Off-roading…because I can!

I was out on the bike today and finally found a shortcut that I’d been searching for for some time (see map). While I was jiggling along that shortcut I thought how nice it was to have a cyclocross bike. For ‘roadies’ out there, can you imagine ripping down this road??

And it got worse after that. This little path led to one of my favorite Roman bridges, which I approached from the backdoor for the first time. Where, incidentally, I met two mountain bikers who looked at me and my road-looking bike with novel curiosity.

This got me thinking that I’d never really done a product review of my bike. So here goes!

I bought my Cannondale Cyclocross in Japan 5 years ago. It was on sale and seemed to fit so I grabbed it right away. At the time I was riding a ‘classic’ (read ‘heavy as shit’) touring bike and wanted something faster. I have to admit that I didn’t put too much thought into the whole process, but thankfully it worked out pretty well.

So what’s a cyclocross, you ask (I’ll assume one of you might ask…)? It’s a road bike, tweaked a little differently geometrically for the purpose of racing off road (and on). In general, they are a little more upright (handlebars are higher) because aerodynamics are not important offroad, and they are sometimes higher off the ground, to clear rocks and things.

They have a lot more clearance for putting on fatter tires, which is really necessary for touring with loads (I used 32s or even 35s when touring). They are also geared lower than road bikes, which is helpful on hills, but I have found that the lack of a 3rd ring on the front is really hurtful under a big load. I probably wouldn’t buy another cyclocross (for touring at least) just for that reason.

This next thing I love. Most cyclocross bikes come with the traditional drop-down brakes AND these!

I end up using these brake levers almost all the time, since I’m riding upright for the most part.

Another small but totally necessary thing that my bike had at least, are these. I haven’t seen many road bikes that allow back racks. You can jerry-rig them apparently, but nothing beats these two little holes for fixing a rack and loading your bike up with panniers. You can also see the tire clearance in this picture, by the way. It’s really huge.


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