‘Cross Grade

Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Bike | 11 Comments

I really like my ‘cross bike.

I bought it as an experiment, although one I was pretty committed to trying… I sold my road bike to help pay for the cyclocross bike. Which is sort of rule in our house: “Want a new bike? Sell an old bike.” I’ve been really happy with that decision. The Gary Fisher Presidio has performed both road and ‘cross duties admirably. And last fall I raced cyclocross for the first time. It was eye-openingly fun. Stupid, mind-bending, idiotic fun. I have been putting off the ‘cross to road transition—a simple tire swap—for as long as possible this spring because the myriad and local dirt roads, and trails (and weather) are more amenable to knobbies than slicks. And anyway, turning a road ride into a dirt ride is just cool.

Just as I was starting to think about a new pair of road tires, along came the Crusher in the Tushars.

And along with it, a host of new things to stew and brew about. Which bike? Which tires? How do I get ready for 12,000 feet of climbing in 80 miles? Will I need a more gears? And so, the Presidio is occupying a front and center place in my riding and training this spring. And of course, that means I’m pondering ways (and if my navel gazing can make Bob’s day, then so much the better) to improve the bike—both for the Crusher, but also for ‘cross season.

Because, a fast bike means a fast rider. Right?


Maybe not.


Listed below is the spec list of my Presidio. It’s almost entirely stock, except for the wheels (and tires) and the cassette. I use the stock Bontrager wheels as a back-up set to a pair of Easton EA70’s. And I swap my MTB seat/seatpost for races. If you were upgrading the bike below, what parts would you upgrade? I’ve got a small budget, so suggesting $3,000 carbon handlebars (or buying a new bike) isn’t exactly helpful. I’m looking for performance over weight loss, although dropping a pound or so from the bike wouldn’t hurt.

In the meantime, I’m working vigorously on dropping a pound or 10 from my body.

On to the list:

Frame: Platinum series steel
Fork: Bontrager Satellite Cross, carbon legs, aluminum steerer
Wheels: Easton EA70 (clincher)
Shifters: SRAM Rival Carbon 10spd
Front Derailluer:  SRAM Rival
Rear Derailluer: SRAM Rival
Cassette: SRAM PG 1070 10spd 12-26
Crank: SRAM S-300 46×38
Handlebar: Bontrager SSR VR
Bar Tape: Bontrager Gel Cork
Stem: Bontrager Race X Lite OS
Headset: Cane Creek S3 Aheadset
Brakes: Avid Shorty 6.
Seatpost: Thomson Elite
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR

I do have plans to swap out the bar tape. It’s too thick for my preference, and—as I learned the hard way—is very slick when wet. I want to try the Lizard Skins tape. Anyone have experience with that? I’d also like to get a lighter, and perhaps slightly wider handlebar. I have even tinkered with the idea of putting a Midge bar on the bike. Is that stupid? Would an off-road drop bar work for ‘cross racing?

As I said above, I am really happy with the my bike. But, as I think we are all wont to do, I’d like to find ways to improve its performance and efficiency. Plus, these kinds of discussions are usually interesting and enjoyable.

So… discuss!



  1. TheEpicRide Ryan
    May 19, 2011

    Looks like you’ve got a solid rig bro. I say fuck it. Run whatcha brung!
    Ride on.

  2. Faceless Ghost
    May 19, 2011

    Lizard Skins tape is way too expensive for bar tape. But other than that it’s the best I’ve ever used.

  3. mark
    May 19, 2011

    Lizard Skins tape is nice. For about a month. Actually for about a week, because the first three weeks you’re still feeling the sting of the price. Then it wears out a week later.

    I’ve not really noticed cork tape getting slick when wet to the point that it’s a problem. If it’s an issue, just put some pine tar on there. All kidding aside, you want a little slip between your gloves and tape on rough road. Otherwise, if your gloves stick to the tape, the slip is between your gloves and skin and you get blisters (interesting article about this in Peloton magazine, but given your disdain for pavement, you probably don’t read that).

    Also, I have a wide Easton EA70 bar that I may be willing to part with. Talk to me if you’re interested.

    • Grizzly Adam
      May 19, 2011

      I don’t have a disdain for the road. I like riding on the road. Just not as much as I like riding on dirt. But you are right, I don’t read Peleton. But I don’t read DirtRag either.

  4. Heather
    May 19, 2011

    I just bought some helicopter tape on ebay, I don’t know if it is cheaper than lizard skins, but we are going to try it out. I have read good things about it.

  5. Dave Byers
    May 19, 2011

    The Lizard Skins tape is good stuff and seems to be pretty durable. The back of the packaging says NOT to wash it with soap and water or will you scrub the “stickiness” off of the tape. That would have been an easy thing to miss and I usually scrub the heck out of my bar tape when washing my bike.
    Can you climb the Crusher route with a 38×26? I think a standard 34/50 compact crank might be nice to have for that one.

    • Grizzly Adam
      May 19, 2011

      Yeah, going to get a few more gears for the Crusher.

  6. syj
    May 19, 2011

    I ponied up for the Lizard Skins tape a few weeks ago. It felt great for about 31.2 miles, at which point I laid my bike down rather dramatically. While it may look durable, I’d give it no higher rating than good cork tape in that department.

    As for the ride, you may want to consider is a 29er suspension fork (with lockout). Given the amount of precipitation and T-Bird’s warnings about erosion, I can foresee the course getting a bit rougher than was originally anticipated. By way of comparison, I’m currently planning on riding an older hardtail MTB frame with drop bars/brifters, V brakes with travel agents, a 100mm lockout fork, 36/46 front rings, and an 11-30 cassette.

  7. Joshua
    May 19, 2011

    The mistake most people make with the Lizard Skins tape is stretching it too tight. When wrapping your bars try not to stretch the tape, just pull it taut, especially right above the hoods where it sees the most abuse. I have had two full cross seasons with the ‘Skins tape with no failures. I don’t wear gloves when it’s warm and I love the tackiness of the tape. Although they don’t recommend cleaners, I spray Simple Green on a paper towel and wipe the tape down. Usually comes out sparkling.

  8. slowerthensnot
    May 19, 2011

    Stans tubeless road wheelset?


  9. Sean
    August 2, 2011

    Avid Shorty Ultimates… they are worth every penny!

    Sweet bike btw, I’m trying to get one for myself!

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