What I have always loved about Mountain Biking is the immersion into the woods; the sense of solitude that comes in the wilderness that is lost entirely in the convenience and hustle of the cities I’ve always lived in. What I always hated about Mountain Biking is that my mountain bike never feels enough like my road bike.
I was but a budding Velominatus when I discovered Cyclocross, and from the start it seemed like an incredible sport that offered all kinds of opportunity. My dad came home from a trip to Europe with an aluminum ALAN under his arm and from that moment on I was hooked on the idea of a road bike that could go off and have fun in the dirt. At the time, CX bikes were a rarity in the US market; the closest thing I’d seen to a CX bike at that time were John Tomac’s bitchin’ drop bar mountain bikes and the frankenstein Bontrager MTB that a buddy converted into some sort of zombie with a touring bike’s fork and 700c front wheel mounted on the rig and a 26 inch rear wheel with a weird skinny tire.
Nevertheless, my limited budget historically poured into the road bikes where my heart has always been rooted and a CX bike always seemed to fall just into the
s-1 range of Rule #12 compliance; whether
s in this case happened to be my pursuit of the sensation of rhythm, harmony, and flight to be found only on smooth tarmac or, currently, the chair of the Budget and Planning Committee – on which I hold an influential but non-controlling vote.
But Fate, the Velominati Community, and @Cyclops’ lifelong dream to learn to braze a bike frame changed all that one day last January when a box appeared on my doorstep containing a custom-made steel Cyclocross frame. The dust was blown off the brain cogs which get remarkably little use these days, and Il Progetto for my CX bike started in earnest. Marko took up the role of Graveur Sensei and PNW CX Legend Josh Liberles of Veloforma took up the role of CX Sensei. Parts were shuffled from bike to bike, various components were aggregated from odd corners to fill in the gaps and make substitutions where necessary, and slowly but surely the Nederaap came to life.
My old Dura Ace 7700 nine-speed group-san was immediately selected as the ideal mud-clearing drivetrain; somehow Campagnolo seems much better suited to the civility offered by the road (even in Rule #9 conditions) than the neanderthal environment of Cyclocross. In the Velominatus Budgetatus conditions we find ourselves in, this meant the Record 10 group was moved from the TSX to the rain bike, and the TSX the current target of Progetto Old-School and has donned downtube shifters and lies in wait for some period-appropriate brakes. Old wheels were repurposed from the commuter bike (which now temporarily lies in wait of new bits and pieces) and a secret project for new racing wheels for the CX-V waits to bear fruit. (Some of you who are paying attention may already be onto the source of these wheels.)
All this was done with the knowledge that @Cyclops, however obsessive-compulsive, built this frame in a spare bedroom and my expectations were set accordingly. This would be be a rideable frame that held a huge amount of sentimental value and would be fun to take out to the local races and inelegantly beat people with and say things like, “Yeah, this bike was built by a crazy person. And I beat you with it. And I suck at Cyclocross. Feeling good about that?”
But last week, as the last part for the build arrived (a pair of top-mount brake levers which I understand will cost me massive Look Pro points which I hope to make up for with Not Crashing As Often As I Otherwise Would points) I put the thing together and took it for a spin.
First pedal stroke, hey this feels OK. Next pedal stroke, yeah, this is not bad at all. A few hundred meters later, I realized I felt like I was riding one of my bikes. I half expected the frame to fall apart first with the introduction of my hefty arse and second with the unleashing of my considerable artillery, but this bike doesn’t just ride like a home-made bike, it rides like a real professional, great bike. Emboldened, I collected my kit and headed out to the local park to play around and see how it faired on its native terrain.
Riding it down to the park and the singletrack that is strewn throughout it, I was compelled to determine if it could survive some manner of trauma. Armed with my incompetence as a Cyclocrosser, I had no alternative but to crash-test the frame by bunny-hopping a curb at about 45kph. My plan worked flawlessly; I jumped at an oblique angle, went a little short, landed the back wheel sideways on the curb and became the lead character in my own stop-action animation film as I dumped hip-first into the cement sidewalk like a sack of potatoes. Ancillary observation: I’m amazed at how resilient the V-Kit is, this being my first crash in it.
Test completed and satisfied that the frame was unharmed despite crashing hard enough to require some serious wheel-truing upon my return home, I headed into the singletrack with the confidence that the frame was both smarter and stronger that I am. You can’t put a price on that kind of knowledge.
As for the top-mount levers which I’m sure to be berated for, I’ll make you a deal. As long as I’m too inexperienced to know better and as long as you can’t crush Katie Compton, I’ll happily disregard your advice. As soon as one of those two factors changes, I’m all ears. And for those of you planning the “Cyclocross is about minimalism” argument, I expect you to post photos of your single speed CX rig to support your case; anyone making this claim and riding a rig with gears will be disregarded wholesale as a poseur.
This frame was built as a first attempt at what @Cyclops plans to become his own frame-building company. At the time of building, the company lacked a brand, but he has since settled on Deacon Bikes and he will be opening his doors to business for the 2013 season. Thanks @Cyclops, this thing is amazingly awesome.