may never come back. We want you to keep coming back to our party, so do yourself a favor and get a decent bike to start with. Yes, before you accuse me, I admit that I’m a bit elitist in this argument, but I’ve raced a 26 pound CX bike, and a 16 pound CX bike, and the light one was WAY MORE FUN.
So, what exactly should I be looking for for my first CX bike you ask. Well, generally, you want a bike that comes with the same number of gears as your road bike, so you can also use your existing wheels as spare wheels. Aluminum or carbon is optimal, steel is real but is heavier. Carbon is lightest, but most fragile and expensive in most cases. Aluminum is pretty light and pretty strong, and usually pretty cheap. As for brakes, disks are the new hotness but they are also heavier and require an entirely new collection of wheels. You should have at least two sets of wheels for CX- think of them as training (The heavier and more durable set, preferably with clinchers/tubeless) and racing (Lighter and tubular, optimally). Tubeless wheels are getting better, so you might want to use them instead for your race wheels, we’ll have that discussion later. If you’re racing, the upper end parts groups are probably best, at least from Shimano and Sram- Ultegra/105 from Shimano and Force/Rival from Sram are optimal froma durability and bang for the buck standpoint. Yes, Dura Ace and Red are both nice, but they aren’t cheap to replace when you tear a derailleur off in the muck of a September mudfest training session.
If you have questions, please feel free to ask, and we’ll see you back here in a few days for the second edition of this series!