At the MFG Cyclocross party, I realized a generation had passed when I mentioned unrecognized names like Knapp, Norton, Grande, and Rutledge. Not only have the names changed, but the bikes have as well. We used to race on 70s touring bikes and now it’s more focused, purpose-built bikes. I asked Tim Rutledge about this development:
The courses today all over the USA mimic UCI rules at a level we have never seen before. So the bikes do not have to have such long rear ends or high bottom brackets. Â In the last 5 years, “Jungle-Cross” no longer exists and frames built with lighter weight materials and fatter tires are the new normal. Â 20 Years ago we had more rugged courses and crazy steep descents, along with tires that were only 28C but that has changed, to today’s, fast–“Dirt Crits.” Â The modern ‘Cross bike is a fantastic blend of ‘Cross and Road, and under 18lbs!!
At the distributor, ready to go out racing
He’s right. During our pre-ride of North Seatac last weekend, I went down the steep, dirt descent three times to show Pam how to do it. Turns out, they haven’t ran that gnarly section of the course in years. To bring more people into the sport, promoters are making it more accessible. The bikes are better and built for what are essentially dirt crits.
Appreciate the lightweight and oval tubes, on the shoulder, running up a hill
Tim’s job as a marketing manager is to evangelize the latest season of bikes and this time something was different in his tone. He said, “something going on,” with the changes in the 11 line. Highlights of those changes include
- Intergrated headset
- Carbon stays, fork, with bigger brake bosses
- Geometry tweaks
For years Tim and I have agreed to disagree on frame stiffness. He based it on touring bikes and I based it on high-end, road racing bikes. This year, we have no disagreement. The 2011 Conquest Team is stiff and the combination of integrated headset, BB30, and carbon stays makes for a ride like a good crit bike. Take the Conquest Team frame, replace the brakes with dual-pivot sidepulls, road tires, and you’re racing at the Tuesday Worlds with your bros.
Every Which Way But Loose
It’s not uncommon for parts of a cross bike to move independently of each other. Take a big hit and maybe the front would dive while the rear would buck up. At Kruger’s Kermesse, racing a On One, I was muscling that bike around tight corners because the frame was tracking in a direction different than the fork.
The totally nonscientific tests I do on bikes include:
- One, Two, Step – step on the bottom bracket and does it slink like a noodle or bounce back like a gymnast?
- Shake your Money Maker – does the front end wiggle like a fishing lure or hit a hard stop on each side?
- Kung Fu Grip – remove the rear wheel, grab the stays and are they spring loaded or crack like a nut?
- How to Crank That? – thumb on downtube, index on crank and does it move or stay put?
The Team passes all these tests and also rides right down the road without hands on the bar. That’s another test not done in a lab, but a good indicator of how a bike performs.
Da Stanky Leg
A curiosity of the Conquest Team I’m still trying to figure out is under hard front braking, when bouncing down single track, the tips of the fork legs dance around. Almost to the point of a shudder. Noting it in this review as a ride characteristic and the fork behavior changes with a different set of tires. Also changes by modulating the rear brake more and front less. The behavior will likely change with another set of wheels too. Mark and I will work on different brake setups to determine further what’s going on.
Shudder is common with Cross bikes, but the changes Redline made include the fork and the problem wasn’t present 2 years ago when we raced Single Speed on a Conquest. May have to switch to the TRP carbons from the Euro Xs.
The shimmy I wrote about above eventually became a shudder. Mark V was able to adjust it out with toe in, but it returned two laps into a race on Sunday. We’re changing out the brake pads next. Given that it’s been adjusted out once, I’m convinced we can resolve it. Also worth noting from my nonscientific tests above, brake shudder is something I’d like to see with high-speed cameras in a lab. Very complex set of circumstances.
This Season Cross
Our Cross seasons come and go with travel, fitness, and level of burnout from road racing. This year before we ride in London and Berlin we’re out racing and plan on reporting back on the Team and other bikes, including a selection of Single Speeds.
If you’re considering a new cross bike, try the Conquest Team. We’re impressed. Besides the ride, there’s not much we’d change in the spec and that’s unusual for a production bike. You’re normally swapping parts out before race day.
Pam loves Cross
Redlines are available from your local bike shop and the MSRP on the Conquest Team is 3K.
Ryan Iddings wining North Seatac on the Conquest Team
First race on the Team and shudder issues aside, the bike performed flawlessly. Note that I did swap out the stock Schwalbe Racing Ralphs for Kenda Small Blocks on that mostly dry course.
Publisher note: Seattle Bike Supply, distributors of Redline, are our partners and advertise on Bike Hugger.