Part 3 in the “CX First Timer Custom Build Experiment”

In case you’re just tuning in, we’ve begun the adventure of a first time bike build – using a Montague folding frame as the start of a cyclocross (CX) build.

How to know which one is right?

Last time we talked about alloys, now we’re onto more specific things.  Let’s say you could pick any Montague, which one is the right one?  Road folders and mountain folders; how to know which one is the right one?  When you’re brand new it’s hard to know which way to turn, with so many resources online and so many cyclists with different opinions in person too.  USA Cycling offers a great resource for us CX beginners, including what sort of bike to consider.


The camp of cyclocross advice articles (we’ll get to officialdom later) recommend perhaps a mountainbike (MTB) hardtail (read as: no rear suspension), a road bike conversion, or a CX frame with cyclocross specific geometry.

The thing is, if you read the UCI guidelines (the UCI is the international organization that governs classy cyclocross), you’ll find that mountain bikes are not allowed in many kinds of competition.

Other things to ponder include a couple of very important and very obvious considerations.  Cyclocross involves obstacles and mud! mud! mud!

Obstacles Come in Many Flavors

On a CX course (and in life too, I suppose) there are many obstacles.  We find certain details being brought up for consideration.  The first of these being clearance.  All the mud (and snow sometimes) means a lot of debris and muck can build up on the rims.  These impact the effectiveness of the brakes; the brake pad must be able to come into contact with the rim smoothly and with sufficient force to slow or stop the bike.  If that same rim is covered in grime the first passes of the pad will be muck clearing, and only after that will successful rim contact be achieved.  This effectively translates into delayed stops and sluggish response time.  If you’re on the roads this can make the difference with traffic interactions, if you’re in a race those seconds are precious.

Brake choice is essential.  In the past the UCI only allowed variations on traditional cantilever brakes, but more recently they have begun to allow disk brakes.

Disk Brake

Front Wheel Disk Brake

So what’s all the fuss about a disk brake?  Rather than having to travel around the rim and encounter a caking of mud and debris, the disk is further above the ground, providing a more uniform surface for stopping power.  Once only thought of in the realm of mountain biking, these brakes are becoming the go-to stopping choice.  Be it a snowy or rainy commute, or a muddy CX course there are definite advantages to this powerful braking option.

Front fork disk mount

Front Fork Disk Mount

These brakes require a specific type of front fork.  A front fork with a disk mount is necessary to affix disk brakes to the front wheel (or rear).  Take a look above to get an idea for what a front fork that can support a disk mount looks like.  It’s looking like a useful option for this build.

How tall are you?

Some helpful individuals recommend taking bottom bracket clearance into consideration.

bracket clearance

Bottom Bracket clearance

That is, how much space between the bottom of your frame and the ground.  There are also crank length considerations, for that same reason – rising above the mud and obstacles.  We’ll be getting into the spec desires this week.

There are a lot of considerations when making a build for a specific purpose, but that’s the beauty of it – a bike build just for you.  Now onward to choosing the frame that will serve as the canvas upon which to start the build…

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