Entry Level Fun on the State Thunderbird ‘Cross – Andre Chelliah

Entry Level Fun on the State Thunderbird ‘Cross
Words by Andre Chelliah, Photos by John Watson

I see it all the time at the bike shop I work at. A young, college-aged kid comes into the store and strolls the aisles. They take in the smells, sights, and sounds of cycling. They have just seen the newest Svenness video and are ready and stoked to dip their toes into the timeless obsession that is bike racing. Then, they flip over a price tag and that excitement quickly turns into a nearly impossible math problem- how can I afford to pay for school as well as buy a quality bike to race on? This sentiment resonates strongly with me.

Being a student at The University of Texas and racing bikes on the weekends, there are times when I have to pick between textbooks and race fees. In an area where collegiate teams are not extremely supported or competitive in disciplines other than road racing, the best thing to do is pay your own way through the cross or track season. When Mehdi from State Bicycle Co asked me to shred on The Thunderbird, their $1000 singlespeed ‘cross bike, I was ecstatic to have time with a bike that could be a buy for new racers looking for something with quality, style, and affordability.

The State Bicycle Co Thunderbird SSCX - Andre Chelliah
35mm Kenda Small Block Eight Pro

Fresh out of the box, The Thunderbird came together quite easily. The paint is a real looker and definitely one of the better colorways I have seen this year from any company. A weird quirk about the bike was while the front fork allowed clearance for up to a 42mm tire, the rear chain stays only allowed up to a 35mm with minimal clearances.

Note: State Bicycle Co’s founder Mehdi Farsi has told me that this has been adjusted on the current production models.

The State Bicycle Co Thunderbird SSCX - Andre Chelliah
40mm Knard Tire

This was a bit of a bummer as I was stoked at the prospect of having wide tires to trail ride with.

The State Bicycle Co Thunderbird SSCX - Andre Chelliah

The spec of the bike is impressive for a bike at this price point, Sram levers, Avid brakes, and Ritchey cockpit and seatpost round out the build. I threw some pedals and a Fabric Scoop saddle on and adjusted the saddle height- I was racing the next day.

The State Bicycle Co Thunderbird SSCX - Andre Chelliah

From the holeshot I was impressed with the stiffness and stability of the bike. It did not feel flexi when I was sprinting and the front end was surprisingly forgiving for having an aluminum steerer tube. The back section of Austin’s Quest Cross had a twisty single-track section that was washed out and muddy from a week’s worth of rain. I was fascinated by how easily the bike turned and how confidence inspiring it was. Before I knew it, I had a smile on my face and between removing handfuls of mud from my tires and tripping over barriers- I was having an awesome time.

The State Bicycle Co Thunderbird SSCX - Andre Chelliah

Bang for your buck, The Thunderbird from the guys at State Bicycle is about as good as it gets. Although a little heavier than I would have liked, that can easily be remedied with eventual investments in lighter wheels or crank set. Aluminum, race geometry, and quality components at an affordable price point, The Thunderbird is a great bike for any rider new to Cyclocross and looking to own a bike that they can grow and develop their skills with.

The State Bicycle Co Thunderbird Singlespeed ‘Cross retails for $999 at State.

Editor’s Note: As an out-of-box, race ready machine, the Thunderbird appears to be a competent option for those looking to get into cyclocross racing or riding. I’d prefer to see this bike with equal clearances for tires on the front and back. Does it limit the bike’s intended use as-is? That’s up to you to decide. As noted, State plans on fixing this issue for the next production run.

What I will say with certainty is if you choose to buy a Thunderbird, take it to your local bike shop for assembly and a wheel tune. When buying a mail-order bicycle, it’s best to have an experienced mechanic give it a look and you’re contributing back to your local economy.

  • Chris van der Kaap

    what about chain tension.. Does it have an eccentric BB? (which would be pretty ace at this price!)

    • Maxime Gouache

      Yes you can see it in the last picture :)

    • Andre Chelliah

      It does have an eccentric BB and works quite well!

  • Brian Richard Walbergh

    Any plans to test a Swobo Scofflaw whenever they come out? Seems like the bike the State is trying to be. Clearance for 42s, Steel, Sliding drop outs, Ready for a full drivetrain.

  • david__g

    A sentiment can resonate with you, but I’m not sure you can resonate with it.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Damn! Andre’s an English Major and he missed that one…

    • Andre Chelliah

      Damn you got me David!

      • david__g

        I hope you don’t think I was being snarky! Editing is my job so I find myself drawn to these things. Good review otherwise and I really want one of these bikes!

        • Andre Chelliah

          Haha not snarky at all dude! Maybe you should teach American Lit…

          • david__g

            Funnily enough while I don’t teach lit (nowhere close to the qualifications!), I do proof read and edit a lot of theses and papers about it in my spare time (I know how to have fun, right?)

  • GioFio

    Great bike as it sits, but I would much rather see the bike come stocked with a pair of BB7’s. BB5’s are generally incredibly spongy, and don’t give any sort of reasonable braking performance. I’ve had to overhaul and ‘modify’ every pair of BB5’s i’ve gotten in my shop.

    • Tommaso Gomez

      Better yet, you could swap out those BB5’s for TRP Spyres. Unlike BB7’s, TRP Spyres have dual piston movement, so both pads move and wear evenly.

      • GioFio

        That would be a great option too, but as an “entry level” bike, the BB7’s would be a better ‘price-point’ fit. The Spyre’s are some killer brakes though, and I’ve been running them on my own cx bike a bunch. Finally moved to the Hy/Rd recently.

  • Sretsok

    I’ve been wondering about these… But I think I’ll save my dollars and hold out for a used Cross-Check or Straggler.

  • adanpinto

    No the best tires for mud (specially the one in the back). You could have been much faster in that race with another tire selection.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      No one racing that weekend expected mud. It was a new course and we had no idea it was essentially a swamp. Most of our races are dry, even after a lot of rain.

      • adanpinto

        Thanks for the clarification. I have had the kendas and this reminded me how inefficient they were in mud.

  • Jay

    For that much coin and internet based, I would certainly go bikesdirect.com, save $100, and get a Apex 10-speed group. For the budget conscious people mentioned in the article, this seems like much more value for the money.

  • ez

    I’d add that unlike other SS CX bikes near this price point, the Thunderbird has a bolt on derailleur hanger. I ride with one of the State guys and he has full Ultegra on his.

  • Oscar Cavail

    I have this bike. I don’t ride CX but I ride year round. I have studed Schwalbe Winters that were simply too big in the rear to clear most of my other bike frames. I didn’t want to spend more than a grand on a used bike so I went with this Thunderbird. This morning we got four inches of snow. I sailed right throw the packed snow. I haven’t missed a single week despite a brutal winter. Maybe its the popularity of cycling of late, but I find it very difficult to find a well spec’d used road or track bike for a bargain price. Even 15 year old trek road bikes with decent hoops or group sets on Ebay are listed for high asking prices. I think going the single speed route (with free wheel) for a CX bike is pretty clever.

    • tanner

      Don’t know what city you live in, and nothing against State, just responding to your comment about CL.

      If you are budget conscious and willing to have tech one or two generations old, I see full or partial Dura Ace/Ultegra Equipped Road/Cross bikes for -$400 – $500 on CL (though they can sell quick). I also see those motobecane CX bikes on craigslist from $200 to $400 (not a bad cx bike, I had one) – Sometimes you just have to get a little creative/patient if you are on a budget.

  • Schmeebs

    Not that it matters, but the material constituting a steerer doesn’t significantly contribute to stiffness. Rather the strength of the crown and fork blade material do. Great review otherwise!

  • Schmeebs

    Also +1 regarding bringing mail order bikes to shops. Many of us are thanking you right now!