The 2015/16 cyclocross season has been my eighth with proper cross bikes.
I'd done cross races before, but always on a mountain bike. I'd always thought of cross as a bit stuffy and anti-fun, older men with hats and frowns barking instructions, not very mountain bikey at all.
After a long spell of tendinitis in my knees, I decided to give the road/track/mtb racing a bit of a rest, but still wanted to compete so thought I'd give cyclocross a go, after all, some of the best looking bikes are cross bikes aren't they?
I'm of the opinion that if I turn up at a race and have the best bike, then 50% of the battle is already won. With this in mind, in 2008, I did what most newbies do and spent all my money on one sweet, carbon-laden ride.
Tricked out with inappropriate tyres pumped up to inappropriate pressures (for the conditions), but brimming with swagger, I portaged headlong into a new world of mud, suffering, joy and camaraderie.
It was only once I started riding in in the National Trophy series that I realised the error of my ways, and that two bikes were essential. I eventually managed to get the cash together to buy an almost matching bike. Thing is with almost matching bikes, one will always be preferable to the other and the unwillingness to change onto the 'lesser' bike when conditions dictate can be disastrous.
2015 - Change of horses please.
My ViCiOUS VELO team mates Ben and Claire both work at Condor Cycles and ride the Terra X frames. I'd always had a bit of a soft spot for their good looks & subtle curves, and really like the frames too.
One thing led to another and I sold my carbon specials and ordered a brace of custom painted retina burning orange Terra X Disc frames which would be produced in Italy just before they shut down for August.
This was pushing it a bit to get them built up in time for September when the cross season really gets going.
Collecting them from Condor's warehouse only seems like yesterday, but with only one race left for me this season, I can safely say I'm a happy customer.
There's always going to be a slight weight gain when changing from carbon frames to aluminium, likewise from traditional cantilever brakes to discs, but the increase in mud clearance and supremely stiff rear end, coupled with brakes that actually work go a long way to compensate.
I've followed current trends and opted for a 1 x 11 gearing set up, this further reduces the potential for mud building up around the drive train. I started off with no chain guide but found out they're an essential piece of kit to avoid the chain un-shipping once the going gets heavy.
The bikes look SO neat, identical in every way it really is hard to tell the difference. The paint job certainly gets attention and compliments the ViCiOUS VELO kit perfectly. As a result I've been papped a lot more than I was on my old bikes. I like the attention they get as it relieves me of any pressure to perform.
Photo courtesy of pro fan Gem Atkinson
Frame - Condor Terra X Disc 58cm
Fork - Easton carbon with tapered stearer
Wheels - 24mm carbon tubular with Novatec hubs
Tyres - FMB Slalom green compound (dry), Dugast Rhino (mud)
Brake levers - Shimano ST-RS685 hydraulic STi, 11 speed
Brake calipers - Shimano RS685
Brake rotors - Superstar Components 160mm front, 140mm rear
Chain set - SRAM CX1, 38t, 175mm
Chain - KMC 11 speed gold
Cassette - Ultegra 6800 11 speed, 12-28
Rear mech - Shimano Ultegra 6800
Bottom bracket - SRAM GXP threaded
Pedals - Crank Brothers Egg Beater SL
Seat post - Ritchey Pro carbon
Saddle - Ritchey WCS Streem
Stem - Pro PLT 100mm
Handlebars - Pro PLT 44cm
Bar tape - Fizik Superlight day glow orange
Picture - Kevin Knox
Picture - cyclocrosshandbook