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need honest opinions on off-road handling of cross bikes(11 posts)

need honest opinions on off-road handling of cross bikesgreg n
May 9, 2002 6:42 AM
O.K., here's the deal. I was doing mostly mtb races, but now have migrated to almost exclusively road racing and CX. There's a cross bike I'd like to get, but due to financial restraints, I'll probably need to sell my mt. bike to get it. This might not be a really hard decision, but my mt. bike is a Bontrager Race Lite, custom painted, full XTR w/ original Race Lite wheels (with the Chris King hubs). I consider the frame a collector's item since they aren't made any more. So this kind of hurts. But I just think I'd get more use out of a CX bike right now. And it sure would be a better commuter than the mt. bike. Not to mention this particular CX frame is no longer made either, at least not by the original company.

Anyway, the handful of local mtb races that I will continue to do have quite a bit of twisty singletrack with numerous log jumps. I have seen guys attempt these races on cross bikes, but their ability/performance was down right embarassing and laughable.

So I guess my question goes out to mtbers (preferably expert level) who have attempted/made this switch. Either successfully or unsuccessfully. Will a cross bike be able to handle (meaning clean log jumps without having to dismount, corner quickly, etc.) a course like this for someone one who does have good technical skills?

Any comments will be appreciated.

re: need honest opinions on off-road handling of cross bikesatpjunkie
May 9, 2002 7:04 AM
I don't think you'll ever get the handling of an MTB on a cx bike. The narrower tires, the geometry and body position just don't put you in as nimble of a riding position aa an MTB. Granted I don't ride expert in either, but put a ton of miles and things I fly down on my MTB I have to take far more delicately on my cx. You'll feel it most cornering and descending you just can't push the bike as hard. I don't know that Bontrager sounds like a sweet rig, hard to part. Save some dough and by a used cx online (here or ebay) and try it out before you let go of such a great rig.
I very much agree........TWD
May 9, 2002 8:25 AM
A CX bike isn't going to handle as well at a MTB for serious off road riding. I've been riding/racing MTB since 1989, have raced a fair amount of XC MTB at Expert level, as well as smattering of downhill, Dual Slalom, road racing and lots of BMX racing as a kid. I just got into CX.

I've been training on my CX bike all spring on an off-road, but have been switching back to the MTB for MTB races. There is no way I would want to ride my CX bike in a 30+ mile long Expert MTB race on a rough course. I take a bad enough beating on my hardtail MTB as it is.

I train on the same trails on the CX as on my MTB and I'm alot slower on the rougher sections on the CX than on my MTB. Especially on loose rock/gravel switchbacks, where I just about have to crawl around them.

Not to say that it can't be done, just a couple of weeks ago I dropped a riding buddy on a 1000' singletrack descent. I was on my CX and he was on a full suspension MTB. It was a relatively smooth trail though and I'm a far better bike handler than he is.

So, I guess it depends alot on the terrain that you are going to race on and how good you can handle your bike. If it's a smooth course, with good traction on the climbs, and nothing too loose or nasty on the downhills, you'll fly on a CX bike. You may make up more time on the flats and climbs than you loose on the descents. If it's loose, rocky, steep, with lot's of roots etc... forget it.

But hey, if your a good enough bike handler, you may be able to pull it off. I love it when other MTB'ers give me the "What the f#$% are you doing out here on that road bike" look just before I blow past them on a descent.

A CX bike can't be beat for versatility. I commute to work every day, and have 5-10 mile pavement ride to get from work to the local MTB trails. Alot of my rides end up being 30-40 miles with more than half on pavement. I have more fun on my CX bike on those types of rides than my MTB.

All that aside, your MTB sounds like a sweet ride. If I were you I'd hang onto it, save some money and pick up a matching Bontrager CX bike off Ebay or the RBR classifieds. There are still a few floating around. Who knows, you may like CX racing more than MTB or road!

Good Luck
re: need honest opinions on off-road handling of cross bikesjrm
May 9, 2002 10:33 AM
Your skills as a MTBer will compliment how your able to ride the CX bike in the dirt. The best way i can describe riding a CX bike in the dirt is that a CX bike handles and has the same characteristics as a road bike does on the road. But the ground isnt level, and the surface isnt static.
re: need honest opinions on off-road handling of cross bikespeter in NVA
May 9, 2002 2:29 PM
There really is a fuzzy line between Mtn and CX bikes. The first Mtn bikes were just road bikes with fatter tires-same
with my full rigid Mtn bikes circa 1989 (2 Ritchey's). Whenever I think I'm doing really well riding my CX on single track, some beginner with a full suspension just flies past me! For me though, its more challenging and fun on the CX...but inadequate speed for racing.
honest opinions on off-road handling of cross bikes HISTORYatpjunkie
May 9, 2002 3:09 PM
actually the first MTB bikes were old Schwinn Excelsior and Elgin cruiser (paperboy) 3 tube cantilever frames with drum brakes and whatever drive train (usually TA touring Cranks) you could throw on. I raced Repack Road (Mt. Tam) in the early days of the sport so I have some knowledge of the developement of the sport. Ritchey and Breezers first MTB's were not just road bikes with fatter tires. They were already designing the bikes and reenforcing them with off road riding in mind using the Klunker experience they gained. Head and Seat Tube angles were quite different from roadies as were the longer chain and seat stays. Breezer even put diagonal support frame stays on his bikes. In the early 80's Steve Potts and most famously Charlie Cunningham (with Jackie Phelan aboard) tried cx drop bars on their MTB's. They worked well for climbing but sucked for technical riding. The 2 Ritcheys that gentleman speaks of already had gone through many geometry changes primarily shortening of the chain and seat stays but the head and seat tube angles established by Ritchey, Ibis, Salsa, Breezer etc.. from the late 80's are still pretty much standard for most hard tail MTB's today. Yes they had thinner steel tubes (except the Cunninghams) which look quite different from most huge tubed aluminum bikes today, but the geometry is essentially the same (Aluminum MTB to Steel MTB) and shares little with their road compatriots. Cross bikes live in a land somewhere in between and like Peter says a average rider on a MTB will smoke a guy on cross. I as well love blowing by people on my cx on a dirt trail but I know I can ride most dirt trails faster on my Ellsworth Truth than I can on my cx bike(s).
honest opinions on off-road handling of cross bikes HISTORYpeter in NVA
May 10, 2002 3:05 AM
That's a good history. Have any photos of those days?...early Mt Tam riding shots are classics today! I know Ritchey and company built bikes quit different than road bikes...but
I sometimes imagine myself on one of those early "Jobst Brandt" rides when they actually explored trails on road bikes.
One more data pointRay Sachs
May 10, 2002 6:23 AM
I don't race expert, rarely race at all, but have ridden a lot of varied terrain on both mtb and cross bikes. If you're talking about rough, technical trails with big drop-offs, rock gardens, and big logs, I'd agree with the other posters. No comparison - keep an mtb.

If you're talking about relatively smooth trails interrupted by some occasional roots and rocks, small drops (maybe 6-9") and relatively small (six inch or less) log jumps (or ramped log crossings), I'd say you'd do just about as well or better with a cross bike. I ride with the same mtb friends on my cross bike that I used to on my mtb. On most descents, I don't lose anything to them - when it gets really hairy I do lose time. On technical climbs, I'm toast, but I can generally run the bike up as fast as they can climb on the bike. On relatively non-technical climbs and flats/rollers, I'm much faster on the cross bike than I was on the mtb.

Overall, if I was doing timed laps of most of the courses I ride, I'd be faster on the cross bike. On some very technical courses I'd be slower. Most of what I ride is east coast (Philly/Wilmington area) trails through woods and some farm fields and I sold my mtb. So you really have to assess they type of terrain you mostly ride.

Different anglemuncher
May 10, 2002 8:08 AM
I'd say that if you have a MTB as nice as that which you view as a collector's item, you should hang on to it. For a start, you are going to have to get a lot of dosh together to get to that level on a CX, and even then, I'd always be thinking "I whish I'd kept that Bontrager - that was the dog's", no matter how good the CX is - they are just different.

When you have a bike that you really love, I'd say hang on to it - you might not capture that moment again for a long while.

For the record, I have never raced MTB, but it wouldn't change my view if I had!

thanks for the input folksgreg n
May 10, 2002 11:21 AM
I pretty much figured I'd hang on to the Bontie, but I wanted to throw this out there.

BTW, the CX bike I was considering is an original Salsa La Cruz (not the Quality one made by Waterford) as close to mint as a used one comes.

Well, hopefully another opportunity like that will come up when the timing's right.

Thanks again.
thanks for the input folksatpjunkie
May 10, 2002 12:02 PM
keep an eye on line you can find deals for under a grand or save your dough and custom order a Soulcraft. They are built by the framebuilders originally from Salsa who stayed in NorCal when Salsa was purchased.

RE: old photos, I'll look next time I'm at my parents. Maybe some remnants. Used to race repack on a 26" Cook Bros. BMX bike. That bike was so PIMP. Unfortunately it was stolen while I attended UCSD, 2 locks cut. I used to have a great pic of Jackie Phelan crossing the finish line of the 2nd or 3rd rockhopper. She was finishing so high in the overall that she was often mistaken for a male elite. On this day she pulled down her top and crossed the finish announcing her gender. Was so classic, I kind of miss those simpler times when Anchor Steam flowed at the finish and it wasn't uncommon for racers to take a "safety check" halfway through. Sometimes I think it's all gotten too serious. It's good for the sport though.