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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.