Deep in my core I know a little something about myself. It comes as a shock to some. At times it’s almost considered shameful by some of my peers. You want to know my dirty secret? I’m not a road biker.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve put the time in pounding out the the miles on that great asphalt snake serpentining its way across the States. I’ve ridden across the state of Iowa. I’ve done MS charity rides in Idaho, Texas, Utah, and Oregon, and had those weeks where the total distance was over 500 miles, so when I say I tried to like it, I really did try. It just never took. What is it that I don’t like? To put it simply, It’s just so boring… I know there are people who will completely disagree, but horses for courses as they say.
A few years back there was a tragic accident involving my road bike where the frame was damaged beyond repair (frame was creased when something fell on it). Instead of running out and getting a replacement whip, I purchased a cyclocross bike instead.
It comes down to this: If I was really honest, the fact of the matter is, I’m a mountain biker. When I finally accepted and embraced this, life became easier. When I was invited out for a road ride, I could say no and do something I truly enjoyed instead. It was freeing! It was exciting! It rekindled my love for bikes.
I’m sure you’re asking, WTF? You’ll race cyclocross but not ride a road bike. I’m not saying I don’t or won’t ride road, but given a choice I’ll choose something else almost every time. To get to it further, it wasn’t the bike I didn’t like. It was the monotony of the road that didn’t do it for me. Cyclocross on the other-hand is anything but monotonous. The jostle, the terrain, the focus, the dark place deep in the pain cave… What can I say? It had me at hello.
Where I do struggle with cyclocross is actually the equipment. In a certain way, it’s almost like the bike industry’s super secret conspiracy.
We are going to take the most fragile equipment and race it, OFF ROAD in the MUD!
Knowing the use and intent of a CX bike, why do these bikes come with lightweight road component groupsets that have fine step resolution in the gear spacing and non-clutch derailleurs!?!
I’m currently riding a bike that’s set up with a DI2 Ultegra / R785 (disc) Groupset. Where and when I can, I’ve been making changes to ruggedized the bike. Mountain wheels. Praxis PF30 conversion BB (hey it beats the creaky PF POS BB).
What’s next? XT DI2 1×11 drivetrain. It’s always chapped me that I couldn’t get a clutched derailure that would work with my CX bike (especially with the DI2, that’s just programming). With the introduction of the XT level 11 speed and DI2, I can now make my CX bike complete. I know I could have done this with the XTR, but I have a fundamental issue with a derailleur that costs as much as a pony.
Here’s how it is going to look – Campy chain, Wolf Tooth Chain ring (42T), 11-40 cassette, and the XT derailleur. so what do I give up in this situation? Almost nothing actually. I lose out on some top end speed (~3mph at 90 rpm) and there will be a loss of granularity in my gear choices.
I’m not worried about top end speed when it’s approaching 30mph (I’ve never gotten close to 30mph in a CX race). When we are talking cyclocross, I can’t think of a single time where I was changing a gear by a single click because I was looking for an ideal cadence. It’s always been about dumping gears to get ready to drive up a hill or coming out of a corner grabbing gears to get back to speed. In terms of cadence, I think it might actually be better for racing because of the larger steps between gears.
Finally, I’m not sure who out there has played with both the DI2 mountain derailleurs and road derailleurs, but the mountain derailleurs are WAY faster than their road counterparts. With the Ultegra, you press the button, then wait, and finally a shift. With the XT the shift is complete before you get your finger off the button. Oh yeah! I’m in!