Cyclocross bikes have long been a choice for the rider looking for a versatile machine—enjoyable on long road rides, capable on trails and light singletrack, able to handle a light tour and near perfect for the committed medium to long distance commuter. As cyclocross racing has grown the selection of bikes under the ‘cross umbrella is wider than ever, from thoroughbred race machines to traditional steel frames and performance commuters.
Trickle down tech is at the core of most any consumer industry, and the Fuji Feather CX 1.1 takes advantage of what has become the new normal at the high end of spec and brings it to a $1220 complete bike ready for the 9-5 and your next mixed surface adventure. The butted aluminum frame features a post mount disc brake, a tapered headtube with a 1 1/2” lower bearing, and a press-fit BB86 bottom bracket. The carbon blade fork has a durable aluminum steerer and dropouts, and a post mount disc brake as well. Single fender eyelets adorn both the frame and fork, with seatstay mounts for a rear rack and a pair of bottle mounts for when the miles start to rack up. Geometry wise the CX 1.1 borrows heavily from Fuji’s race bikes with a few tweaks to fit larger volume tires that ends up with an 11 mm longer wheelbase overall.
The component spec of the Feather CX 1.1 is nothing much to write home about—a 9-speed Shimano Sora drivetrain and industry standard Avid BB5r brakes with 160 mm rotors do the name brand duties, with no-name Vera wheels and house brand Oval Concepts parts otherwise finishing off the bike. The 50/34 chainrings and 11-32 cassette provide a well thought out, wide gear range and while 9-speed isn’t the newest in new it has proven a durable choice with some long time adherents. The wheels are an odd mix of bladed spokes and mountain bike width 19 mm rims — very likely to stay true over many a pothole, but sluggish feeling on a long ride. Disc brakes come with their own weight penalty, coupled with overbuilt wheels the Fuji Feather CX 1.1 weighs 23.9 lbs. Contrary to the spec sheet our 58 cm review bike came with 170 mm cranks, definitely short for the people riding this bike and something I would have asked a dealer to swap before purchase. The blacked out, gloss on matte finish on the frame and fork is hard to beat, it’s a shame the Oval components don’t match.
City streets, light trails, dirt roads—the Feather CX 1.1 has the person that can’t keep their bike clean in mind. Add a full set of fenders and it makes a solid choice for an everyday vehicle that should last the long haul, stock it is more than up for hitting that dirt road loop a dozen miles outside of town. The geometry isn’t dumbed down in the name of relaxed commuting, giving the bike the handling character so many love about cyclocross bikes.
The frameset is where you should be spending your money, and the Feather CX 1.1 gives you a platform to grow with over the years. The press fit BB86 bottom bracket makes the bike compatible with any number of high end cranksets out there, and while I had no problems throughout the test I’m not the only one still skeptical of the benefits of press fit bottom brackets. Post mount brakes are welcome, even if I had issues with the stock spacers deforming during setup. I do wish that the full-length rear brake housing had another cable stop along the top tube to curb what is an otherwise annoying rattle without a loop of electrical tape, even if it’s an easy DIY solution.
Ride it now, keep your eyes peeled for deals on the easy weight saving upgrades and pick up a racier groupset a few years down the line when the original Sora drivetrain is worn out. While neither the lightest nor the snappiest accelerating bike out there, for the non-racer the Fuji Feather CX 1.1 proves a solid disc brake ‘cross commuter and weekend explorer. The Feather CX 1.1 is available in five sizes from 48 – 60 cm, with a lower spec’d $1000 CX 1.3 also available.
Contents Include: Utilitarian Bicycles in China, City Report: Washington DC, Gallery: SF Courier Portraits, Redhook Crit Women’s Race, World Naked Bike Ride. Product Spotlight: Marin, SRAM, Detroit Cargo, Abbey Bike Tools, Product Reviews: Fuji, Knog, Hiplok, Vaya and more, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Worksman Cycles, Know Your Derailleur Limits, No Exit, and The Almanzo 100.
Photos by Kevin Dillard – www.demoncats.com
City: Washington, DC
Nickname: DC, the Nation’s Capitol, Dead City
Claim to Fame: You’ve got Obama’s House, a bunch of suits walking around Capitol Hill, Ben’s Chili Bowl, cherry blossoms, mumbo sauces, and of course chicken and waffles.
History in 100 Words or Less: The US capital was originally located in Philadelphia. But in 1790, a new location between Maryland and Virginia along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers was chosen by George Washington and DC was officially established as the nation’s capital. The city was designed by a Frenchman to appear reminiscent of Paris. Most of the city burnt to the ground during the War of 1812. In 1963, MLK, Jr., gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial as part of the March on Washington.
Random Fact: When John Denver was playing a two-week gig in 1970 at a venue long gone called The Cellar Door in DC, two fellow musicians told him about song they were working on while driving through winding roads of Maryland. When Denver heard what was to become “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” he just had to have it, even though it was meant for Johnny Cash. Now, Denver’s iconic folk song is a symbol of mountains and West Virginia, even though it started here in DC.
City’s Terrain: Mostly a flat city, DC does seem full of one-way streets, diagonal nightmares, and lots of traffic downtown. The small neighborhoods of DC stemming out from downtown are very bikeable, especially on side streets. The city has seen a good amount of bike infrastructure in the past few years, with a beautiful long cycletrack down Pennsylvania Ave., and two additional separated cycletracks downtown. The area east of the River, the Anacostia neighborhoods, have close to zero bike infrastructure and are extremely hilly.
Weather Forecast: We get beautiful springtime and fall weather, perfect for bike riding with Cherry blossoms and fall leaves in Rock Creek Park. But DC feels like a southern city in the summertime with high humidity and grueling heat. The winters are fairly mild and we typically only get a few good snowfalls a year (except for this winter which was record breaking cold).
Top Shop(s): DC has so many bike shops and they each offer mechanics and shop owners with different personalities so it’s hard to choose. My personal favorite shop is the Bike Rack because of their laid back and friendly vibe. I’ve always had good service at Revolution Cycles in Georgetown. And the guys and gals that work at CycleLife, Capitol Hill Bikes, CityBikes, and Bicycle Space are all stellar folks.
Best Watering Hole(s): GBD near Dupont is my favorite bar with it’s very good “stiff punch.” American Ice Company serves its beer in mason jars and has Swachos (BBQ pork nachos). Lucky Bar is where the messengers hang out after work, so there’s always someone to talk to and they’ve got cheap beer. The Pug has got hands down the best atmosphere at a bar. And Smoke and Barrel is the best for your craft beer nerds.
Authentic Local Food: Ben’s Chili Bowl with their chili cheese fries and just about any brunch spot with their chicken and waffles. Also mumbo sauce. Not sure what it is, but you can put it on pretty much anything from fries to wings to maybe even waffles.
Must See: The Old Post Office tower. It’s thought to be a tourist attraction so it took me a few years to go up and see the view, but it’s a towering view of the city you’ll never see anywhere else. And a sunset from Meridian Hill Park in the summertime is just beautiful.
Must Ride: Definitely ride down the Pennsylvania Ave. cycletrack at night heading east, with a view of the Capitol dome right in front of you. The Anacostia Riverwalk trail across the river is tree-lined. Rock Creek Park is where roadies ride on the weekends and you feel like you’re not even in a city anymore.
Best Time to Visit: Just not the summertime, or any major holiday. Too many tourists. Come for a DC bike event to see what the city is really like, such as one of our annual alleycats (Dead City for Halloween is my favorite), DC’s Eastside Thaw polo tourney in March or a monthly DC Bike Party ride.
Need For Speed: DC’s probably always had bike messengers, and a lot of the ones we still have today have been at it for years. There’s at least half a dozen alley cats per year, hosted by local couriers or bike kids, with the number growing. One of the favorites is the Presidential Inaugural alley cat—no other city can do that. DC also hosts one epic cyclocross race each year, DCCX, on a golf course at the Old Soldiers Home, which also houses President Lincoln’s Cottage.
Two Wheeled Celebrities: Older couriers like Scrooge and Bruce—everyone knows them. They’re legends. Lia who started and runs DC Bike Party somehow got 500 or so folks out on their bikes each month. And very recently, the Chocolate City Cycling crew.
Top Tourist Attraction(s): It’s DC, so of course anything that has to do with the president, Congress, and the Smithsonian. Walk along the National Mall, take your photo in front of the White House, and stand at the feet of Lincoln at his memorial.
Advocacy: The Washington Area Bicyclist Association, DC’s only bike advocacy non-profit, has been around since 1972. Over the years they have won major victories like getting the Capital Crescent Trail (an 11-mile rail trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring, MD), Beach Drive (a beautiful winding forested road in middle of the city) closed to motorists on weekends, and bike access on public transit. WABA launched an innovative workshop program, Women & Bicycles, to get more ladies on bikes. They host bike rides and social events throughout the year, monitor local trails through the Trail Rangers program, and do friendly outreach in the bike lanes with the Bike Ambassador program.
Locals Only: For those with cross bikes, Kingman Island in the Potomac is a secret and awesome spot to get some gravel and cross action in. And if you want to practice sprinting or work on your pace line skills, meet up with a group at Haines Point to do almost car-free laps. If you’re really legit, apparently there’s a superfast pace line at noon everyday called the Power Hour.
Check out www.waba.org
Carl Schlemowitz founded Vicious Cycles in 1994, and has been building custom steel frames in picturesque upstate New York ever since. Like so many many other framebuilders in the northeast Carl’s first inspiration to build came from Fat City Cycles, in his case it was spending the mid-eighties atop an early Fat Chance mountain bike. Vicious Cycles is primarily a mountain bike brand, and mountain bikes are how I first met Carl back in the early 2000s, with path’s crossing through mutual friends and tradeshows since. Having regrettably missed the pigroast invites of years past it was a treat to finally stop into the New Paltz, NY home of Vicious Cycles.
Vicious Cycles was an early 29″ and single speed adopter, making their frames, unicrown forks and signature paintjobs a mainstay of the east coast mountain bike scene. After some twenty years in the business Carl is now opening up the shop to students, offering week-long framebuilding or frame painting classes through his Metal Guru program. Carl works with other guest builders to offer classes and workshops outside of his particular expertise, widening the offerings to those looking for particular facets of continuing education. I’ve heard positive reviews, and seen a great final result, from the Metal Guru program.
Workspaces are as individual as their owners, it’s great to catch a few moments behind the scenes. Learn more about Metal Guru lessons in bicycle manufacturing at metalguru.viciouscycles.com.
Drew Guldalian and his Engin Cycles brand have risen to the top of the custom bicycle market over the past decade. Housed in a large garage space behind his bike shop, Wissahickon Cyclery, the Engin Cycles workspace is as I imagined it from my interactions with Drew over the years. Meticulously organized and clean as it gets, the workspace matches the finish and attention to detail of the bikes leaving with the Engin headbadge. There is a lot of experience at work here with a full shop and framebuilding operation in one location, a rare combination that no doubt contributes to complete bikes being that much better. While past bikes from Engin may have sported steel tubes and braze work, from here on out Drew is putting his focus on making the best titanium bikes out there. Engin Cycles is not for the bargain custom buyer, this is a no-expense spared operation to make the best bicycles possible. It is clear that Drew takes this goal seriously every step of the way, producing the kind of bikes most of us can only dream of someday owning. Always great to see a bike being born and get another perspective on frame construction from a veteran of the craft.
Be sure to click through for a gallery of images of Engin bicycles we’ve shot at North American Handmade Bicycle Shows gone by.
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