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Is it possible?

I ride a road bike, back in the saddle after a lengthy absence and cyclocross is all new to me. I went to see my first race on Saturday at Morris Plains in New Jersey. It looks a hell of a lot of fun but it also looks bloody expensive. I'm dying to have a go but it seems beyond my limited budget. The road bike is a fine ride but not cyclocross compatible in my opinion. Not much tire clearance, no braze-ons for cantis etc. Most of the bikes - I watched the 40+ and 50+ races, I'd be in the 40+ but think I'd struggle to compete with a 60+ field to be honest - I saw raced were of the expensive variety. Van Dessels seemed to be very popular, Ridley's and one gent had an absolutely stunning red steel Gunnar model.

 

I'd be very interested to know how successful people have been in either a) scoring an awesome deal on a bike and any tips for doing so, where to look etc... and b) assembling a bike of their own.

 

I'm tempted to try  b. I'm giving myself 12 months to get in shape and either build a bike (eBay, Craigslist, garage sales) or save up for an entry level bike.

 

 

If I can just be a cheeky sod and sneak in another one; I'm a big fan of steel frames how suitable or unsuitable do people feel steel is for cyclocross?

 

Any opinions, advice, constructive criticisms greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance, you cyclocross guys are insane, in the nicest possible way, naturally.

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I'm kind of intrigued by the build your own on the cheap eBay, Craigslist, garage sale etc... route. It might be a fun long term project. On the other hand, I'd love to just walk in a store and buy a bike that just needs riding home. I'm enjoying looking round the www. at possibilities.

I was looking at the CX frame from Soma Fabrications (steel and reasonable price, it seems) and wondering just how much of my road bike I could switch over - possibly making my road bike a single speed because it's not that hilly where I live. Plenty of time. I've had loads of great advice and I'm significantly wiser than I was when I put the inital post up, thanks to everyone's input.

 

I've not seen this response yet, but you may want to just swap out the frame.....

Step 1... Find out what size seatpost and seat tube dia your road bike has.

Step 2... Find a CX frame that has the same size seatpost and seat tube

Step 3...Strip the bars/stem/headset, seat&post, wheels and derailleurs off your road bike.

Step 4...Install all the parts on the CX frame- You already now know they'll fit.

Step 5...Sell the road frame--->keep the road tires to put back on the CX bike when spring comes around and you can use it as a road bike.

 

Oh yeah.... buy some NOS mid 90's Shimano cantilever brakes and install them on the CX frame. You can sell the road brakes to more than finance that.

Jeremy, that's an awesome idea except I'd be loathe to part with my road bike.

Jon - Jeremy could be on to something here.  Truth be told, if it wasn't for the fact that my road bike is custom and I got it for basically free, I probably wouldn't have a dedicated road bike.  I was actually just thinking the other day about what I could get for it if I sold it.  A CX frame with decent wheels and skinny rubber will be more than serviceable on the road, even if you intend to race it on the road (I raced my CX bike in crits 2 years ago).  The bike wasn't what was causing me to get dropped. 

 

The Soma Double Cross seems nice, if maybe a bit heavy.  CXM did a review a few issues back. 

I think, all things being equal, it's a great idea. I really do. However, in the parallel universe that is my marraige it's an option that would pose more problems than it would solve. Also, I doubt I'd get much for my road bike frame - Bianchi Campione. It's a bike I've grown very attached to very quickly - I just put two Continental GP 4 season tires on it this morning and I'd really like to keep it.

If I had my heart set on trying to get a few races in this season I might go down this avenue but I'm content to aim for next season.

 

I'll try find the review of the Soma frame. I have a digital subscription to CX magazine so hopefully I can track it down. When you say heavy Kris, what's your idea of heavy? Someone who has a custom made road frame may be a bit more concerned with lbs and ounces than I will be.

Thanks again for the response, it's far to say I'm somewhat stunned by all the great advice.

All you'd be "losing" would be the frame and fork, although looking at the spec of the Bianchi, racing a Soma with that parts package might be more difficult (downtube shifters would make it tough in my mind). 

 

Please don't take the fact that I have a custom road frame as an indication of my weight-weenie-ness.  The frame was won in a raffle, with a total outlay from me of $200 (multiple nice prizes in the raffle) and I got lucky.  Got the frame and fork and a 2-3 hour bike fitting for my investment.  One of the best deals I've ever made. 

 

I just so happen to have Issue #7 with me (as I was re-reading the Crossniacs article, a group I am looking to join), that has the Soma review in it.  Kitted up with Ultregra SL, and standard 32 spoke clinchers, the built bike came in at 21 pounds, not including pedals, in a size 54.  4.5 pounds for the frame and another 2.25 for the steel fork, uncut.  Considering the UCI minimum weight is just a hair under 15 lbs, and you'll be lifting, carrying, and pushing the bike probably mulitple times per lap per race and that weight adds up.  Add mud, grass, etc. clinging to your frame and wheels, and you get the picture.  Although the reviewer says the Soma weight is on par with his boutique built cx machine, and I'd say my bike is probably closer to the 19-20 lb range (the custom road bike is probably closer to 17-18, so by no means super light). 

That's great Kris, thanks. Issue 7 I can access on the internet so I'll have a read of that tonight. The down tube shifters wouldn't be a good move in my view for CX. I would need to actually put my hand in my pocket and buy some bifters. Congrats on winning a road bike. Maybe that will be my plan C. Raffle tickets.
Just another opinion:  I'd hold out for two complete bikes -- you don't want to abuse your "road" bits and pieces with 'cross racing;  it's really brutal on components.  And having a dedicated 'cross rig allows you to have a "rain bike" in the winter, complete with fender-mounts.  Also, canti brakes, which are just good enough on a 'cross circuit, are woefully inadequate at high-speed road descents.  Just give up Frappacinos for a couple of months -- $700 for a used cross bike isn't so much, and you can enjoy it for years.

 Frappacinos for a couple of months. :)

 

Good points which leads to another question; what's the base level component set up  I should be looking at?

 

Jon -

The standard answer to that is usually 105/Rival/Athena (I think on the Campy stuff, I'm not as up on their gruppos).  But there are some advantages to going with different stuff.  For example, 9 speed cassettes have more space between the cogs and shed mud/debris better than 10 speed.  You can also mix and match shifters with other components. There is a great article in a back issue about different gruppo approaches. 

 

As others have said, cross can be pretty tough on components, so durability is certainly something to take into account. 

 

Just for reference, I am running older SRAM Rival (pre carbon levers) that I mostly picked up pretty cheap off eBay.

A friend of mine wanted to try 'Cross -- we found him a nice used year-old Felt 75X on Craigslist at the end of last season -- it had a mixture of Shimano 105 and Felt-speced aluminum parts.  He paid $750 -- it needed a bottom bracket but overall it's reasonably light, and a nice entry level bike.  

Probably the best used 'Cross bike is one that hasn't been raced -- but that's pretty hard to find.

Like others have said, it's mostly about fitness, and toughness, skill and an ability to suffer.  Don't worry too much about the gear -- just see for yourself if you like the sport. Pretty fun and pretty addicting.

That's twice someone has said go with a 9 not a 10 at the back, great explanation of why. Thank you.

 

Kenneth, you're right, everything physical ultimately comes down to you level of fitness and ability to endure. I'm 220lbs now and figure I could easily loose 10lbs which by my twisted logic means a feather weight bike isn't imperative. Haven't been on here a week and I already love this form.

 

Found the Soma review last night. I think the frame is definitely one option worth looking into. Thanks again chaps.

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