Reportage

Exploring the Versatility of the Cyclocross Bike in the Verdugo Mountains

With the advent of the 1x drivetrain, be it SRAM (who arguably brought the technology to the cycling industry), Race Face, Wolf Tooth or the hundreds of other options, the ‘cross bike lost a bit of its versatility, when compared to having a 34t inner ring. For racing, a 40t front and 11-28t cassette may be fine, but add in a substantial amount of climbing, on dirt roads exceeding 12%, for miles, and you’ll find yourself a bit “knackered” as our British comrades say.

My decision to drop the front derailleur on the Geekhouse came after a few misguided chains that cost me precious placing in a race. Truth: I was already ready for a 1x setup. So I went with a CX1 rear mech and the CX1 11-32t cassette.

The rear range is crucial. Especially when compared to the standard 28t cassette. SRAM’s CX1 made it easy with its 32t cassette and in January, the 36t cassette will be available. Now let me preface this by saying, I’m well-aware that most of you find CX1 sacrilegious due to its pricepoint or whatever, but let’s not steer off path just yet.

My bike feels great with a 40t front and 32t rear in racing, but riding fire roads, not so much. The 40t front ring and 32t max cassette had my legs burning on the first pitch, especially with 40mm tires. Remember, the larger your wheel’s diameter, the longer your gear inches. I couldn’t imagine an 8+ hour ride with the current setup. Maybe a 38t front would help?

After a few jaunts on familiar ground in LA, Sean and Moi offered to take me up into the Verdugos. A mountain range that sits across from the Western ridges in Santa Monica, and only a quick jaunt from South Pasadena, where Sean lives. My decision to carry my camera was the right move, after we crossed the gate. It’s really strikingly beautiful up there.

The plan was to climb up the fire road and bomb the singletrack down, then ascend once again in the dark to take yet another bit of doubletrack down, at night.

Plans < Photos We were fucking about for hours up there and before we knew it, it was pitch black, save for the glow of the city lights. We all brought lamps and layers, ideal for descending down one track and avoiding rocks on the climbs but that doesn't mean we weren't ready for dinner. The whole time, I kept thinking I'd love to have a 38t on the front of my drivetrain, as I began tick-tacking up the dirt. 40t x 32t with 40mm tires is no joke on a 15% grade. Especially when you're lugging a DSLR on your back. What doesn't kill you... Still, at the end of the day, we surpassed expectations of the versatility of these “race bikes”, bombed plenty of steep, rain-rutted tracks, saw a bobcat – Sean freaked out, ate pizza, drank beer and proceeded to be enamored with just how rad cyclocross bikes are.

Now, where is that 38t Wolf Tooth ring I bought at the beginning of the season?