With ‘cross season fast approaching, it’s time to dust off the nobbies and start riding in the grass. Yesterday, I took my cross bike out for the first time this year. Granted, it’s rolling on smoothies, but it’s still a ‘cross ride.
Last year was my first foray in cross racing and, considering I didn’t know if I’d like it or not, I built a bike on the low-down cheapies. I purchased a Kona Jake The Snake frame, which came in a really cool retro blue paint scheme, bolted on a bunch of old Ultregra parts that were laying around, and threw on an old but unused pair of Forte Titan wheels. It actually came together pretty nicely. Cheap but race ready.
- Frame: 2007 Kona Jake the Snake
- Fork: Kona Carbon
- Cranks: Ritchey Pro Cross, 38/42 x 175 mm
- Cassette: Ultegra 9-speed
- Pedals: XTR PD-M970
- Bars: Salsa Bell, 46cm (way to wide!)
- Stem: Ritchey WCS
- Levers: Ultegra STI
- Saddle: Sella Gel
- Wheels: Forte Titan
- Brakes: Avid Shorty 6
Considering last season brought my inaugural ride on a cross bike, I don’t have any other experience to draw upon for comparison except for my road and mountain bikes. Then, it’s a tough comparison considering I ride a Scott CR1 or a Fuji Team Pro and a Bianchi Oetzi. Those points aside, the Kona is a worthy ride deserving of a good review. It feels stiff and is predictable under load and steering feels lively and responsive, even on the road and at speed. I experienced a variety of courses last year, ranging from mostly grass to the US Nationals course in KCK. The Kona performed equally well on dry grass, screaming across sand pits, or sloshing through nasty mud and snow.
The only complaints I have are due to components. The Avid 6’s and Titan wheels are a disastrous mix. No amount of tweaking can solve the stopping problem. And, as mentioned above, I didn’t realize how Salsa measured bars. Riding the tops and hoods are fine, but the drops are too far outside my shoulders to be comfortable or aerodynamic.
After a relatively successful season last year (several top 10’s and a few top 5’s), I’m considering upgrades. I’m torn between a building a new, more race-worthy machine or just upgrading components. The Snake holds its own on the course, but I’d like something lighter and with more race-specific geometry. I plan to start the season on the Snake and then, if things go well, upgrade wheels and brakes–both of which can be moved to a new frame. If things go great, I’ll dig in and jump onto a new ride altogether. I’m thinking Scott Team or something funky…perhaps a Rock Lobster.