April 3, 2013

Pamela – complete

The Bean has fallen asleep after his birthday morning of Swedish House Mafia and chocolate chip pancakes (his current two favorite things) so it’s time for a blog post!

There are really two ways of looking at a cyclocross bike, and I think you can learn a lot about a builder or rider’s attitude about riding on dirt from figuring out which kind of cyclocross bike person they are.

Please take note – I don’t think either way is wrong or right. I am firmly on one side (I’ll let you guess which) but it’s not at all an adversarial thing. Some people like chocolate, some like vanilla.

Type 1 cyclocross bikes are really just road bikes with mountain bike brakes (well, mountain bike brakes from 20 years ago) and lots of tire clearance. They’re usually 73/73 square/level toptube frames (I’m referring to the head and seat tube angles) and often built with lugs. This type of bike is great for riding on pavement and dirt roads and makes a decent touring setup too if you put mounting points on for fenders and racks and such. If you try to take it on even mellow singletrack or race a cross race, though, it’s much too twitchy and unforgiving of errors (which you will make when you’ve been redlined for 40 minutes, trust me) on rough terrain so you’ll tend to wipe out a lot and generally hate life.

Type 2 bikes, on the other hand, aren’t at all road bikes. They’re usually at least somewhat sloping toptube setups (making the tradeoff between dismounting ease and shouldering ease is one of the toughest decisions when designing one) and use mountain bike-like head tube angles (ie around 71 degrees). They also have lots of tire clearance but are seldom built with lugs simply because it’s a bit harder to find or modify lugs to work right for the geometry. They’re fine on the road or dirt roads (because basically anything with skinny tires is fine on the road) but they shine when the trails get rough and twisty, or the racecourse gets slick, because they’re designed to be much more stable and capable of holding a line on rough terrain.

As you might have guessed, I mostly build mountain bikes dressed up as cyclocross bikes (ie Type 2), because I figure you want to design for the gnarliest terrain you think you’ll ride and figure the bike will do fine on all the easier stuff. Most of my customers are not exactly casual riders (maybe if stopped making fun of casual-riding dentists I’d make more money…) so they tend to want cyclocross bikes that can get dirty, race, go exploring, and maybe even fill in for a mountain bike in a pinch.

Pamela’s bike is one of those. Here’s the geometry:
-71 head tube/75 seat tube
-For a 47mm offset tapered steerer Enve fork, 570mm front center and 70mm trail.
-51cm toptube, sloping 11 degrees.
-42cm chainstays, clearance for a 35c tire.
-Disc specific, ready for a compact double or single ring setup (front derailleurs are dead, Pamela!)
-275mm/10.8″ BB height.
-S-bendy stays for style, True Temper OX platinum pipes, 3.6# frame.

Is it a mountain bike? Obviously not, but it’s not just a road bike with big tires, either.

Also pictured: Waltworks Zero, the first bike I ever built. Now sadly relegated to snow-day commuting only for Sarah.

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