2011 is a good year for small cross bikes, which makes this roundup happily long! Previously, 520mm was the smallest common top tube; a few bikes nudged it to 515. This year, 2 new bikes from Giant and Specialized not only have even more frame options, but a narrower or shorter component spec to match.
Our emphasis in reviewing these bikes is on how suited they are to cyclocross racing; the models without carbon forks also make for decent rides on gravel, longer commutes, or as the do-it-all bike. And, it should go without saying that you’ll be most pleased if you can test ride before you buy. Especially if you’re already a regular at your local cross races or practices, I’ll bet you can hunt down the short people and ask (nicely) if you can take their bike for a turn or two.
At the very smallest end of the scale, those on a budget still have the awesome-ironic REI kid’s bike; if your piggy bank is plump, the original Terry Valkyrie. For the Valkyrie kind of money, you’d be amiss to not at least consider a custom Seven Mudhoney, Sweetpea Boom Boom, or Indy Fab Planet Cross, all fine steeds from custom framebuilders who sponsor pro and elite-level cross racers. Framesets alone are $1,850 and up.
Details about each of these bikes after the jump.
The ability to comfortably brake and shift from where ever you keep your hands is crucial to good bike control. Can you comfortably reach all 3 basic hand positions: hoods (optimize for this), tops, and drops? What about all the ones in between? If you’re not, read on to learn how to fix by working with the handlebars, levers, and maybe even stem.
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Track racing holds a special place in our heart — a place where the heart is pounding and half-digested lunch occasionally visits.
If you’re looking to get into track racing, many velodromes have free or low-cost loaners. If you’ll be a regular, however, you’ll probably want your own bike to surf the banking. Races on the track are compact, dynamic, tactically rich, like a criterium compressed into five or 10 minutes, conducted at an unrelenting pace. Track racing may also require you to modify your position on the bike between events, so you don’t want your fit options to be limited by the frame you’ve bought.
The Editors of Half Draft prefer aluminum track bikes with carbon forks; they can be built light, stiff, and aren’t too expensive, so you can save your money to spend it on more important things like decent wheels, comfy saddles, quality pedals, and rent and food. Here are some bikes worthy of the intensity that the velodrome has to offer.
Details on each bike after the jump.
According to Calfee, who’s built bikes from 30cm to 70cm, only 12% of the population really needs a full custom frame. Are you one of them?
Here at Half Draft, we have to thank the 700c wheel for being the reason we exist. The road-standard 700c wheel is just a tad too big to build a frame that accommodates the ‘normally-short’ among us.
If bike designers try to build a 700c bike with a top tube of less than about 520mm, they run into problems: bike wheels can only come so close together and still let you fit a frame in between them. In order to prevent the front wheel from hitting the downtube, they’d have to build the bike with a slacker headtube to push the wheel further forward. They used to do this, back in the days of steel forks, which could be easily bent into longer rakes to accommodate slacker headtube angles. This resulted in some small bikes with very sluggish handling.
If you were a bike company, you wouldn’t want it to be known that a good handful of riders simply didn’t fit on your bikes. But, nor would you necessarily have the capacity to build special forks and invest in special manufacturing procedures just for small bikes and the 10-15% of your customers who buy them.
So they compensate.