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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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Pick up a frame, some 9 spd parts (you won't miss 10spd and your wallet will thank you), and a decent used set of wheels.  I also agree with joining a team.  You meet a lot of great people and usually get good product discounts.  A good set of wheels is where you want to spend your $$, it will make a difference when your drooling on yourself on lap 5.  If you pick up an entire bike most likely the wheels is where they will cut costs and they will be heavy.  I built up an entry level Redline frame (new $325) with 9 spd and it lasted me 5 years and is still being ridden today.
Dear Jon, have you ever considered entering the Cyclocross world via single speed machines? Take a look here SSCXWC, then here and then here. Good luck!

Andre, single speed is not for me. My calves crave gears. I'd be interested to see someone riding single speed CX but I'm guessing there's a lot of running involved.

Tim, great advice on the wheels. I was told something similar when buying a road bike. Rolling resistance is it?

When I was initially shopping for a road bike I was drawn to the Bianchi Volpe, got the ok to release funds from my better half but couldn't bring myself to send $1200s on me. I went for the base model road steel bike, the Campoine. I love it and at the time had no intention of even going to see a CX event. Now, I'm kicking myself thinking the Volpe would have worked for the standard I'm aiming for - just to finish would be monumental for me.

If you're interested, here's a link to an essay I did on riding so far.

I have no idea why they put New York but there you go.


Wheels, thanks Tim.

Single speed can be very effective if geared properly.  Around here (also NY/NJ) I've seen single speed CX guys compete nicely with geared bikes on most of the courses.  We're talking solid mid-pack finishes or better in the Cat 4s.  Heck, 2 years ago there was a guy riding a fixie in the Cat 3 fields and was finishing mid-pack or better against geared bikes. 
I dont' believe you write on Sabotage Times! Hahahaha! My prefered reading all over the net! Fantastic!!!

I have the utmost admiration for you guys who are riding single speed but I think I need at least three gears. That Nature Boy single speed is a thing of beauty, be okay on flat and down hill sections I'm sure but up hill, I don't know?

I don't understand anyone who rides a fixed wheel outside of a track environment.


Got to say the responses have been over and above anything I'd dare expect. Thanks. It's going to be fun next season, hopefully. I'll be the English guy crying at the back getting repeatedly lapped while my bike falls apart under me.

I wrote this prior to reading the other pages.  Perhaps you could try an easier gear at first in the SS?  On the other hand, running up steep hills is really not much slower than riding.  Good luck!

Hi!  Here's what I did - I found a good deal on a used Surly crosscheck.  It had bar end shifters and heavy wheels, so it wasn't much fun at first.  Then I converted it to single speed.  Cost was minimal, equipment was easy to take care of, and weight was reduced compared with gears.  It has been a ton of fun, especially when dusting the guys with expensive stuff and gears.

As for the steel, I think it is definitely more comfortable than Al and I can't afford carbon. The Surly is a bit heavy and I'm looking for a nicer steel frame if I can find one used.

Jason, I think those Surly bikes are very nice looking machines. They also seem to hold their value well. I'm really looking for not much more than just to participate and hopefully finish a few races next season. Single speed is certainly an option but I feel ever one of my 44 years and I'm definitely leaning more, much, much, more towards a few gears.


Thanks for the reply and good look. Some fantastic advice coming my way. I'm already wishing the next year away.

Very tough, many of us go through the same issues. I bought mine off Ebay and got a pretty good deal if you're looking for something of good quality you can ride for years to come. Or you can check out some of the other deals out there which should have a CX bike for around $800. 


I don't think you can build a bike for less than that, unless you get an old, old bike and outfit it with CX tires. I did that as a junior back in the 1980's, back when there was only one really nice CX bike, the Allan. Keep in mind that taking a road bike frame and trying to put knobby tires on it is not really going to work that well. Perhaps when it's dry but not when it's wet and muddy. 


Cantilever brakes serve two purposes, holding power and the clearance for mud and leaves to pass and not get stuck, creating their own kind of brake. CX frames and bikes now take that into consideration and provide ample room for mud and crud to pass through. 


Don't over think this, but try to get a true CX Frame and Fork. You'll thank me for this when it starts to get muddy.  Good, luck and don't wait a year, get out there today!

Finances - I've only recently bought my road bike and three mountain bikes for the kids - and lack of fitness dictate that it will be next season Tom. Appreciate the comments. It all comes down to brake style and tire clearance doesn't it?

I understand 100%. Did the same thing this year with my family. Three boys, three mountain bikes and a new road bike for myself. As long as you aren't riding in the mud then a typical road bike with some knobbies should work out just fine. Once mud and leaves enter into the picture you're pretty much done. 

Look on ebay for some good deals. If you check it out once a week you might find a good one out there for $500 - $600. If you build one yourself you will most likely end up spending more on it than it's worth. It's too bad there isn't a company out there selling affordable CX bikes for guys that just do it for fun. 

When I was a kid and had little money I converted an old Schwinn Traveler with 27" wheels into a CX bike. It was a tank, but with 700C wheels on it I had the clearance I needed. The problem with the brakes as they were caliper style and didn't work very well. 


I forgot to add that there are new CX bikes you can buy for around $800-900 that are good, a bit on the heavy side but will work as well, just in case you don't want to deal with a used bike. Still expensive but nothing compared to the elite machines out there. 


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