30 December, 2014

Play Dirty! Specialized Crux Comp Initial Impressions

Been looking for ways to extend my cycling season and increase the opportunities for rides as part of an overall fitness program. So when riding buddy Josh decided to upgrade his cyclocross bike, the idea popped into my head that this might be a good addition to my quiver. He who dies with the most bikes wins, right? Plus, the chance to play dirty was just too good to pass up!

For those unfamiliar cyclocross is a style of racing that mixes beefed up road bikes with mountain bike style courses and obstacles requiring the rider to dismount and clamber over with the bike. Obviously my racing days are long since past, but these heavy-duty road bikes with wider tires and more aggressive treads, as well as more relaxed geometry, are ideal for riding on less-than-ideal roads.

Near my home a numerous dirt roads - all with less traffic and beautiful scenery. Plus the 'cross bike makes slushy conditions doable as well. 

So, I scored a 2011 Specialized Crux Comp, with a few nice upgrades, including a Fizik saddle, and Avid Shorty Ultimate brake calipers and pads. Due to all of my crazy travels in December, as well as family and Holiday commitments, I hadn't been able to ride it until last Friday.

This was my first ride on a 'cross bike, so I really didn't know what to expect. At first the ride was "interesting". I'm used to my Giant Defy Advanced 1 road bike which is sleek and smooth, but handles crisply. By contrast the Crux clearly had different geometry. It didn't feel sluggish, per se, but just felt different. Some of that is the difference between the 23mm tires on the road bike and the 35mm tires on the 'crosser. On the pavement, it was a noticeable difference. But I didn't buy this bike for the pavement...

We'd had quite a bit of rain in the days before I got out. The loop I'd chosen included a few miles on some very scenic dirt roads that featured classic Ann Arbor clay - notoriously squishy and slick. The was no way the Defy would have handled this, but on the Crux it felt super comfortable. 

I was a bit concerned about the SRAM Double Tap shifting - as I'm used to standard Shimano Ultegra. With Double Tap a single paddle controls shifting. A short throw downshifts and a longer throw upshifts. Curiously, I figured it out right away and had no issues at all.

By the end of a short ten mile ride, I felt quite at home on the Crux. I've got a couple of fit adjustments I want to make, but overall it's 95% there. 

Once challenge I did face are the Crank Brothers Egg Beater 2 pedals. These are highly recommended in online forums due to their resistance to mud clogging, durable construction, and high value. Once I got clipped in they were just fine. Nice float, easy to release - but oh man finding the engagement point to clip in was a pain in the arse. I'm sure I'll get it all figured out in time. 

First impression? Money well spent and a tremendous value. 


29 December, 2014

Time Flies

Holy crap - when did I last post? Geez, poor blog's been neglected. On the upside, I was having some pretty awesome outdoor adventures, but time flies! I'll post more on them soon, but here are some highlights from December:

  • Three days steelhead fishing in Western NY - including getting a fish on the Niagara River, as well as a personal best record of 7 steelhead landed in a single day (hooked up on 11 total).
  • My first visit to Lambeau Field for a Green Bay Packers home game. Not your conventional "outdoor" venture, but I was outside and it was cold! And awesome! Packers fans truly are the about the nicest people you could ever meet. As a Yooper (born in Michigan's Upper Peninsula), I reserve the right to cheer both the Lions and Packers, so this was a pretty cool experience!
  • A week on the Big Island of Hawaii - including a visit to the volcanoes, as well as a day spent sportfishing on a beautiful 43' Merritt boat.
  • The addition of a new cyclocross bike (and my first dirt road ride).
  • My first outing on the new Blizzard Bonfide skis. In short - superfriggin' cool
So, uh yeah, been too busy to blog about all this cool stuff. As I said earlier, time flies. Stay tuned.