Archive for the Bike Features Category

Erik TonkinThursday evening I had the opportunity to preview this season’s Kona Factory Team bike. This brand spanking new orange Kona belongs to Portland’s own Erik Tonkin, local legend and proprietor of Sellwood Cycle Repair.

The bike is orange. Very orange. It’s got a nice white panel on the down tube for the classy script Kona logo. You aren’t going to miss this bike when it whizzes past you in a race. Like Kona’s other cross offerings, the dérailleur cable routing is along the down tube. Erik prefers this routing because less housing means better shifting. Also, routing the rear mech cable along the chain stay eliminates the drip effect casued by water/mud running down the cabel when it’s routed along the seat stay. There’s also a lot of carbon on this rig which is kind of ironic given Erik’s druthers for outfitting a cross bike. The frame is fabricated from Kona’s propriatary scandium tubing. With all the carbon and scandium, the bike is predictably light.

There are two big updates this season. The first is the sheer number of FSA components on the bike this year. And since this is a factory team bike, Erik gets all the new ceramic bits in FSA’s lineup. The other change is the absence of Easton as a sponsor. That means Kona went to their own tubing and speced a True Temper Alpha Q CX20 fork.

Wheel and cantiThe FSA K-Light wheels are what they say — darned light. I hefted the front and the rear and these things must be like riding on air. The rear with a Dura Ace cassette felt about as heavy as my front wheel. Of course they roll on ceramic bearings. The quick releases are well designed and engage the hubs as well as Shimano and Campy (the gold standards). Erik tells me these K-Lights might be the first ones in North America. Apparently he’s trying them out for the team. The wheels are adorned with a Griffo Challenge in the front and a Dugast in the rear. Both have been repaired with new tubes and base tape.

While Erik is a member of the Kona Factory Team, he isn’t under contract. That means he has more latitude with his equipment than do some of his teammates. His first modification was to replace the saddle with an SLR, though he did report that the WTB saddle felt pretty good. Initially he suggested he would most likely replace the Kore cantis with Pauls. He said the Kores set up well and worked fine but didn’t have the same quality as Pauls. However, in restrospect, he has decided to keep the Kores on the bike and believes they might be the best new brake out there.

Shimano sponsors most of the drive train and also provides the shoes. Erik doesn’t like to use carbon soled shoes for cross so he sticks with molded sole mountain bike shoes (Gaerne Samos). He uses the carbon soled Shimano mountain bike shoes when racing mountain and road. These shoes tend to be a little slick and he hasn’t had much luck gluing rubber in the right spots. The biggest problem is the slick area near the cleat that tends to make the pedal skate when trying to clip in. Erik also prefers the Shimano 959 pedals because of their superior bearings and durability.

Erik has been racing on the FSA carbon seat post through the mountain bike season and it has treated him well. He expects the same performance on the cross bike. The Easton carbon seat posts regularly failed the team in the past and he’s happy to have made the switch. He’s very glad not to be using carbon bars (Easton last season) since they have also suffered failures in the past.

Since I didn’t meet Erik until 7:00, the evening light was fading fast as I raced to snap some photos. I apologize for the substandard photos (kind of shaky and not so well focused).

  • Front derailleur: FSA
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura Ace
  • Chain: Shimano Dura Ace
  • Brifters: Shimano Dura Ace
  • Cassette: Shimano Dura Ace (12-27)
  • Crank: FSA SL-K Light 130bcd 39/46t (he’ll switch to a 42 single when he gets the rings from FSA)
  • Bars: FSA Energy (traditional bend, shallow drop, alloy, 31.8mm/44cm c-c)
  • Brakes: Kore canti
  • Seat post: FSA K-Force
  • Stem: FSA OS-115 (100mm/31.8mm)
  • Wheels: FSA K-Force
  • Seat: WTB Silverado Ti rails w/ kevlar patches (Now changed to Selle Italia SLR w/ tubular Ti rails)
  • Frame: Kona scandium proprietary tubes
  • Fork: True Temper Alpha Q CX20
  • Pedals: Shimano 959
  • Headset: FSA Orbit Xtreme Pro (alloy, non-integrated)
  • Bottom bracket: FSA MegaExo Ceramic

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Chris Tauscher is a masters level racer in SW Washington. He races in the Cross Crusade series as well as other local cross offerings. He’s also been know to contest road races during the preseason. Chris has been racing in the 35+C cat but his strong placing will earn him an upgrade in no time. Chris is always ready to lend a hand and has been helping out with the Sellwood Cycle Repair cross clinics at Alpenrose by coaching the kids. He rides for Tireless Velo.

Though Chris usually races with gears, he has a sweet Mountain Cyles (now deceased) Stumptown single speed. I admit that I’d love to have it as my own — to a large extent because I’d like to own a little piece of local history.

  • Frame: MC Stumptown (Al)
  • Fork: Easton carbon EX90C
  • Headset: FSA
  • Stem: Thompson Elite EX
  • Bars: FSA
  • Brake levers: Cane Creek
  • Seat post: Thompson Elite
  • Seat: Sella Itallia
  • BB: FSA
  • Crank: FSA Gossamer with a 40 ring
  • Pedals: Crank Bros. Candy yellow
  • Brakes: Tektro Oryx
  • Chain: SRAM
  • Hubs: Shimano LX 135mm rear spacing with a 18 cog
  • Rims: WTB Dual Duty 32 hole laced 3x
  • Tires: Vittoria Cross XG Pro 34C
  • Chain tensioner: Surly Singulator

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Bill’s VanillaBill Goritski is a masters racer (35+ A category) and competes in the SW Washington and NW Oregon area. We already featured Bill’s wife Karen’s Vanilla last week. Bill races the full Cross Crusade schedule and adds in other local races as they come up. Bill rides for Tireless Velo.

Bill reports that working with Sacha is great and that his bike is a joy to race. The bike was repainted for this season and we think the color coordination is sweet!

  • Frame: Vanilla (combo of Dedacciai and Columbus steel tubes)
  • Fork: Alpha Q CX carbon
  • Shifters/Brake levers: Shimano Ultegra 10-speed
  • Rear dérailleur: Shimano Ultegra 10-speed
  • Single ring setup: 42 ring with a Jump Stop on the inside and a ground off 50t on the outside
  • Crank: FSA SLK carbon 42
  • BB: FSA
  • Pedals: Crank Bros. Candy Ti.
  • Chain: SRAM
  • Cassette: Sram 12-26
  • Wheels: Mavic Helium tubulars. Tufo Flexus tires. Training wheels are Ultegra hubs laced 3x to Open Pro rims with IRD cross tires
  • Bars: Easton EC 90 Equip 44cm
  • Stem: Thompson
  • Seat post: Easton carbon
  • Saddle: Sella Italia SLR
  • Headset: Chris King
  • Brakes: Paul Neo Retro front and rear

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Karen GoritskiKaren Goritski is a masters racer and competes in the SW Washington and NW Oregon area. She races the full Cross Crusade schedule and adds in other local races as they come up. She has ridden this bike to a masters Nationals top ten, lots of Cross Crusade wins, a series title, and an OBRA championship. Karen rides for Tireless Velo.

Karens Vanilla has lugless (fillet brazed) construction to meet her needs. Since she’s a woman and needs a smaller frame size, the frame geometry was tweaked to reduce toe overlap. The matching steel fork was mated to the frame to further minimize toe overlap.

  • Frame: Vanilla (Dedacciai steel)
  • Fork: Vanilla (steel)
  • Shifters/Brake levers: Shimano Ultegra 9-speed
  • Rear dérailleur: Shimano Ultegra 9-speed
  • Front dérailleur: Shimano Ultegra (6500)
  • Crank: FSA SLK carbon 46/36
  • BB: FSA
  • Pedals: Crank Bros. Candy Ti.
  • Chain: Shimano Ultegra
  • Cassette: Sram 12-26
  • Wheels: King hubs (pewter) laced 3x to Reflex rims. Tufo Flexus tires. Training wheels are Ultegra hubs laced 3x to Open Pro rims with IRD cross tires
  • Bars: Salsa Short and Shallow (40cm width)
  • Stem: Salsa
  • Seat post: Easton carbon
  • Saddle: Specialized Jett
  • Headset: Chris King (pewter)
  • Brakes: Paul Neo Retro front and rear

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Rhonda with bikeI spent a pleasant hour on Thursday evening chatting with Erik Tonkin and Rhonda Mazza. I met the couple at Sellwood Cycle Repair where they gave me a tour of Rhonda’s A bike and chatted about racing in Europe. Rhonda looks quite fit despite the fact that she’s pregnant and due in just a few months (around the Portland USGP date). She rode the bike over to the shop, the first time she’s been on it in months, and commented on how good it felt to be out on the cross bike.

For obvious reasons, Rhonda won’t be racing this season and she misses the training and anticipation leading up to the cross season. Rhonda rode to an 11th place finish at the Worlds this past January (pic 1, pic 2) but expressed disappointment that she let a competitor pass on the final lap to miss out on a top ten. Given that she started at the back of the field, even riding into the top ten on the final lap is quite an accomplishment. Rhonda tells me that she worked hard to score UCI points last year and she accrued enough points racing domestically and in two international races to get the 26th callup.

Rhonda started racing cyclocross in 1999 because Erik was racing. She started out with flat bars and toe clips but has migrated to more conventional components in the subsequent years. She was a competitive runner in high school, contesting the California High School State Championships in the mile during her career. Erik attributes her strong competitive nature to her running history.

The Bike

Rhonda rides for Team S&M, the Sellwood Cycle Repair shop team, and is sponsored by Vanilla Cycles and Chris King, among others. Erik is her chief mechanic and has set up her bikes with three priorities: 1) functionality, 2) durability , and 3) easy of assembly. Since they ship their bikes across the country as well as across the Atlantic, Erik has put a lot of thought into a parts spec that will survive baggage handlers and be easy enough for Rhonda to reassemble without a mechanic’s assistance.


Top tube cable routingThe frame is a fillet braised Vanilla, built in 2004. Rhonda has raced on the frame for three seasons and it shows. It’s collected a little ding on the top tube and another small ding with accompanying gash in the paint on the down tube. There are plenty of minor scratches and scuffs that result from handling a cross bike in the mud and lugging it around the word. The paint is S&M orange with blue Vanilla logo panels on the seat and down tubes. She has a second Vanilla (B bike) with the Vanilla Team issue powder blue paint. The rear brake and dérailleur cable routing is at 2 o’clock on the top tube and the front dérailleur cable routing is along the down tube. Since Rhonda runs a single ring, the down tube cable stops are empty. The frame is mated to an Alpha Q CX fork. This bike has a 1″ headtube while the second bike is 1-1/8″.

Drive Train

Single ringThe crank is a 9-speed Dura Ace. Erik chose the 9-speed Shimano because Rhonda can pull the crank with a single 8mm hex wrench rather than having to learn to pull an integrated spindle crank (plus the extra tools required). The crank has two chain rings, however the outer ring only serves as a chain guard. The business ring is a 40-tooth. There’s a 3rd Eye chain watcher inboard and a 105 (5500) dérailleur to keep the chain from hopping off the top. Erik says it’s a cheap method to keep the chain on for a single ring and the weight penalty is minimal. The rear mech is 9-speed Dura Ace (7700) with a 10-speed 12-27 DA cassette. Erik decided on 10-speed so that they can share wheels — his Kona team bikes come with 10-speed.


Rhonda has a pretty high stack which includes a standard steerer front brake cable hanger. Erik chose the stem because it has a two bolt faceplate rather than a four bolt. Consequentially, it’s easier to remove for packing. He concluded that removing the bars at the faceplate makes packing and reassembly easier than removing the bar/stem unit from the steerer. The bar is a 38cm Ritchey BioMax. The BioMax sweeps back a little to reduce her reach slightly (Rhonda doesn’t spend any time in the drops). The left brake lever is a Dura Ace non-STI lever (single ring). The right lever is a Shimano R700 short reach STI. There are a pair or IRD top mount levers with beefy barrel adjusters for trimming the brakes. Rhonda doesn’t rely on the top mounts much anymore (they were originally a method to move her from a flat bar to a drop bar) but they remain because of the barrel adjusters and they come in handy when riding around town. The whole thing is kept in place with a CK headset.


The brakes are Paul Touring Cantis. They are lower profile (don’t stick out so much) so it makes them easier to pack, aren’t as prone to calf strikes, and generally stay out of the way. They are set up with a standard cable hanger.


The wheels are a pretty standard set of Chris King hubs laced to Ritchey Aero (low profile aero) clincher rims. The front is laced 2x and the rear is 2x/3x with 14/15 spokes. For domestic racing, Rhonda typically uses these wheels with Michelin Mud 2 tires. For international events, she uses a tubular version with box section rims and Dugast tires.


Shimano SPDRhonda keeps her feet spinning with Shimano 959 pedals. Erik abandoned Time ATACs for the Shimano pedals because he found that the Shimano bearings hold up much better against power washers than do Time or Crank Bros. pedals and they shed mud just as well. Rhonda took several years to move to clipless and she has no problems with the 959s.


The seat is an old discontinued Fizik model and Erik is on the lookout for replacements since Rhonda prefers it over all others.

Look for this bike to be leading a women’s field again in the Fall of 2008.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Josh is a junior at Colby College in Maine. He started racing cross last season and got bitten by the bug. He races road Cat 3 and cross Cat 4 (but hopes to upgrade this season). Look for him sporting the Belgian blue kit of HUP United in a bunch of Northeast races this fall.

Josh bought this 2003 Fuji ‘cross from a collegiate teammate who had just graduated and was racing for Velo-Bella/Kona. She gave him the frame, fork, headset, seat post, and a saddle (which he sold to a different collegiate teammate for $15) for a cool C-note. Josh is most likely the third or fourth owner so this baby has gotten around. Last year he pulled parts from his 105 equipped road bike, bought a 48/38 pair of FSA rings, Shimano brakes and built the bike. This season he’s gone to a single ring (Salsa), made the leap to Eggbeaters, and is going all out with a tubular wheel set. Josh bought a used mixed wheel set; Bontrager race x lite on the front and Ringle hub laced 28 spokes to a Ringle m19 rim for the rear. The most exciting upgrade to the bike is a pair of FMB SSC 32mm tires Josh bought though Mike Zanconato. Except for the swank tires, Josh tried to build the bike on a college student budget. I think it looks like a pretty solid ride.

  • Frame: Fuji ‘Cross (Al)
  • Fork: Fuji ‘Cross Fork (Carbon)
  • Shifters/Brake levers: Shimano 105 10-speed
  • Rear dérailleur: Shimano 105
  • Crank: Bontrager Race
  • Single ring setup: Salsa 42 tooth ring, Salsa 44 tooth chaingaurd, 3rd eye chainwater
  • BB: Truvativ External
  • Pedals: Crank Bros. Eggbeater C Pedals
  • Chain: Wipperman 10S0
  • Cassette: Sram 11-26, Shimano Ultegra 12-27 cassette, Shimano 105 12-25 (10-speed)
  • Bontrager Race Wheelset w/ Michelin Mud2 (Clincher) Training/Race wheel set
  • Bontrager Race X Lite, Ringle M19 w/ FMB SSC (Tubular) Race wheel set
  • Bars: Ritchey WCS 40cm Ergo (26mm clamp)
  • Stem: Ritchey WCS 100mm (26mm clamp)
  • Seat post: Ritchey PRO
  • Saddle: Neuvation S1
  • Headset: Ritchey
  • Bar tape: Cinelli Cork (Black)

I particularly like the purple tri-dangle on the rear break (I’ve got a pair on the Redline). Also take note of Josh’s front brake cable routing — over the bar. That alleviates some of the cable bend when using a steerer clamp cable hanger.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Four and a half years ago, I bought a used Redline Conquest Pro on Ebay. It was a 52cm frame. I eventually realized it was too small and I replaced the frame and fork with the 2002 version in a 54 (used, of course). The bike has seen lots of changes since I bought it and it retains perhaps a handful of the original components.

This Redline is my commuter/pit/rain bike. Much of the year it is fitted with fenders and an Adams Trail-a-bike hitch. It fits okay but I don’t like the geometry nearly as much as my Merckx. One of the upgrades I made is the Ritchey BioMax bars. I like the short reach and shallow drop but I’ve come to dislike the overly ergonomic bends. I also dislike the sharp bends from the tops to the drops. I much prefer the Deda 215 bars on the Merckx and my road bike. The original owner had it powder coated black and I’ve stuck a collection of stickers on it.

The specs:

  • Frame: Redline Conquest Pro (with disc tabs)
  • Fork: Alpha Q cyclocross fork
  • Headset: Chris King 1-1/8″
  • Stem: Off-brand
  • Bars: Ritchey BioMax
  • Shifters: Shimano Ultegra 9-speed STI
  • Front dérailleur: Shimano Ultegra
  • Rear dérailleur: Shimano Ultegra
  • Crank: Shimano Ultegra (38/46)
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra (12-27)
  • Pedals: Crank Bros. Eggbeaters
  • Seatpost: Parts bin generic
  • Seat: Terry Fly
  • Wheels: Shimano Dura Ace 32-hole hubs laced 3x with 14/15 spokes to Mavic Reflex rims (tubular) or Shimano Dura Ace 28-hole hubs laced 3x with 14/15 spokes to Mavic Reflex rims
  • Tires: Tufo Flexus (muddy courses) or Griffo Challenge (dry courses) — basically whichever wheelset isn’t on the race bike.
  • Bar tape: Cinelli
  • Brakes: Avid Tri-Align cantilevers with Kool Stop pads
  • Chain: SRAM 9-speed something

The cable routing for the rear mech and rear brake is along the top tube. Front dérailleur cable routing is along the down tube. I prefer the down tube cable routing for the front mech because I think the pulley is a mud magnet and I haven’t had a problem with the cable when shouldering the bike.

While the Merckx is my favorite of the two, this Redline has gotten me though some races and is a solid commuter bike.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

This is the first installment of a series that features the bikes of ordinary riders like myself. Sure you’ve seen the high zoot bikes the pros ride in pages of VeloNews or on But I’m going to show you the bikes the dudes racing right next to you might be riding.

For this first feature, I will introduce my very own race bike, a Merckx Alu-cross. I bought it used three years ago.

The specs:

  • Frame: Merckx Alu-cross
  • Fork: Wound Up carbon with carbon steerer (1″) with an FSA compression plug
  • Headset: Ritchey
  • Stem: Ritchey
  • Bars: Deda 215
  • Shifters: Shimano 9-speed STI — Ultegra right, 105 left
  • Front dérailleur: Shimano Dura Ace
  • Rear dérailleur: Shimano Ultegra
  • Crank: FSA Gossamer (38/44)
  • Pedals: Crank Bros. Eggbeaters
  • Seatpost: Parts bin generic
  • Seat: Terry Fly
  • Wheels: Shimano Dura Ace 32-hole hubs laced 3x with 14/15 spokes to Mavic Reflex rims (tubular) or Shimano Dura Ace 28-hole hubs laced 3x with 14/15 spokes to Mavic Reflex rims
  • Tires: Tufo Flexus (dry courses) or Griffo Challenge (mud)
  • Bar tape: Cinelli
  • Brakes: Avid Tri-Align cantilevers with Kool Stop pads
  • Chain: SRAM 9-speed something

The cable routing is along the top tube and there is a pulley below the front dérailleur clamp to redirect the cable. The rear derailleur hanger is not replaceable and I wish that it were replaceable. The frame rides great. I’ve got a Redline Conquest Pro that has the same top tube length, but the Merckx feels much more comfortable and responsive.

The bike came with Avid Shorties but I hated the poor mud clearance and the squealing. My preference would have been some Pauls but I didn’t have the budget. Instead, I trolled Ebay and found some Avid Tri-Aligns for cheap. Those brakes were big back in the mid to late 90’s and are very adjustable. The bike originally had a matching pair of brifters but I ripped the lever off the left one in a crash while bridging up to the leaders at the state championship race two seasons ago. A friend had a spare lefty that he let me have for karma.

As I mentioned in the last blog entry, I just swapped out my 48 ring for a 44. I can’t recall the brand but it’s a basic no pins, no ramps, no crank arm pin ring. I’ve got a similar ring in a 46 on the pit bike/commuter and haven’t had any problems with shifting. Since the front rings are so close in size, they don’t need the extra bells and whistles to help out getting the chain up on the big ring.

I think that hand built wheels are great for cyclocross. They are strong, serviceable, as light or lighter than similarly priced boutique wheels, and readily available in the used market. I troll Ebay and haven’t spent more than $200 for any of my last three sets of tubular wheels. I prefer DA hubs since I’m run a Shimano drive train and DA is a great value. They are light, have pretty good seals, and will last a long time if properly cared for.

I’ve been really happy with my Merckx.

Created with Paul’s flickrSLiDR.