Cross rider, Alan Dorrington provides a quick report the build and first impressions of his Handsling Bikes CXD
The arrival of my new Handsling Bikes CXD frameset opened up the opportunity to build myself a race-specific bike to a chosen spec, with the parts that I wanted, rather than run with a manufacturer specced bike where inevitably some compromises would have been made for cost and ready availability of components.
So, in building up the CXD, each individual part could be chosen for either durability, weight, performance or a combination of all three. The CXD frame itself is strikingly finished in Handsling livery and combines practical solutions to the usual 'cross conundrums of cable routing, clearance, carrying practicality and pleasing aesthetics. A huge bottom bracket shell promises stiffness, but without the shelf at the rear between downtube and rear tyre where mud can often collect unhelpfully. Cable routing is internalised along much of the frame tubes meaning the top tube and down tube are 'clean' from cable interference, aiding carrying greatly. Clearance around the fork crown is more than ample and at the rear a wishbone arrangement again offers good clearance, particularly on the sidewalls of the tyres where mud tends to accumulate. Overall then, it appears really well thought out, rather than being a road frame 'crossed up' with little care or attention to the specific demands of the discipline.
As indicated, I tend to prefer an eclectic mix of components, partly out of practically in use and partly for durability or ease of service during wet and muddy racing seasons. Single ring setups with a thick-thin chain retention system are increasingly popular and I have been running this on my 'cross bikes for some time now. It saves weight, money and increases clearance with very few downsides. Braking options for disc adopters were previously thin on the ground, but have now increased substantially though the choice is still mostly between simple mechanical, cable actuated set ups and full hydraulic systems. I still prefer the old-school BB7 cable set up - it is simple to use, very robust, doesn't present odd pad wear dilemmas and is cheap to buy and install. Full hydraulic versions clearly give better feel but in pure 1 hr 'cross races, braking is not usually the most important aspect of a lap and the BB7s do the job.
Bars and stem are simple, light alloy jobs for durability with a concession made to a carbon seatpost to add a bit of comfort in the relatively rare event of the ground actually being anything less than soft and mud laden.
Where I do go for the best available is in tyres - tubulars to be precise. Artisan tubs are to be fair as much a fetish item for the keen crosser as a performance choice, but nevertheless a choice where significant gains in performance can be made from using a really high quality handmade (preferably in Brittany, France) tubular, lovingly glued to a light wheelset.
Handsling CXD XL frame and fork
Planet X Team Superlight bars and stem
FSA Carbon seatpost with Fizik Tundra K'ium saddle
SRAM Rival shifters (cheap to replace if damaged)
SRAM Red chainset (GXP bb) with absoluteBlack single ring 38 tooth
SRAM Red mech (stiff spring tension to retain chain on single ring)
Avid BB7 disc calipers
Various carbon disc wheelsets with...
Tubulars according to ground conditions from FMB (Slalom, SuperMud, custom made Green Michelin Mud treads), Challenge (Grifo, Chicane) and Dugast (Small Bird)
And the ride? First ride impressions can be mercurial things, with positive impressions taking more than one ride to filter into one's consciousness, and often only becoming truly apparent under race conditions. However, the CXD stood out immediately in a number of areas - stiffness, stability and chuckability. Oh, and weight.
It rides like a full on race bike - accelerating with a vivid quality under power, cruising at speed over challenging terrain and feeling delightfully light and comfortable when picking up or shouldering. Interestingly, it also passed the stability under dismount test with flying colours, giving a planted feeling when coasting at speed into barriers or before a run up.
More riding and racing will reveal how the CXD handles in more challenging conditions, but for now I am more than happy with the chuckability, apparent raceability and startling lightness this frame gives.