Thursday, May 6, 2010

Steeds of the Roubaix: The Ugly

Calling my CrossCheck flat out UGLY might be a little harsh. I've decided instead to understand the term relatively and revel in all I've managed to achieve with such an 'ugly' bike. That's right, it's an 'it's not about the bike' post... completely about the bike.

I really love the way my CrossCheck looks so I'm not gonna talk about the rust spots, chipped paint or my many many front derailleur woes. The lack of beauty I'm going to talk about instead is an inner lack of beauty. Where Matt and Pascal's bikes exude balance, culture, beauty, performance ,and the lines and details of a finely crafted machine, my CrossCheck is heavy, stiff, and almost completely lacking finesse. It certainly does not 'plane' and the handling is fairly uninspiring. It is very good at going in a straight line, which can be a blessing in disguise at the end of a long ride, or by minimizing the effects of my occasional spaz outs while learning to ride in a pack (those are behind me I promise). I won't dissect the geometry because I lack the knowledge and do not have enough experience to confidently point to one measurement over another to identify a weakness in the design. That being said, the BB drop is probably the one aspect of the geometry which I can say with confidence negatively affects the ride of the bike. More would be better.

When compared to other bikes that I own, the CrossCheck has a pretty high bar underwhich to pass. My other road machine is a 2008 Serotta Fierte Steel. Comparing mass marketed generic Taiwanese butted steel and Campy Veloce to Serotta's wealth of design knowledge and their own blend of tubing with a carbon fork and curved carbon seat stays mixed up with full Ultegra is more than a little unfair, it's an apples to World Champion apples comparison. However, there are some really good reasons I'm writing about the CrossCheck and not the Serotta and one of the big ones is that last year I probably put three times as many miles on my CrossCheck as I did on my Serotta. But why?!

SkyMounti Analog Incliometer
"What's our average speed?" "Oh about 7%"

I'm relatively new to the sport of cycling, so for me the CrossCheck has been a great way to dive headlong into lots and lots of riding. Built up originally with the help of Kent at Phat Moose, it was my first road bike with lots of fully working gears, brifters (I'm taking the word back), Campy components, and all the nicest bits I could afford. I spent weeks agonizing over this bike. It was the bike that helped me make the leap from commuter/mild enthusiast to cyclist.

Since I got it in 2007, I've built the CrossCheck up as my road bike, touring bike, winter fixed gear commuter, and cross bike. It's also the only bike I have that takes Gran Bois 700x30 tires, definitely a big deal. On it I've achieve pretty much every goal I've set out for myself as a new cyclist, 100 km, 150 km, 250 km, and my first race are just some of this goals I've achieved perched atop my CrossCheck. It's for all these reasons that I can forgive it's lack of performance and why I would leave my race bike at home on race day. I know that if I've got something to achieve, I won't be let down by my CrossCheck.

Oh and if I crash and burn on the way to my achievement? I can always blame the bike.

Now that I've survived my first racing experiences, and I've got some new (loftier) goals ahead, I'm getting giddy at the prospect of my new Steelwool all road bike which should be arriving sometime this summer. Cause after all... isn't inner beauty what really counts?


Pascii said...

Hey, that's the Crosscheck you lent me to try out cross racing. It's like the friend who drags you out to places you wouldn't have gone otherwise. We all need one of those!

Matt Surch said...

So true Pascal. My Cross Check is like that too, and also took me through my first two Roubaixs and cross races, along with countless other adventures. It sure does go straight well, and it takes the huge tires. Its one trusty steed that'll always find a home in my stable. I suspect that's true for Steve too, the Cross Check is a hard bike to justify selling, its just too useful to have around.

Bigger Dummy said...

Learning to love my cross check now. It's kinda like a step brother relationship at the moment.