Saturday, September 22, 2012

The SSCX Bikes are Reborn

Following suit with the new bike and equipment stampeded that is currently in full swing at our house, Cathy and I put together a couple of new single speed cyclocross (SSCX) rigs. We've been doing quite a bit of SSCX racing recently and the plan is to continue to use it as part of the dual focus for the season this fall, in order to hopefully keep it fresh, fun and real. We also do a bunch of training on the SS bikes as well so the new rigs  made sense for a couple of reasons.

The primary reasons for the change were to standardize on some parts picks and setup designs. One thing that I hate about typical dedicated single speed (SS) bikes is bolted rear axles with sliding/horizontal rear dropouts. They are a PitA to deal with and you need to run tensioners to keep the wheel in place. That doesn't scale well for racing in the case of a rear flat. It also limits your wheel options and forces you to have SS specific wheels kicking around. I also don't like freewheels. They don't afford you much room in terms of spacing to get the chainline really setup well. To this end, Cathy's bike, a Scandium Kona Major Jake SS, though really, really nice and absolutely beautiful, had a bolted rear end with horizontal drops.

My bike was an Cannondale CAAD9 frame with a BB30 bottom bracket setup with a Beer Components eccentric bottom bracket (EBB). This setup pretty much rocked for the most part and in the couple years of using it, I decided was a solid platform. It affords the use of normal real wheels and normal 24mm spindle two piece cranksets. The only problem with my bike was that it was a little too small for me and had a bunch of toe overlap. I also had a bolt on rear wheel with a freewheel, which although very novel with the snowflake lacing pattern, urban camouflage rim, red alloy nipples, a Paul hub and a White Industries freewheel, still was a PitA to deal with for the reasons mentioned previously. It was though, bomb proof which was nice given that I'd ripped a Mavic Ksyrium rear hub shell apart when setup as a SS for a race years back.

For the SS mountain bikes I'd run normal rear wheels, spacers and a single cog for years. This makes chainline adjustment or gearing swaps easy. I gravitated toward Shimano rear hubs as they are easy and cheap to replace the freehub on. I like this method and always have and so that entered into my design criteria for new bikes, especially if they were going to be used for SSCX race bikes because lets face it, we are not going to have spare SS pit bikes so we need to be able to fix a common problem like a flat or wheel issue as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Now for the new bikes. Our friend Chris at the Bikeway Source managed to score us a couple of new Cannondale CAADX cyclocross frames (with some much appreciated help from the Cannondale rep) in the correct sizes. These are normal geared frames that have a BB30 bottom bracket interface. For my bike it would be an easy swap as the parts were mostly the same. I did get new compact bars and stem and the seatpost size moved from 27.2mm to 31.6mm so a seatpost was in order as well, which I had. For Cathy it was an all new build. Fortunately we had almost all of the parts save the need for a new EBB which I ordered a few weeks back in prep. New bars and the rest, like mine, was mostly swapped over, though we did some swapping around and picking and choosing to get some of the better components that we had like FSA SLK carbon cranksets and higher end (read lighter) wheelsets. I also swapped an Easton EC90X fork I had on my old CAAD9 over to Cathy's bike, just because. We may swap back to the original fork as the color scheme is actually nicer but will have to see.

This resulted in a pair of pretty darn nice bikes, each weighing in at under 18 pounds. I also paid a little more attention to keeping the chains in place. I added an outer guide ring on the front and because I was using spacers in the rear for the cog, I could add inner and outer guide rings on the freehub which sandwich the single cog, making it impossible for the chain to fall off in the rear. Lastly, I moved away from SS specific SRAM PC-1 chains and back to a standard SRAM 8spd chain. The narrower chain gives better clearance with the guides and I've had issues with the PC-1 chains over the years, both on SSCX and SSMTB bikes.

We've had a couple of shakedown rides and the first race is this afternoon. Hopefully they will hold together.

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