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  1. #1
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    29er for cyclocross

    Yes, I've read several threads here on this subjuect, but I've got a question from a slightly different angle....

    Does anyone truly believe that a rider on a 29er (with 2.1 MTB tires) has an unfair advantage on a typical cyclocross race course?

    I ask because I have gone from racing for 5 years on my Independent Fabrication cross bike to racing on my Santa Cruz Highball, simply because there is no doubt in my mind I am faster on the 29er. Even if there were doubt, I certainly have way more fun on the 29er.

    After a decent result at a recent race, I was on the receiving end of a snide remark along the lines of "get yourself a cross bike", and although I don't mind being "that guy" who goes against tradition by riding a MTB at a ccx race, I am less comfortable being "that guy" who is perceived to be cheating. Afterall, the UCI prohibits tires over 35 for a reason, right?

    Anyhow, if a large number of folks respond that yes, there is an unfair technical advantage gained by riding a 29er, then I might have to rethink my choice. But if it's only about tradition, I couldn't care less. I've paid my dues with 5 years on steel, and canti brakes.

    KN

  2. #2
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    Handicap.
    Small ring in front makes it easier. Small ring in back makes it harder. That blows my mind.

  3. #3
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    I raced part of the season on a 29er this year (the other part on a cross bike). I was much faster on the corners and the downhills, especially when it was rough on the 29er. I got destroyed on the smooth flats.

    It doesn't sound like much of a difference, but it is significantly easier to lift and carry an 18 lb bike than a 24 lb bike.

    If I went to skinny tires and lost the suspension in front, it would probably be pretty close to a wash.

  4. #4
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    Well sure there CAN be a technical advantage, but the fact you still have to lug it over barriers, perhaps slopes even too steep for a mtb bike, stretches of flat pavement etc...you are at a clear disadvantage no matter how you look at it. *edit* ok, that didn't come out right, I meant you are at an advantage technically, but a disadvantage everywhere else so as said above, wash.

    FWIW, I am not personally familiar with a single cross rider who thinks a mtb is an advantage and all of them would say 'ride whatever you feel comfortable with'. every single one.

    As long as it stays legal to run one, run it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Idiot Wind View Post
    FWIW, I am not personally familiar with a single cross rider who thinks a mtb is an advantage and all of them would say 'ride whatever you feel comfortable with'. every single one.
    Now THAT is an answer to exactly what I was asking - thanks!

    KN

  6. #6
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    Racing CX with your mtb

    I'm with Lenny7 to say it is a handicap to bring your mtb to a gunfight.

    After 2 seasons of CX racing on mtb bikes including this season on a new Anthem 29er, I can relate to the snide remarks and non-traditional cx specific bike. But frankly, after dropping $3k on my xc 29er race bike this past May, I wanted to continue racing beyond the mtb season. And for only 2 months of cross racing, my checkbook couldn't justify buying a cx specific bike !

    So I bought some skinny cx tires (conti x-kings 29x35mm) to try to level the playing field, removed my bottle cage, locked out the front and rear suspension and gave it my best shot. Had a blast and absolutely love the sprint starts and bigger race fields ! There is always a rider to try to catch, battle in a pack of 6 or 7 riders anywhere on the course, or fight off someone to the finish line. Holding your position off the start and hanging on for your 30 or 45 minute "moto", the pain and suffering will keep you coming back for that adrenaline rush until the season is over. I'm out there for kicks, racing 2 races per Sunday to get my money's worth, and am not racing to make the top 10. My goals were to finish top half of the field, go all out at the start, avoid any crashes or spastic riders, and be able to hold my postion to the finish. And for FWIW, I'm a mid-pack, Cat 1 mtb racer, in the 40-49 age division.

    Typically the cx fields were 40 to 50 riders, but a couple this season were 80+ riders. I would race the early 9 am. C race first which was a 30 min. moto followed by a 1 hr break, then the B race which was 45 min. And drinking beer by the start of the afternoon races !

    The most improvement was by switching to cx width tires (35 to 40 mm) on mtb rims over using any mtb tires to reduce the drag resistance. Disc brakes over cantis helped some - on tight courses with many switchbacks, disc brakes plus my mtb handling and cornering skills would help me brake late and corner inside those on cx bikes. Disc brakes worked great in mud and sloppy conditions. But no advantage on wide corners or sweepers since momentum and staying off the brakes were critical. On the flats, I would get destroyed by riders with bigger engines and taller cx gearing since most cx bikes are std with 46/36 on the front. My 29er had only 39/26 on the front. The more aerodynamic you can be on the flats will help some since your wider mtb bars increase your drag. Also the frame of my specific mtb or a hardtail mtb frame is not very good to shoulder the bike for runups.

    Next year - planning to hunt down a 29er hardtail to setup as a singlespeed and do it all again !!
    my yeti is smarter than your honor student !

  7. #7
    Don't be a sheep
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    MTB's are a great alternative for people who aren't good bike handlers, it makes things less intimidating which is why you feel faster. Have fun.
    "Do not touch the trim"

  8. #8
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    I use my 29er as a pit bike and tried it as a primary for a really muddy race. My results were mixed.

    - Most of the sections that are un-rideable on a cross bike are faster to run anyway.
    + Big climbs are the main exception to this. I was able to regain a lot of time on these.
    + Disc brakes were really nice to have.
    - between the less aero position (upright and wider) and the fat tires I got annihilated on the straights.

  9. #9
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    I question a cyclocross course design that puts a mountain bike at an advantage. I know that for a while, some course designers were trying to put them on parity. But for me, 'cross is the one thing that my 'cross bike is really good at, and it's the mix of relatively non-technical (for MTB) off-road sections, lots of grass corners, and occasional spots to open up the throttle on pavement that really makes it the right tool.

    I also miss 'cross being "run what ya brung." In my region, one of the promoters has added another category below 4 to try to make it more accessible again. But when I first tried it, several years ago, people showed up on all sorts of bikes. Now people say that people show up on all sorts of bikes, but almost everyone at the Cat. 4 starting line is on a purpose-built 'cross bike.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  10. #10
    Monkey Junkie
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    A "properly" designed cross course will be designed to utilize a cross bike as the best tool for the job. I am not the all knowing expert on CX race course design, but I do notice that the European courses generally appear to be very well suited to CX bikes. Many of the grassroots, US courses that I've seen have more technical/MTB like sections that make the choice of bike questionable for some. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it gives people the opportunity to push the envelope of what they are capable of on a CX bike. It also makes the course more appealing to MTBers which leads to better turn out at the race.

    It doesn't bother me to see people show up on MTB's - I did it myself this past season, but if you take the cross bikes entirely out of cross, then it's basically people racing a tame course on mountain bikes..

    I see it from both angles, but I don't really take racing seriously enough to care about a couple people showing up on mountain bikes. As stated previously, just design the courses to make cross bikes the right bike.

  11. #11
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    The only real disadvantages I see are weightmframe design when you need to lug the bike over barriers and other obstacles, & gearing (speed) as I have a cross bike and 29er hardtail.

    It's been a while since I ditched my big chain ring... but iirc, it's around 42T, compared to a cross bike having a 46T (cross-compact), 50T (road compact), or 53T (road)....

    I have tried riding my cross bike on the easier trails that I'm normally familiar with on my 29er.... I can't corner as hard (as I'll wash out more, and having a similar tire up front as the 29er, but thinner)...and can't get up slopes like I can with my 29er...

    But I can also see the 29er being more forgiving if you try to bunnyhop. YOu'll have a better chance of getting over, instead of entertaining the crowd with an awesome crash....

  12. #12
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Depending on the course, 'cross courses are often fast enough that pushing more air with a mountain bike is a disadvantage.

    Suspension may not be doing someone in a 'cross race any favors.

    Compact frames are awkward to shoulder, which is most modern mountain bikes. In my region, I don't think that would have mattered this year.

    Hard to say with tires. I think it depends a lot on course design. One of my teammates went to 45 mm tires on his 'cross bike this year and was pretty happy with them. I suspect that size is close to some kind of optimum for a lot of 'cross courses.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  13. #13
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    A guy on a CX bike won one of the local XC races (CCCX XC series) in his age group and category back in 2012. He was a badass.
    QUOTE from MTBR.COM: You have given Brewtality too much Reputation in the last 24 hours, try again later.

  14. #14
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    If you're enjoying it, and it's allowed in your category, I see no reason to listen to snide remarks. As just about everyone else has said, a "properly" designed CX course would make racing MTBs a disadvantage.

    I'm all for racing whatever gets you out there. Too many people I've talked to feel they need to spring for a new bike in order to race. There are enough financial obstacles to racing. I'm with AndrwSwitch- run what ya brung!

    Los
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  15. #15
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    Looking at having a go myself, maybe this season on a 29er.

    From looking about on forums and hunting for rule info, here in the UK you can ride a CX on just about anything at local level races. The bigger regional and national races will have harder tracks more suited to a CX bike.

    The 3 peaks race over here has strict rules, CX only, no flat bars etc etc, but that event is a bit too badass for me right now (or ever )

    I already have 700c track wheels and conti race 35mm tyres on a singlespeed rigid karate monkey with flat bars and flat pedals, running v-brakes. I intend to SS the first race, see how it goes, then most likely get drop bars and aero levers for the V's to blend in a bit more.
    If however i don't puke, last the full 40mins or 1 hour and be closer to the front of the pack than last.....i might look into building the monkey over with better wheels and gears, or see whats second hand at races.

    Having started looking into the world of CX, i am surprised at how big it is over here as you never really see or hear much about it, and lots of races too.
    Not sure about riding in a pack, used to downhill racing so single player time trail, not 30+ elbows in my face off the start grid

  16. #16
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    Sure, a CX bike is more suitable on most CX courses. But what about conditions? I've seen video of snow or extremely wet courses where CX bikes are getting thrown all over with constant crashes, and I suspect a 29er with bigger tires WOULD be an advantage. Anyone have experience with racing a MTB in really mucky races?

  17. #17
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Sometimes I've wished I was on my 'cross bike at the beginning of the XC season on really muddy courses. Not saying it would be better - I never did try it. But they have a lot of the same problems and are harder to run with than a 'cross bike when I just can't ride up something.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  18. #18
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    I tried doing CX races with my Karate Monkey 29er for a while. Anything I gained on handling, I lost on carrying or hauling my bike up things. Just added weight that was like dead weight a decent amount of the time. And I had to pedal that extra weight around the course. So grip...yes....float....yes but negated by heft of bike, at least for little old me(5'3" @ 115lbs female).
    Then I tried my road bike with knobbies and the lack of grip & tire girth but lightness of the bike sortof had the same positive/negative elements but in reverse! It made me realize CX bikes are sortof like a "happy medium" thing.

    Either way, you'll have a heck of a good time though! Do it.
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