On the evening after my first cyclocross race of 2009, I felt compelled to write a blog about kissing. Nah, not even close. This blog, like all my others, is about bicycle racing. Sorry, ladies...
Anyway, when I was a US Marine, the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) was used to remind us to keep problem solving simple. The time has come for me to use KISS again, but with a new meaning; Keep It Single Speed. But, my reference to a single speed in this blog post is being directed to a cross bike this time, not a mountain bike. As I have preached many times before, there is no bike as dependable, efficient and fun to ride as a single speed, which makes it a perfect choice for cross racing, especially when held on a muddy course.
As many of you know, I am a cyclocross racing fanatic, enjoying the sport both as a competitor and as a spectator. There are very few things I would change about the sport, but there are some UCI Rules I would absolutely change if I had the ability, which could make cross racing even more exciting in my opinion. Not that there is any chance for these things to actually occur, but I feel like they need to be mentioned. First, and most importantly, I would require all riders to race on a single speed bike. Second, disc brakes would be allowed for use in any race if you wanted to use them. Finally, my third rule change, which will tie my other two rules changes together, would be to do away with the "pit" and pit bikes.
Let me explain my thinking here a little bit before you start typing your angry emails to me. If everyone in the race could use a single speed bike with disc brakes, there would really be no need for a second bike. The flawless operation of the single speed cross bike would make the necessity of having a bike in the pit on a muddy day completely unnecessary. On a single speed bike with disc brakes, the drivetrain would not need to be cleaned of mud and mud would not accumulate on brakes/wheels. Additionally, the brakes would actually work in all types of conditions. These rule changes would put every racer on an equal playing field and would select the strongest, most skilled rider as the winner.
I have been trying to build the perfect single speed cross bike for the past 4 years or so. This summer I was finally able to build a single speed cross bike to meet all of my demands. To begin my build, I bought a SWOBO Crosby complete cyclocross bike. For more details about the crosby, click here. I had to buy the whole bike because a frame only choice was not available. The Crosby, as it was designed by SWOBO, is an awesome, completely cool looking bike for commuting or even recreational racing. But, my goal was to build a true, lightweight, single speed cyclocross racing bike with disc brakes, so almost all of the OEM parts were stripped off the bike.
I chose the Crosby because it was adaptable for using disc brakes. Additionally, the frame has rear sliding dropouts, which allows for the use of a quick release rear wheels instead of bolt-on wheels. SWOBO designed the frame with plenty of mud clearance, even with the use of wide 700x35mm tires. The frame has a large, multi-shaped downtube to give the frame a lot of lateral stiffness, which is very important on single speed bikes. It was also built with a slightly sloping top tube to give better standover clearance. The underside of the top tube is also flattened to make it more comfortable for shouldering. A few years ago, I had a very similar frame design in my mind and sent my ideas to a couple of custom builders. Most of the builders did not understand what I was trying to achieve and the one that did understand my thoughts quoted a price of nearly $900 for just the frame. SWOBO sells their whole bike for pretty close to this price!
I added a Civia Full Carbon Disc Brake Specific Fork, FSA RD-460 Road Disc Wheels, a Thompson Seatpost/Stem Cockpit, Profile Alpine Pro Carbon Cranks, Bontrager Cyclocross Race Bars, a WTB Saddle and Time Clipless MTB Pedals to complete my custom lightweight build. And, BTW, the Speedgoat Stickers on the downtube are not included. The stickers were an extra put on by me to advertise for the coolest bike shop in the world.
Is there anybody else out there ready to start a single speed cyclocross revolution? We could be called the KISS Army. Oh, wait, I almost forgot the fan club for all of the KISS Rock Band Fans is already called the KISS Army. Thinking about it now, though, I am sure they wouldn't mind us stealing their name for a good cause.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to say something about my first cyclocross race of the year. First off, I need to recognize the outstanding job that Team Lake Effect did in putting on the race and designing the course. Everything seemed to go smoothly during the event and the course was a lot of fun to ride also. Considering that I have had a pretty nasty cold all week, I am pretty happy with my final 6th place result. I was able to battle at the front and hang in with the lead group until the last half lap or so. The skills seemed to be on target and the bike functioned flawlessly. It is early in the season, but I do feel like once this cold decides to clear-up I will be ready to roll. Happy Trails - Gerry