Bicycle Network: Bikes 'n' Bits
Tough crossbreeds.Born in Europe to cope with demanding obstacle races, the Cyclocross is a hardy bike with both off-road clout and speed. Malachi Moxon reports.
Specialized Tricross Comp Double vs Cannondale Cyclocross
Cyclocross racing developed in the 1950s as a way for road riders to stay fit through the winter months. The courses they raced on were normally in parks, woods or anything with enough space to create a four to five-kilometre loop. The loop was designed to test the skill and stamina of the rider, with sections that were deliberately made unrideable so riders were forced to jump off their bikes and carry it over obstacles, as if the rain and mud weren’t enough to put up with.
A cyclocross bike is basically a road bike frame and rigid fork with drop bars and 700c wheels, but beefed up slightly to be ridden off-road. Chainstays are wider and the fork is wider than a normal road fork to allow for mud clearance. They usually run slightly fatter knobbier tires and cantilever brakes for maximum clearance.
Specialized Tricross Comp Double
|Frame sizes||49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61cm|
|Frame||Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum|
|Fork||Specialized FACT carbon cyclocross|
|Front derailleur||Shimano 105|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Ultegra|
|Crankset||FSA Gossamer MegaExo|
|Bottom bracket||FSA integrated, exterior cartridge bearings, alloy|
|Pedals||Composite body test ride pedals|
|Stem||Specialized Pro, 3D forged alloy, 31.8mm bar clamp, 4-position adjustable|
|Handlebars||Specialized Zertz Comp handlebar, racing drop, 31.8 clamp|
|Front hub||Roval Classique Pavé, 20 hole, Roval QR|
|Rear hub||Roval Classique Pavé, 24 hole, aluminum freehub body, Roval QR|
|Spokes||DT Stainless 14g|
|Rims||Roval Classique Pavé|
|Tyres||Specialized Borough CX Pro, 700x32C, dual-compound tread, aramid bead|
|Seat post||Specialized Pavé, FACT carbon seat post with Zertz insert, 27.2mm|
|Saddle||Body Geometry Avatar, microfibre, gel padding, hollow Cro-Moly rails|
This bike labours under a mish-mash of marketing terms. Depending on what you read it can be a cyclocross bike, a touring bike or an urban road bike. But this flexible marketing jargon is not unwarranted: after riding the Tricross for a week, on and off-road, I felt the bike was not only built for cyclocross; it served as a good solid commuter as well.
The frame is made up of ‘Specialized A1’ aluminium, double-butted tubing, which gives the whole thing a bit more grunt. Add to this a very reliable parts kit from Shimano, and a big fat carbon fork with an interesting little bit of plastic thrown in (Specialized calls it a ‘Speedzert’), which is there to take out the bumps on the trail.
I rode out to Westerfolds Park along the Yarra Trail and singletrack, which was a good test for the bike, being a mixture of bitumen and dirt. It was a smooth ride but the bike definitely handled better on the bitumen. Also the high-flange hubs are a nice touch, 20-hole up front and 24-hole for the rear, not only looking very stylish, but the high-flange offers strength to the wheel.
Specialized has also badged some nice parts themselves – the stem and handlebars, which look good, plus a carbon seat post with the same material the manufacturer uses in its forks just to give you a more comfortable journey. Another positive is the dual brake levers. The bike features Shimano 105 nine-speed STI levers which are linked to a second set of brake levers, fitted on the flat section of the drop bars. This gives you more manoevrability for off-road use, so you can brake while your hands are on flat section of the bars.
One thing that was a disappointment was the choice of tyres. They were 700c road slick – absolutely useless as an off-road tyre.
But all in all the Specialized Tricross is a good-looking, tough urban bicycle, with the capacity for rack and mudguards to be added, making it ideal for the streets of Melbourne and the rigours of commuting.
|Frame sizes||47, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60cm|
|Fork||Cannondale Slice SI Ultra Carbon XR, 1 1/8"|
|Brakes||Tektro Oryx, Cannonade B-levers (cantilever brakes)|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Tiagra|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano 105|
|Crankset||TruVatiV Elita Compact, 36/50|
|Bottom bracket||TruVatiV Giga X Pipe|
|Stem||Cannondale Fire 3-D Forged 31.8 mm|
|Front hub||Cannondale Wind|
|Rear hub||Cannondale Wind|
|Spokes||DT Swiss Champion 1.8 mm|
|Rims||Mavic CXP22 S|
|Tyres||Hutchinson Pro Series, 700 x 30c Kevlar|
|Seat post||Cannondale Fire Carbon w/Micro adjust|
|Saddle||Fi’zi:k Aliante Sport|
There are two models in the Cannondale cyclocross range, one with disc brakes and one without. I got my hands on the non-disc model.
The first thing I noticed about the bike was it was light, which was a bit surprising considering the parts kit. The frame is made from Cannondale in-house aluminium called Optimo, and the downtube is an interesting design – Cannondale calls it the Power Pyramid. It’s tapered at the top and is oversized near the bottom bracket area.
Cannondale uses more material only where it’s needed, minimising weight and optimising stiffness, thus giving better power transfer.
The parts kit, although being of the lower end, works very well. And like all things, if you look after the components they will look after you.
The crankset is a Truvativ Elita GXP compact bolt pattern (110mm diameter versus 130mm standard), which gives you the option of running a wider range of gears, ideal for trail riding. Also, as with the Specialized Tricross, the Cannondale gives you the option of a second set of brake levers attached on the top of the bars, which is indeed handy on technical trails and singletrack.
The ride was good: I did nearly all my riding off road and the carbon seat post and carbon forks took the bumps out of the trail and the tyres gripped very well in dry conditions. This bike is sold as a cyclocross racing bike and for me that’s what it was. It rode very well on the dirt – the Tektro brakes could have been better, but maybe I am just used to using hydraulic discs off road and not cantilevers.
It does take a bit of getting used to riding a road bike off road, but once you feel comfortable and relaxed, it’s great fun. The Cannondale would certainly cut it as an all-round touring or commuting bike.
Unlike the Specialized Tricross, this Cannondale cyclocross is marketed as a pure race bike. Whether there is a market in this country for a pure cyclocross bike, we shall have to wait and see. But remember not that long ago the single speed thing was meant to be a passing phase, and now most bike companies have one in their range.
Malachi Moxon has been in the bicycle industry since 1995 and is currently store manager at Spoke(n) in Melbourne’s CBD. His lifestyle still hasn’t changed much since he was six: he still rides a single speed and has never driven a car.
This article first appeared the June-July 2006 issue of Ride On.
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