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I recently got back into cycling after a long hiatus. Like... 20 years. Once I turned 16, cars ruled my world. Now at 35 (and a few months) I've caught the bug again. I have this nagging urge to try 'cross though. It just seems like what I want to do and is inexorably drawing me in. The problem though is finding a good starter bike.

I like the looks of the Surly CC, but I've heard it's more of a commuter than a true cx bike. Of course, I'll likely be using it in a non-cx fashion at least 50% of the time. Kona also has some nice bikes. Jake the Snake looks like an awesome entry level bike and I almost bought one but got outbid on ebay for it. Any suggestions on where to start? I figure there are probably some options I haven't come across yet.

It might even be more advisable to just assemble a bike myself. Even in that case though I'd need some guidance on a good frame, etc.

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I love the kona bikes. I have a Major Jake that serves almost full time as commuter (30 miles RT). It handles this duty just fine but really lives up to its purpose on the race course and off road.

I have had it on a few road centuries as well with no problems keeping up with the others on their road bikes as long as my tire selection was appropriate. That said, at speeds over 25 mph, my TCR feels a little more appropriate for the job.

I love the fit of the Kona. I ride a 54 road bike and went with a 54 MJ as well. It is certainly taller S.O.H. than my other bikes but I like the bigger feel. I am a newbie to racing but I have not noticed any kind of a downside to the bigger fit on the course. I am slow because I suck, not because my bike is too big.

I also take the MJ off road on some pretty serious trails with my mtb buddies. It handles just fine even without knobbies mounted. The only thing it really gives up is descending speed.

I love the versatility of the bike. Here is a picture of it mounted with fenders (zip tied on), studded tire up front and ready for some ice commuting duty.

There is very little this bike will not do. It would certainly be my pick if I could only keep one bike.
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Nice ride. Currently I'm focused on commuting and doing some bikepacking/weekend touring. I have a Surly LHT for the heavy stuff and a Salsa Casseroll SS for the light stuff.

Given my current situation as far as time and finances, I may be putting off any cross-specific bike purchase until next year. I really like the Redline offerings for entry level value though. Very nice looking bikes that are (I assume) race ready.
If you have the parts and know-how, you can save money over buying a whole bike. If you have neither then buying a whole bike new from a shop will at least get you some follow-up service and a warranty.

Surly LHT has a shorter reach and more relaxed geometry than the Cross-Check. Lots of folks commute on the CC and strip the fenders and racks for 'cross. I have yet to see anyone doing that with the LHT. Both are fantastic bikes for the money and either will make an excellent commuter; it just depends on how much you plan to do 'cross.

As for getting bit by a bug "after all these years", go for it! I started racing short-track this summer as preparation for my first season of 'cross in the fall. Having the time of my life. You will not regret it. Have fun!

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