Speedvagen opened up for business 11 years ago with the VX07 singlespeed cross bike. So to celebrate and to showcase all the little refinements they’ve accumulated from building some of the most drool-worthy steeds over the past decade, the Portland, Oregon-based builder is releasing 11 custom VX07 replicas.
Draped in the same matte army green color, but with updated parts in what some might say is the who’s who of America’s premier component makers such as Chris King, White Industries, Paul Components, and ENVE.
Cross season is here and while many undoubtedly have all their rig(s) ready to go, I don’t. I have an unhealthy tendency to procrastinate till the very last minute, so if you’re like me, or if you’re in the market for a good durable cross bike, may I introduce you to a bike that I lovingly test rode for months. The impeding cross season reminded me how much I love and miss this Sage PDXCX.
The story started late winter of 2017 when the bike showed up at my house a few days before Christmas. Cross season was pretty much over by then, but I figured I can do a combination of ‘cross and gravel riding since gravel is the rage these days. Plus, I was curious as to how titanium, the darling material of choice before it was totally blindsided by the emergence of carbon, would change the ride, if any.
So Sage treated the build as one would expect from a small customer builder: customization. Based out of Beaverton, Oregon, owner and designer Dave Rosen was very hands on in terms of getting the right build.
I opted for a 52cm frame and Dave built my test bike with a 2x Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical grouppo, TRP HY/RD cable-actuated hydraualic disc brakes, an ENVE Cross disc fork, Hed Ardennes Plus LT disc hoops with versatile Donnelly PDX 700x33C tires, a 3T cockpit with 2.5mm Lizard Skins DSP bartape, plus a Selle Italia SLR saddle. The PDXCX is available as frame only for $2,900. Our 18.9lb test bike was $6,625.
Sage outfitted the build with Shimano Ultegra R8000 crankset with 46/36 chainrings for the purpose of cross and gravel riding.
142x12 thru-axle in the rear to keep the rear end together
Grippy Lizard Skins DSP 2.5mm Bartape was the right choice between the less padded 1.8mm and the really cushy 3.0mm version.
The Selle Italia SLR Saddle was surprisingly comfortable
Old-school reversing pulley for the front derailleur.
Clean welds and stealth fender mounts
ENVE Cross fork with plenty of mud clearance.
You can say that’s an awful lot of money to be spend on a bike when you can get something lighter for less. But I digress. I love the PDXCX. Designed by Rosen and manufactured by titanium specialist Lynksey in Tennessee, the 3V/2.5Al titanium alloy frame features a double-butted ovalized toptube, a bi-ovalized downtube (also double butted), an oversized 44mm headtube, with a nod to both the old school and the new school thoughts of what a cyclocross geometry should be: A modern short chainstay coupled with a longer front end mated to a higher bottom bracket similar to traditional euro cross bikes.
t’s further dotted with little details such as a reversing pulley for the front derailleur, a patented interchangeable cable routing system to keep all the cables tidy whether you are running either mechanical or electrical groups, a 1X or a 2X. The PDXCX also comes with a traditional bottom bracket, a 142×12 rear dropout, and mounts for fenders. It’s clear Rosen spent a lot of time tinkering it through and through.
The PDXCX is a very easy bike to work on – something a privateer would appreciate, like its brushed finish with removable decals where replacement decals in ten different colorways are readily available. Rosen would also be happy to refinish your frame to make it looking brand-new for a mere $50. Again, they’re the small details that make this bike enticing for those who plan to keep their bikes for a while.
Rosen envisioned a nimble race machine to slice through technical courses and often muddy tracks of the Pacific Northwest, and the bike delivered. The PDXCX is aggressive and stiff like a well-tuned race car where its sole mission is to get you to places – fast. I found the PDXCX to be a comfortable race bike… but it’s still a race bike, and prospective buyers should understand that any bike won’t be automatically magical just because it’s made out of titanium. You can’t compare a suspension of a Toyota Camry to the suspension on a Porsche 911. The PDXCX offers a firm ride, and I like that. There are cushier, more laidback cross bikes out there, but I like the PDXCX for its playfulness and razor-sharp handling in tight courses. I’d give Sage’s gravel frame, the Barlow, a look if I was to do more gravel riding than ‘cross whereas the PDXCX is great for CX racers who like to do some occasional mixed terrain rides.
I encountered a few issues with our test bike. First, the 3T Zero25 seatpost is beautiful and offers both zero and 25-degrees of offset in a flip of the clamps, but our seatpost slipped twice during our testing despite being properly torqued. It finally stayed in its place after we torqued it for the third time. Second, while the Ultegra R8000 grouppo worked flawlessly with the dual chainring being a welcoming sight on longer mixed terrain rides, I never warmed up to the TRP HY/RD cable-actuated hydraulic disc brakes. Sure, they modulate well and will stop, but they lack the power of the hydraulic offerings from Shimano or SRAM.
Tire clearance is also a point worth noting. Sage noted the PDXCX will clear 42c tires, but our 33mm Donnelly PDX tires measured out to be around 36.7mm on our caliper on the 25mm-wide HED rim, with about 4mm of clearance left on either side of the chainstay… A 42mm tire is going to be a very tight squeeze. Other than these little things, the PDXCX was as good of a race bike that I could ask for.
So yes, if I am planning to keep a highly capable and spirited cross bike for a long while, I’d give the Sage PDXCX a serious look.
When I started attending Interbike in 2015, CrossVegas was probably the second reason why I wanted to make the trip to Vegas. Who doesn’t love night races? I had a blast both times I photographed the race but on my way back to my hotel last year, I was gifted a speeding ticket right down the street from the venue. My very first speeding ticket. Ever. So much for the memories.
One year later, while the question of whether to even attend Interbike lingered up until the very last moment, RenoCross, the new CrossVegas, was never a doubt. If I was to go to InterBike, I will definitely check out RenoCross. Who cares if a bunch of pros are skipping this in favor of the World Cup in Waterloo. A smaller party is still a party.
What’s different this year though was how I photographed the race. I’ve been doing my “strobe in the face” approach during the Vegas editions, and while I originally planned to stick with that, either the altitude was just that terrible for us sea level peeps, or maybe InterBike was just so intense that I decided to just run with the ambient lights. Strobes or not, it’s always fun to be out shooting some good racing at night, and RenoCross sure didn’t disappoint.
The DFL ‘Cross race is one of those secret/not-so-secret races at a undisclosed location in San Francisco which one would really have to be in-the-know in order to find out when/what/where the ride the race takes place. And though I’ve heard whispers over the years about how wicked this race is, I always end up missing it even though the race takes place just down the street from my house. I was finally able to check it out last year while shooting for a German cycling magazine.
Last year it was stupid cold, but also incredibly fun. So, I made a point to not miss the DFL ‘Cross this year.
A lot has transpired for me this past year: the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ridden the rollercoaster which was 2017. But, the purpose of this piece is not about recounting or retelling them in celebration, jest or anger. Well, not really anyway because seriously one would better spend their precious internet time on anything other than reading about some dude’s brag/rant (me) and this is an outdoor enthusiast media site for crying out loud.
I don’t want to write about the best gear I tried in 2017 because everyone else has been doing that since at least November. And so I am going to write about DFL Cross. The last bike race I photographed in 2017.
Walking to park their bikes for the Le Mans-styled start
It's either exciting, cold, or both.
All outfits welcome.
Run run run
Catching a bit air
Definitely not UCI-legal barriers but wayyyy more fun
Dirt riding in the City be like
Curtis getting candy caned
Lots of trees to go around
Fun for all.
A Crust Bikes.
A Rock Lobster.
Trying on this Falconer.
A bike race that I shouldn’t even be at in the first place.
You see, I ditched my regular group ride that I’ve been MIAing from for weeks and Saturday was my daughter’s one-year birthday. I should be doing base miles, running errands and making birthday decorations.
But nope. I needed to get some fresh air, both literally and figuratively. But before I could leave the house I had to make my hangry two-year-old son waffles from scratch.
I barely made it. Thank goodness the event ran on what I lovingly call Asian-time.
I soon found a few riding buddies milling around and found out that one of them had his bikes stolen out of his own home hours prior. The bastards took almost everything, but left his S-Works 29er race bike. Someone joked it probably had to do with his vintage Onza bar-ends. As angry and sad as one could be over the loss of their beloved bicycles, he was out there riding with his last remaining bicycle, anyway. That deserves thousands of kudos.
The race eventually had to start. The DFL course uses a Le Mans style start so the game before the game is bike placement. The vets have their stashing strategy all figured out while newbies just leave it here and there, walk to the start, listen to a few rules, and off they go.
And we were treated with the best the park had to offer: log barriers, tight corners, gravel, dirt, traffic jams, and a whole lot of high-fives. I was just getting into the shooting groove when I overheard the call for two laps to go and it dawned on me that this was by far one of the best grassroots races I’ve seen all year, or ever for that matter.
This is where funky costumes are encouraged, no one gets a medal, there is an endless stream of trash-talking, racers pay to enjoy Patxi’s and beer post-race, and shredding in the park with a bunch of like-minded friends in the name of fun is a much-needed disconnect from everything else.
It was a beautiful and timely reminder that there is plenty of love, family, and riding with friends to look forward to in 2018. And for that I am thankful.
More of that slick finish on the all-carbon disc fork.
Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Toptube logo. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
The SuperX utilizes Shimano's flatmount for both front and rear disc brakes. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Schwalbe's excellent X-One knobbies were fast and predictable. I just wish they were tubeless ready. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
The Shimano 105/RS505 levers worked brilliantly but the slight bulge inside the hood was a bit awkward. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Grippy Cannondale gel bar tape. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Fabric's excellent Scoop Shallow Elite was comfortable and easy to clean. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Just can't get enough of that paint job. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
Instead of the heavy stock wheels, we spent half of our test period using a pair Stan's ZTR Avion Team and the difference was night and day. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly
You’re probably asking why I’m reviewing a ‘cross bike now that cross season is all but over.
But hear me out for a few minutes here.
After InterBike (I know, so long ago), I was told that a SuperX was on its way directly from the show floor and I was stoked! I’ve been hearing a lot of great positive things about the SuperX and simply couldn’t wait to give it a run. But before I got the package, I got called out to cover the Loma Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. So the wife had fun lugging the giant box into the garage. Thank goodness the bike was light.
When I got back from the fire, the box was sitting there taking up all the space in the garage, but wait, there’s a crack in the box. Let’s see which SuperX we have here:
It was the SuperX 105 with arguably the best paint job in the entire line up. I mean, just look at the fork.
But I am not here to review paint jobs and how much it weighs. I want to ride it and maybe abuse it a little to see how much it can or can’t do.
Fast forward to February 2017, the bike is now on its way back to Cannondale and I am sad to say that I am smitten with the SuperX.
Compared to a lot of cross offerings on the market, the SuperX has a rather different geometry than most in such that the headtube notably has more slack (71 degrees) with the fork using a bit more offset. This results in the bike handling nicely on low speed technical stuff yet staying rock steady as speeds head north. I took the SuperX to the Super Moon ride (in the dark) and the more time I spent riding it, the more I realized how much confidence-inspiring the SuperX is even when I was essentially riding blindly with merely the moonlight. Its carbon fiber frame will take all your lines and soak up all your mistakes comfortably.
On the race course, the SuperX takes loose off-camber turns like a champ and the 42.2 cm short chain stay feels agile with plenty of traction at the wheel. The thru-axles (10×100 front, 12×142 rear) also make a difference on long twisty descents when I use it as a gravel bike. Speaking of riding gravel, while the SuperX is a pure-breed cyclocross race bike at heart, it will do gravel very nicely.
Now, I know Cannondale offers a bona fide gravel bike, the Slate, but I don’t care. The SuperX is arguably lighter (our test bike was weighed at a respectable 19.5lbs) and better as a gravel bike than using the Slate as a cross bike, plus I can still use my old wheels as long as 1: they’re disc and thru-axle compatible, and 2: able to re-dish the rear wheel 6mm toward the non-drive side to play nicely with the SuperX’s asymmetrical chain stay (they call it Asymmetric Integration (Ai)).
The stock Maddux 2.0 wheels, though, were a bit of a disappointment. They are tubeless ready alright, but they felt sluggish as if the bike got bogged down by a pair of boat anchors. For comparison sake, I swapped the stock hoops with a pair of Stans’ ZTR Avion Pro (of course I re-dished the rear), a $2,300 upgrade that costs as much as the SuperX 105 itself but the difference was night and day as if the red bull got its wings.
So my suspicion was confirmed: With a good set of race wheels, the SuperX will fly.
And Cannondale, the Schwalbe X-One tires had just about everything I had hoped for in an all-around cross rubber: Plenty of traction and rolls fast, but why not throw in the tubeless version instead? And while I am going to nitpick here, I am just going to say that I am not a fan of the shape of the 105/RS505 hydraulic STI shift brake lever. Functionally, it worked beautifully but the bulbous bulge located inside the lever just never felt right.
So if you’re still wondering why I am writing about a cross bike in February, it’s because…
She stole my heart and I’m ready for cross season to be all season long.
Pro men at the starting grid. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Racers wait for the call-up for the Wheelers and Dealers race. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Reigning U.S. cyclocross national champion Katie Compton chatting it up with a friend Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Pink gorilla sighting. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
The sandpit where only the pro men managed to ride through. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Nice shirt, dude. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Kaitlin Antonneau of Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com waves to a friend during her warmup. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
The lead group of the elite women navigating the course Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Almost done. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Crystal Anthony reacts after racing CrossVegas Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
FYI. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Post-race recovery. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Getting Ready. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
The crowd at CrossVegas. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
(L-R) Jeremy Powers, Wout Van Aert, and Michael Vanthourenhout at the line. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Stephen Hyde getting it done in the sandpit. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Wout Van Aert cruising to a solo win. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
After. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Elite women's podium. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Elite men's podium. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
Racing cross at a place named Desert Breeze Soccer Complex is such an irony because it was hardly a breeze. Okay, the weather at CrossVegas this year was noticeably more tolerable but it’s a World Cup damnit. There’s nothing easy about that.
For the spectators, however, CrossVegas was a blast. Quality racing, great atmosphere, and plenty of hospitality. It’s also a much-needed break from listening to and giving product pitches at InterBike. Two highlights:
Sophie De Boer out sprinted Katie Compton and Katerina Nash on the finishing straight for the win while Nash worked her way to claim second after a crash in the sandpit. Impressive.
The sandpit got everyone talking about whether anyone would be able to ride through it. The announcers joked it was “the finest sand imported from Tahiti”. The elite men did it like hot knife through butter. Then there was the Wout van Aert’s solo win that was so thrilling that he made it look easy even though it was obvious the warm, dry heat affected just about everyone, including the supposedly ice-cold beers. Still, the turnout and the atmosphere was pretty cool. Can’t wait to go back next year.
The start chute falls completely silent. None of us are friends anymore. The referee’s whistle cues my entry into the most painful 45 minutes I have felt since last season. One hundred of us are grinding away, already turned up “to eleven.” Not even 15 seconds pass and I hear front wheel spokes grinding on a rear derailleur two bikes to my right. Then swearing. Two guys I wont have to worry about again. I adopt the Reagan-era defense mantra of “Trust, but verify.” One hundred of us rolled the start line and I only know two other racers. Some guys have skills, some just big motors. I am hoping that clean technique plays well. I need all the help I can get.
This is CrossVegas, the USA Cycling version. One hundred Category 1,2, and 3 racers have paid to race on a course that will later host a World Cup battle of an international peloton of professional cyclocross racers. For me, however, this is simply about seeing how I measure up to my peers. As a middling Cat3 CX racer, I do not expect to blow anybody’s doors off.
The “real cyclocross” debate will never end. Some people think there has to be mud, or tree roots, or deep beach sand, or epic rain. My experience has taught me there is “fast” ‘cross and there is “technical” ‘cross. But it is never “easy.” After my first warmup lap on this year’s CrossVegas course, all I could think of was Marty McFly. “This is heavy, Doc.”
Thick, ripe, wheel-grabbingly lush Bermuda grass covered the entire 3.4km course, save the two plywood flyovers and five barrier/stairs sections. In other words, no rest for the eyes-blown-out-of-their-skulls weary. The diabolical course designer sent us up and down the ramps of this desert retention basin park walls more times than I can remember. But with each racer who pulled off the course ahead of me, crying “Uncle!!,” I mustered the motivation to pedal on. “I beat that guy.”
With two excruciating laps down and two to go, the grenades start blowing. Fit, skinny, carbon-bike-riding young-uns start moving backwards. I relish every second. A guy wearing a hydration-bladder base-layer is complaining about the heat. At 85 degrees Fahrenheit, this is the coldest ride I have made in months. But I am dying a slow death, as well. Very shortly into Lap One, my tongue took the form of a wood rasp rubbing on the 100-grit sandpaper of my soft pallate, and a dry hack now interrupts my gasping. This is so fun. I paid money to do this.
With the ringing of the last Lap, the grudge match ensues between the five of us fighting for 50th place. Yes, 50th. I have no idea who these guys are, but the gradual sifting of racers through the grid has matched us as equals today.
I hear the announcer call the Finish Sprint as we are still just half-way through the course. Almost there. Kill me now. One guy jumps, I try to follow, and three fall off. Bury it. Stay clean through the stairs and maintain. Just maintain. I can hear the huffing behind me through the last few chicanes, but I keep my wheels gripping and grind on. I cross the line head slung down, an anonymous also-ran.
The announcers are talking about the ex-ProTour roadie who placed second and the upcoming Wheelers and Dealers race. I am nobody. Just a guy from Arizona who likes to race cyclocross. All I wanted to do was finish “under par.” I started 69th of 100 and finished 51st.
What does it all mean? Regular Joes can’t play a pickup game at the Staples Center ahead of a Laker game. Nobody plays two-hand-touch on the field in Foxborough before the Patriots. But I can race cyclocross before the best racers in the world rip up the course and remind me that I am just a regular guy with a day job. Why? Because it is there.
Always appreciate late starts. Better yet, super late afternoon starts.
Reigning US Cyclocross Champ Katie Compton (R) chatting it up before the Wheelers and Dealers race.
What's not to love when there's a shark racing on a bicycle and a Jack Daniel's handoff?
RV awning makes a good place to stash the stationary roller.
The BKCP-Crendon boys relax by the CrossVegas cooler
Plenty of wheels for the Telnet-Fidnea cycling team
Custom paint job and custom shoes for the legendary Sven Nys. Oh and check out that slick chain guard
Warming up on the new Feedback Sports Omnium portable trainer
Erica Zevata of Maxxis-Shimano waits as her mechanic does a last minute adjustment
Sometimes the best viewing spot is away from the main crowd.
A pro man checking out the pro women's race
High-speed high-fives during course inspection
Ellen Van Loy warms up between RVs
Noosa Professional Cyclocross team mechanic Daimeon Shanks power washes one of Meredith Miller's race bikes minutes before start.
A well-organized tool case is crucial for a smooth running pit.
Photographers getting ready to shoot the women's start
Meredith Miller (Noosa) and Georgia Gould (Luna) push through the sand pit
A spectator-friendly run-up
Waiting for the racers to come.
Katerina Nash solo to the first CrossVegas World Cup win
Boulder Cycle Sport / YogaGlo's Crystal Anthony rests on the grass after finishing 7th
An exhausted Arley Kemmerer at the finish
The winners of the women's CrossVegas World Cup
And here comes the pro men.
The always chaotic start
The pit at CrossVegas saw much less action compared to a typical Cyclocross World Cup which is usually held in colder and wetter conditions (and in Europe), but teams took zero chances and had multiple backup bikes and wheels
The king welcomes the racers and dusts through the sand pit with open arms.
... Another reason to have a backup at the pit.
Corne Van Kessel gives chase through the barriers
Eventual winner Wout Van Aert leads Sven Nyst through the Raleigh Ramp...
While reigning US Cyclcross Champ Jeremy Powers opts to ride on the grass instead
The top of the Sram race truck makes a nice race vantage point.
Anti-doping controls. Don't ever miss this.
The winners of the men's CrossVegas world cup
Over this past year or so I kept asking myself what draws me to want to photograph cycling. I love riding my bike and thanks to my understanding wife (love ya babe) I was able to do some very cool projects. Gravel Worlds, Tour of California, and now CrossVegas.
The beauty of photographing cycling is the access and the creative freedom it allows. With the amount of PR and handlers involved, access to pro athletes is such a rarity these days. But at CrossVegas, you can just walk up to pro guys like legendary Sven Nys and Katie Compton and say hello, check out their fancy super bikes, talk more trash, and make fun happy snappies. Trying to do that at a NFL/MLB/NBA game will result in your credential getting pulled and never to be seen again.
We at Element.ly were fortunate to go behind the scenes with Team Hincapie at this past Tour of California and we’re stoked to photograph CrossVegas given that it’s the first time that a WorldCup Cyclocross race is taking place in America.
Shooting CrossVegas after spending a day on the show floor at the annual InterBike convention is really akin to working a second job after a long day at the office. But the crowds! The crowds were amazing and the racing was straight up badass. Wout Van Aert and Katerina Nash drilled it.
Anyways, time to head back to the InterBike show floor. Enjoy the gallery and stay tuned for our InterBike coverage!
In just a few short days, most of the American bicycle industry will be mulling about a Las Vegas casino convention center at Interbike, drooling over products already seen at Eurobike or on the interwebs. A more entertaining lot, however, will convene at a municipal soccer complex just a few miles west of the Strip. “Soccer?” you ask. No. Not even “futbol.”
CrossVegas has been seen by many as the start of the American cyclocross calendar. Yes, some national promoters have held cyclocross races earlier, but CrossVegas is considered the first real event. What used to be a race for Interbike attendees and U.S. elite racers has exploded into an international phenomenon that attracts racers from all over the world, including the cyclocross motherland of Belgium, and even Cuba.
This year’s event is a particularly big deal because it’s the opener for the UCI Cyclocross World Cup. That’s newsworthy because there has never been a UCI Cyclocross World Cup race outside of Continental Europe.
Every National Federation that cares about cyclocross will be sending their best athletes to race. The United States received a bonus “double” and is allowed to send 32 athletes, men and women. Many spectators will look to the Belgian and Dutch teams to dominate, but the current Women’s World Champion is French. The United States has several racers who have “home turf” advantage.
So, don’t sleep on this event if you’re anywhere in town. The best cyclists in the world are going to light up the grass like Jerry Garcia could have only wished. Plus, it’s at night, under the lights, and there is beer. And Elvis.