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Cyclocross Bike - First Impressions(12 posts)

Cyclocross Bike - First ImpressionsBigJ
Jul 24, 2001 6:59 AM
So last Friday I went in to the local bike shop and picked up my new LeMond Poprad cyclocross bike. This morning was the first opportunity I have had to ride it in its specified mode of operation (off road, that is). My plan was to awake at 5:30, get out the door at 6 and cruise out to Schaeffer for an initial jaunt around the White Loop. Things mostly went as planned - I actually dragged my butt out of bed at the specified hour, and the ride out to the loop was quicker than normal. Being on a sort-of-road-bike lends itself well to the paved sections on the way out there.

The ride around the loop was...hmm....interesting, to say the least. Some initial observations on cyclocrossing in general:

1) Negotiating technical terrain on a steel "road" frame with racing drops and no active suspension is an entirely different deal than riding a mountain bike. You really have to pick your line carefully, or run the risk of trashing your bike on the bumpy / rocky / rooty / washed out sections.

2) It is still entirely possible to traverse fallen logs, in much the same fashion as you do on a mountain bike. The weighting/unweighting techniques is identical. You just can't depend on a front fork to soak up any excess roughage for you. The bigger logs I just dismounted for and ran the bike over.

3) Cantilever brakes are, quite surprisingly, stronger than either the calipers on my road bike, or the V-brakes on my mountain bike! I nearly sent myself over the bars a couple of times by grabbing the front brakes too hard on some downhill sections. One finger does the trick.

4) Drop handlebars induce a hell of a lot more arm fatigue when braking from the hoods than braking on a mountain bike. My forearms were pumped in the course of the mere 3.5 miles of the loop.

5) A 39x26 lowest gear sucks major ass going up even relatively steep hills. Either I have to get a lot stronger, or I'll be doing some chainring swap-outs in the near future. Not really sure how much steep uphills to expect on a tru 'cross course.

6) It's a hell of a lot easier to puncture with a 700c x 28 tire than a meaty 26" x 2 1/4"! As I learned in the gravel parking lot on the way out. Luckily there was still some juice in the cell phone and the wife had not yet left for work (my spare inner tube was also flat). Note to self: ALWAYS carry a working spare tube!!!

Some initial observations on the Poprad specifically:

1) It's relatively heavy. I weighed it in at a hair over 24 pounds, which is right around where my mountain bike is. I am sure I could drop a couple of pounds in the future by upgrading the crankset and bottom bracket, and the wheelset. Oh yeah, also the entire gruppo, the seat and seat post (gotta go carbon ya know), and I definitely need titanium valve stems on the tubes.

2) I don't like the flat sections of the Bontrager drop bars. I would prefer the traditionally more rounded shape. I am going to swap out for a Cinelli bar in the near future.

3) Upgrading to the RSX STI was a good move. I didn't like the feel of the bar end shifters on the test ride, and now using the STIs I can't imagine using anything else. Of course, now this spoils me for my road bike, where I still have downtube-mounted index shifters! But it's not as critical there, where taking the hands off the bars is OK for an instant. The RSK shifters don't feel super positive but it's certainly better than the alternatives.

4) The derailleurs are not at all dialed in. I get significant chain rub on the front derailleur for either chainring when the chain is not exactly in a straight line. Needs some adjustment. Ditto on the brakes, at least the front ones. When I'm standing up, cranking up a hill on the hoods, the front brakes get partially activated and make a rubbing sound! Just when I DON'T need any braking. Of course these are easily fixed.

Anyway, it was kinda fun to ride a
First Impressionsadventurefind
Jul 24, 2001 8:20 AM
Sounds like you had an adventure. I ride the cross off and on the road. It's a great bike for exploring trails if you have to get to them by road. You get there quicker than a mtb. I only got the frame and I built it up as I went. It's 23 lbs. I have velocity rims to xt hubs, a Salsa Bell Lap bar (better than the Bontrager in my opinion), old school gripshift barend shifters, Dia Compe levers, a sachs fromt brake, a suntour Pro XC rear brake, a Salsa brake booster for the rear (the suntour brake flexes the seat stays, a lot), a Bontrager saddle and a Thompson Elite seatpost. I have a stronglight headset to it and a generic stem. Kenda cross tires. I love the bike. Better siuted for fire roads and minor technical trails.
Care to share how much $ you paid?nova
Jul 26, 2001 7:17 AM
A ballpark figure is fine.
Care to share how much $ you paid?Gary in VA
Jul 27, 2001 6:25 PM
I checked several shops today looking for a Propad. The 2001s are just about sold out except for a couple of the larger sizes. The prices I got were $895 for the 2001. The 2002s are out now. They are listed for $950. They put STI shifters on it this year. Color is now gold and orange.
re: Cyclocross Bike - First Impressionspauly
Jul 24, 2001 9:47 AM
I haven't gotten around to it yet, but I've been meaning to take my CX bike (a singlespeed Surly) out on some singletrack. Besides flatting on the gravel, what did you think of the ride with 28 tires? My MTB is fully rigid and I love every bit of the 2.25" tires front and back. Didn't those anorexic 700x28's rattle your teeth out? Also, did you feel like you had any control on with the drop bars on fast descents?

(I know, I know. I should just shut up and try it myself.)
re: Cyclocross Bike - First ImpressionsBigJ
Jul 24, 2001 10:18 AM
I just noticed the end of my original post was truncated. Don't worry, you didn't miss much - I was just saying that it was kind of fun to ride a known trail from a different perspective.

I wouldn't call my 700c x 28s "anorexic" - at least not in comparison to what's on my road bike. But you're right, they certainly don't eat up the bumps like a true mountain bike's would. But there's a tradeoff here - on the dual-track that I expect to see during an actual 'cross race, I am sure that they will outperform a 2.25" mtn bike tire in terms of speed. As for the steep gearing, well...if it's steep enough to where I can't ride it, then I will probably make better time dismounting and running the bike up!

I didn't feel like I had quite the control on the rough stuff that I do with my mountain bike. Like I said earlier, holding on to the brake hoods while trying to feather the brakes took a lot out of my forearms. I think that this is fundamentally due to the different positions of your hands when on the hoods versus on flat bars. With the hoods, your hands are kind of "turned out", with palms facing inwards, and when you extend your fingers it seems to weaken your grip more than if your hands are in the position they would be on flat bars.

Anyway, it was fun, and I figure if I train on singletrack then I should be pretty much ready for anything that's thrown at me during a 'cross race.

ramble on techniquelonefrontranger
Jul 24, 2001 2:39 PM
For really techy rooty singletrack, the MTB is best. Of course that doesn't stop me (or others) from pushing the envelope on the 'cross bike although I have a really nice Klein hardtail. Riding the 'crossie improves your bike-handling skills enormously because there's nowhere to hide. It also gives you tons of incentive and opportunity to become an excellent dismount / remount / runup specialist, especially if you're trying to keep up with MTB'ers at the same time.

This also makes me a better MTB'er because practicing with the 'cross bike makes the MTB seem stupid easy on marginal stuff, and there will ALWAYS be something on any given MTB race course that is far faster (for me anyhow) to dismount / run than ride and possibly risk crashing on. True, it may be "cooler" to clean it, but if my technique is spotless, making it faster and safer to dismount / run, I'll save attempting to bunnyhop the Log from Hell for the amusement of my chums on the weekend ride.

On a safety note, you should ride in the drops in sketchy stuff, ESPECIALLY on descents. I know you said you don't like the anatomical flats on the Bontrager bars, but I've seen guys lose control when riding from the hoods more than once on bumpy stuff because it's just not as secure a position. Drop your saddle a half to a full centimeter from your road position, and raise the stem a bit if you feel like you are too "downhill" in the drops. This is a standard recommendation when switching positions from road to 'cross anyhow.

A teammate of mine crashed and broke his right hand in several places when it slipped off the hoods on a bumpy descent. Riding in the drops gives you a more secure grip, lowers your center of gravity and allows you to use more braking strength with less fatigue.

Just my .02 FWIW.
Poprad headtube diameter?nova
Jul 24, 2001 1:03 PM
Hi -

Does the Poprad have a 1" or 1 1/8" headtube diameter?

1 "adventurefind
Jul 24, 2001 1:23 PM
It's a 1"
i love my poprad..........smokey422
Jul 25, 2001 7:56 AM
absolutely no problems so far except 2 flat tires, which is not the bike's fault. i think you got a bad set-up on yours, my shifting and braking were flawless right from the start and i only had to make one tiny adjustment to the rear derailleur after riding many miles. probably just due to cable stretch. i don't do singletrack on mine, i have a fisher mountain bike for that. i keep 2 sets of tires, the stock bontragers(which will be replaced by michelin sprints when they wear out) and a set of specialized road tires for pavement. we have lots of dirt and gravel roads around here, some flat and some very hilly. took a while to get used to bar end shifters and i may change to a triple crankset when the stock one wears out. i'm a 225# clydesdale with a history of knee problems and don't want to push my luck on the steeps(lots of those here, too).
question about brakes...mtnrogue
Aug 1, 2001 9:23 AM
My Poprad takes forever to stop! What kinda canti & pads do you have??

I'm running shimano canti's and their pads.

question about brakes...BAM
Aug 4, 2001 3:14 PM
In what conditions are you riding when the brakes don`t want to stop (wet, dry, pavement, dirt)??