Has anyone seen this Masi Specialie CX Single Speed in an actual race? It looks nice:>, as do many Masi bikes.
I'm also curious about this Monster Cross category as a whole. ...Does it just mean not particularly good at anything but pretty good at everything?
What the heck is "monster cross"?? Is it the new label affixed to mountain bikes with drop handlebars? Those were called "racing" bikes in 1990. Just John Tomac or Jacquie Phelan.
I run a drop bar on my Cannondale F700. On-One Midge.
So, Mike--here's what I see as the fundamental differences from my regular CX bikes: wider/taller tires, a different gear range, and mini-v brakes if possible. I'm in the process of setting up my original CX bike (an aluminum Trek XO1) to be able to run as more of a 'monstercross' situation for races like the just-run Southern Cross...as well as any other endurance cross-type race or ride, where steeper, longer climbs and more technical surface conditions really warrant something more "robust" than a standard CX bike. Ordinarily, that would be a 29er, with its wider gear ratio and wider tires that will grab better on loose surfaces. But Southern Cross, for example, had enough paved road and fast descending that it warranted a road frame, drop bars and higher tire pressure to go fast while still avoiding pinch flats.
So, what I'm doing is putting on some 29x1.9 tires (which turns out to something around a 700x45c tire--I'm not a math genius so I'll leave that to someone else)--haven't found what I want quite yet, by the way; gonna go with the new SRAM Apex 12-32 cassette (I already have a mid-throw rear derailleur, but if you don't have that you could maybe do a 12-28 with a short throw RD), and already use the new-ish TRP CX9 mini-v brakes with my standard road levers (fantastic brakes, by the way, though not much mud clearance, so they're perfect for fire road, dry-ish CX conditions like we have a lot of down South).
Finally--what is "monster cross"? It's interesting--seems like it's a label for a 'niche within the CX niche' that comes and goes...it was pretty hot back a couple of years ago, when I think the term was coined. But the "idea" is something that's been around since the very beginnings of the mountain bike movement...when John Tomac, Gary Fisher and the others were bombing down Mt. Tam. on road bikes with big, fat, knobby cruiser tires...exactly the same idea. Now we just have more technology to make the climbs faster and somewhat more enjoyable. Monster Cross bikes are being purpose-built now (see Cyclocross Magazine Issue #10) to ensure tire clearances in the seat stays and fork, but I can't tell that there's much more to them than that, plus stiffer frame technology.
The biggest problem is tire selection; as I understand it, there are two main reasons: first, the biggest--there are now 29ers. They need good tires. So the bulk of the resources for this size range are put into that technology, which is a good thing, and certainly warranted. Second, though, since the UCI mandated a maximum tire width for world CX, manufacturers don't really see much of a market for wider, taller, CX-ish tires...and they're right. Even though most of us don't care much about the UCI standards (how many of us really race in UCI events?), we still want to hold to the standards when we can, so we'll buy what's out there.
That's my take on it, and I'm doing it just for the fun of it--I'll set the bike up this way for a few races, but it's also my commuter, and second CX bike, and a go-to wet weather trainer...all about changing tires out. Not the fastest or lightest bike in the world, and doesn't excel at anything. But it's pretty bombproof, I think, and depending on how wide your stays/fork will accept, you can do it too.