I had a chance to ride a couple of competitor bikes when I went to Louisville this fall.
Saturday I rode an aluminum 54 Specialized with Zipp 303s and a SRAM Force drivetrain. My cross bike is a 51 Felt, so I was a bit nervous about riding a 54. My worries were for naught as the bike actually fit very well. The Force was a bit nicer than the Rival on my cross bike and maybe not as awesome as the Red on my road bike, which seems as it should be. The 303s were nice, but I never forgot that I was on someone else’s very expensive wheels. This bike reminded me very much of my bike, which I think is a good thing.
There were just no 51 loaners to be had in Louisville, so Sunday I rode a 54 carbon Cannondale. This seemed to be a significantly bigger bike. The top tube was dangerously high for a short-inseam person and I didn’t feel like I could get the front-end low enough. The takeaway from this data is simply that a 54 Cannondale is a bigger bike than a 54 Specialized. No harm in that, and a good reminder that you shouldn’t judge (or purchase) a bike by its stated size. Despite being a tad large, it was a terrific bike (finished 1 and 2 in the pro race), and the Red drivetrain was super excellent. I have to admit that I was a bit less nervous on aluminum clinchers than I was with carbon tubulars, perhaps because the aluminum rims had a more familiar feel.
The moral of the story is that there are lots of good cross bikes. I crashed ’em both and neither broke, which was very good news for my kid’s college fund. I also preferred the aluminum bike over the carbon bike, but factoring in that the aluminum bike fit and the carbon didn’t, it’s hardly a fair comparison. Both were a pleasure to ride and race.
My sincere thanks to Specialized and Cannondale for lending their bikes to a complete hack, and to Greenware for sponsoring the USGP of Cyclocross. Fun on a bun.