Most cyclists, and even non-cyclists, who enjoy the type of bike racing that involves going up and down hills know the name Eddy Merckx and of course The Tour de France. Road racing, and the companies associated with it, do a great job of embracing its European heritage and consistently reminding us of how the sport evolved into what it is today. This makes it easy easy to get pulled into the romanticized parts of road racing when companies like Campagnolo, Colnago, and Bianchi do such a great job of celebrating their places in what makes the sport special.
On the opposite end of the heritage spectrum there is a style of racing that is also rich in history, equally as challenging on both the up and down hill, and happens to have been basically invented here in the USA! I’m talking about XC racing. In its prime XC racing was a huge international sport. In the late 80’s/early 90’s you could watch the top Americans like John Tomac, Ned Overend, Juli Furtado and Tinker Juarez battle it out for wins on ESPN. The commentating for those races was comically bad, and they usually had music playing in the background, but it was a big deal. Those guys/gals were American heroes. Don’t take this the wrong way, I am not saying that I like XC racing more than road racing. What I am saying is that I think XC mountain biking could be celebrated in a similar way to road racing if big American brands weren’t always so inclined to quickly move onto the next big thing. A lot of the culture is lost when you are too forward thinking. What about remembering how you got to where you are?
It’s pretty obvious that Cannondale is (finally) embracing its heritage here. Awesome! Somebody at Cannondale must really love Tinker Juarez which is great because I do, too. I actually love everything about this heritage project so when Cannondale asked if I would be game to do a fun build to review the new F-Si HI-MOD Throwback here on The Radavist I was all in. When the frame arrived at The Cub House I had a small brainstorming session with our mechanic Simon and shop manager Danny about what parts to put on the build. All the newer builds we saw online with these heritage throwback F-Si frames were very clean and contemporary so we decided to give this build some 90’s wild style. We spent a few hours on the internet looking at Tinker’s old bikes for inspiration and decided we wanted to go “high” concept to make it more of a tribute to the crazy aesthetic of the bikes from that era. Back to a time when all the parts looked like untested prototypes… because they were!
Let’s pause here for a second to talk about XC hardtails They get a bad rap. Well, let me take that back. I think ALL XC mountain bikes get a bad rap nowadays and hardtails just catch the bulk of the criticism. The XC bike, much like a cyclocross bike, is perceived by many to be a “race day only” kind of bike. Before gravel bikes became the thing, it was XC bikes that were bridging that gap between roadies and mtb-ers. Sure a gravel bike is more efficient on the road, but a XC mtb is more capable on downhill sections. Both do just fine on the dirt and and pavement. It really just depends on what you are looking for out of your ride. Plus, John Tomac basically invented gravel racing with drop bars on his race bikes and even Peter Sagan also came from XC so mountain bikers win (it’s not a competition I know). Ultimately the only thing that matters is that you have fun and enjoy the bike you are riding. #runwhatchabrung. I personally really enjoy both and hope XC bikes can make a comeback here in the USA. Hopefully a whole butt load of these ripper NICA kids finish high school and can help bring some life back into the sport. Maybe I’m wrong here? Maybe XC bikes are old news or maybe I’m just bitter because no one still wants to ride mountain bikes in spandex with me anymore… or maybe I’m just old and curmudgeonly? Who knows. I do know that I still like doing 3-6 hour rides and coming home really tired. I also like to get extreme but in a civilized and sort of safe(ish) manner. Let’s call it Extreme(ly safe). I am 40 years old and pretty feeble in the joints at this point so I want to feel awesome without the risk of actually being awesome. Jumping 1-2 feet off the ground is just fine for this guy.
OK, let me tell you about this bike and why I like it. For starters, it’s a really lightweight cross country race bike that welcomes shaved leg lycra types like myself. When compared to other contemporary XC hardtails this bike has a slacked headtube, shortened chain stays, and some serious clearance for bigger tires. With the addition of some pretty wide bars, it all adds up to a super fun and diverse bike that is perfect for both racer weenies and shred dawgs. The new F-Si is a dropper post away from being a really great all-day fun bike that doubles as your race bike. The new Lefty fork feels about 10,000 times better than the previous version and sits lower/cleaner at the bottom of the headtube like a traditional fork so you no longer bump your knee on it. The fork is also supposedly much more durable than its predecessor but this still remains to be seen. Altogether this is by far the most fun and versatile XC bike I have ever ridden… and it looks wild too!
XC racing still thrives in Europe. Why is that? The answer… Europeans love wearing tight clothes obviously. I think we should all go on youtube for a while and watch the old battles between some of XC mtbs biggest legends. Afterward maybe even go to teamdreamteam.com and buy, you know, like 2-7 kits and give this XC thing another shot…. no pressure ;)
Wheels: Industry Nine Hydra TR270 w/ matching blue Hope rotors
Saddle: NOS Tinker Juarez Flite because… duh! This might be the most expensive saddle I have ever purchased but totally worth it.
Cockpit: Enve parts faux painted titanium by Good Color Studio
Group: XTR 9100 (12 speed). The biggest difference here with the new 9100 is the 10-51 ratio you can run in the rear. That’s a whole lot of range but it’s not cheap! The price tag isn’t the only catch if you want to run the 9100. The micro spline system Shimano uses along with a lefty front hub made finding a match pretty challenging (especially for XC wheels).