Dave mentioned our cross team the other day - the November Bicycles CX Experience. We didn't pick riders for the team based on past or expected results (but if we had, boy would we not have been disappointed), but rather for their ability to provide us with some highly qualified feedback on our bikes. Paul Rades is one of our team riders and is positively killing it this year. He's currently wearing the leader's jersey in the MABRA Super 8 Masters Elite category after a string of 2nd place finishes, and has also taken the top step of the podium at the Sportif Cup's Psycho Cross race. I mention this not to somehow fasten our brand securely on his coattails - the dude would be killing it on a Sears Free Spirit. Rather, it's like the 68 year old guy who tells his doctor, "Doc, I'm sleeping with a 24 year old woman." The doctor answers, "Why are you telling me this?" to which the guy replies, "I'm telling everybody!" Nice work, Paul.
Anyway, Paul has the skills and experience to evaluate equipment. And he also has a discerning palate, which isn't always the case with a racer, even those at the highest level. He sent us the following email after this past weekend (where he blazed to a 6th place finish in a stacked field at Granogue, even though I didn't sleep with a 24 year old woman) with some feedback on the November cross bike he's on. He didn't know I was going to publish it when he wrote it.
Paul, I'm going to publish it, OK?
I gave Dave some gut-level feedback right after Sunday's race, but it wasnt too specific beyond, "F-yeah!". Here's something more detailed:
1. Low center of gravity. Standover and BB drop is markedly lower than my Ridley, which is notorious for for high standover. I felt really confident and safe diving into grassy, loose-dirt corners at speed. The off-camber switchback just past the tower at Granogue felt easy to softpedal with no/minimal slippage, despite the fact that I was running aggressive tread clinchers at slightly high pressure (I opted for high b/c of the sharp rocky section in the woods, which caused me to pinch flat and DNF last year).
2. Lightness. Holy lord. My first side-by-side weigh-in w/the Ridley (which, BTW, is the lightest aluminum frameset on the market) didnt reveal much. I was even a little disappointed when my November felt the same as my Ridley while doing bicep curls with them. Field-testing, though, was entirely different. I dragged the November one-handed through Granogue's run-ups, and consistently cleared the stairs by lifting the entire bike off the ground by the stem. If I can lift a whole bike with little more than a wrist-flick, the average bike racer shouldnt need more than his 9-year-old-girl's upper body strength to easily clear barriers using two hands. Even deep into the 54th minute of a race.
3. Stiffness. I rocketed straight up the billy goat climb to the tower, and drilled the straightaways, almost like my feet were fused to the drivetrain. Yeah, I know my power-to-weight ratio or whatever probably skews a little high, but I'm sure the November's stout BB shell is a key variable. Further, I was running 4-year old pedals w/loose and unstable bearings, which I'll promptly swap out for brand new sillies later this week. Given a more stable foot-pedal interface, power transfer should feel even better.
4. Front-end tracking. My Ridley has the beefy, tapered head tube. so I didnt really notice any difference in tracking or front end stiffness. If I did notice a problem here--squirrliness, fork chatter, etc--that woud be a serious issue.
5. Fork mount cable guide. Didn't notice any difference from the more common headset cable guide. No news is good news. That said, a barrel adjuster--standard with TRP's model--would be nice for dialing the pads in just-right.
6. Component mix. I'm using the same reliable parts mix that I've run on my Ridley Excalibur (road race frame): SRAM Force; 3T Ergosum Pro bars and stem; Thomson post; Selle Italia saddle. Only CX-specific differences are Empella Frogglegs brakes (got em last season for 50% off--TRP copies these with their EuroX), and a Thorne 46T chainring (Stu Thorne's house brand for Cyclocrossworld.com). SRAM makes 46T rings, but they sell out fast early season. Specialtes TA makes 'em too, if you want to spend $75 for a single ring.
7. Tires. Im diggin' Clement's PDX clinchers. Slightly wider (700x33) than Challenge "open" tubular Grifos and Fangos, so I feel more stable and can run slightly lower pressure. Tread is a tad aggressive for some courses we've done this season, so I'm going to run Clement's LAS this weekend at DCCX. None of the big dogs in my fields run aggressive knobbies on grass, dirt, and hard-pack mud... I splurged on an FMB SSC to replace the Challenge Grifo that I blew out Saturday. I'll let you know after a few trials if FMBs are worth the $20-$30 per tire premium.
If you've got questions for Paul about his feedback, go ahead and leave them in the comments.
Paul, people may have questions for you, which they will leave in the comments. Is that OK?