Last month, for a variety of reasons, I decided to make a serious effort to start bicycle commuting to my day job. I’ve always been a cyclist, and I have the good fortune of living at the end of a relatively flat nine mile bike path that connects my home to my place of employment. The only problem was, I didn’t have a good bike for the job. So, much to my wife’s chagrin, I started searching for another bike to add to my growing collection. Keep in mind that when I started looking, I already had three bikes in my house - my 2011 Cannonade SuperSix (LOVE, LOVE this bike), a Unicycle (a story for another day), and a Dawes SST three-speed I purchased a couple of years ago. My criteria for this new commuter rig were simple:
- Plenty of gears (18+)
- Room for wide tires (700x28 at a minimum)
- Eyelets for racks
- Neutral steering (the opposite of the SuperSix, which is the epitome of twitchy)
After extensive research (well, not really - I sort of already knew the answer), I decided a cyclocross bike would be the best fit for my needs. Keep in mind, I have no intention of racing cyclocross. I raced offered in college and HATED it. But cross bikes are built to take a fair amount of abuse and the cockpit and controls are similar that of my SuperSix, plus they nail all my other requirements.
I began my search with the intention of finding something used - maybe a nice Surly Cross Check, or even a Kona Jake, but I kept on running into problems with budget. Since this was my fourth bike and my second attempt at becoming a bike commuter (another long story), I was reluctant to pour too much money into the effort up front. With budget in mind, I decided to take a look at bikesdirect.com to see if they had anything that would work for me. And lo and behold, they did. After throwing out discs brakes as being overkill for Tucson, I settled on the Motobecane Fantom CX. Now, anyone who is remotely familiar with bikesdirect.com knows the Motobecane they sell are not the Motobecane of old. These are cheap, Chinese bikes with a modest mix of components and relatively heavy frames. But the price was right - only $469.
Here’s what I ended up with:
I had to make a few small modifications to the bike to adapt it for my riding style, including:
- A pair of 700x28c Continental Gatorskins, an absolute necessity in Tucson where everything is covered in thorns.
- Replacing the stock saddle with my old Fizik Pave. I’m kind of picky with saddles, and this Pave has been a long-time favorite, having lived on three bikes over the years.
- Replacing the stock pedals with a pair of Shimano M647 clipless pedals.
- Adding a Blackburn EX-1 rack and a Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Pannier (not pictured).
- Replacing the cantilever brake triangle doodads with Tektro Alloy Brake Cable Triangles & replaced the stock brake pads with a pair of Clarks.
Here’s a shot of the Tektro brake triangle, which replaced the crappy unadjustable stock piece:
And here’s a front view - I LOVE the stock inline brakes for dealing with traffic! BTW - the light is a NiteRider Lumia 700. It has a cool blinky mode to make me more visible to oncoming traffic.
So far, I love the Fantom CX. The ride quality is pretty much what I expected - neutral handling, but a little stiff because of the aluminum frame. This may be remedied with a carbon fork in the future. After my small upgrades on the braking system, the bike stops a million times better than what came out of the box. Would I buy it again? Hell yeah! For $469 for a brand new bike + another $200 in new rubber, a rack, and saddlebags, I can’t imagine finding a better deal.