Braaap! on drop bars – Specialized Tricross Expert

A cyclocross bike seems like a versatile and braaapable alternative to a road bike. Jason “The Man” Emmanuel from Specialized loaned me his brand new 2008 Tricross Expert, and I’ve been wringing it out all week.

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Parts is parts

Frame:Curvy-sexy Columbus E5 SLX aluminum. FACT carbon seat stays with Zertz vibration-damping inserts. The top tube has only a slight slope, so there’s plenty of room to put the bike on your shoulder. The underside of the top tube is shaped for shoulder comfort. If you’re running late for a phone meeting, you can sling this bad boy over your shoulder and hike straight up the side of a mountain to your house. Don’t ask why I know this …

Fork: FACT carbon monocoque legs, crown and steerer with Speed Zertz for extra vibration absorption.

Rack and fender fittings: Yes. On the fork and frame. Hello Versatility!

Wheels:Specialized’s house brand Roval Classique Pave SL. Deep-section, double-wall rims with high-flange hubs. Light and stiff.

Tires: I love tires the way The Wife loves shoes. Specialized Houffalize CX Pro, 700x32c, dual-compound tread, aramid bead, 120TPI. They roll way faster than my mountain bikes and not as fast as a straight road tire. The off-road traction is impressing me, especially on hardpacked clay, and they somehow hook up on steep, loose, rocky climbs. Although I’ve two-wheel drifted through deep gravel (by accident), I’ve yet to find the limit of these meats.

Bars: Specialized Expert, 6061 alloy, short-reach drop, ergonomic top shaping, 31.8mm. They have a nice shape, especially the flat spot on the top, but at 44cm they’re awfully narrow for this guy. I’d kill for some 46 cms, and I’d lop off part of my liver for a set of 28″ drop bars.

Saddle: Body Geometry Phenom SL, super light foam, carbon reinforced base, microfiber cover. I like this seat. It’s tiny and hard, but it has a good shape that supports my sit bones. And the low profile means my Massive Thighs(tm) don’t rub the sides of the seat.

Drivetrain: The new SRAM Rival 10-speed road group. You execute both up- and down-shifts with a single lever tucked behind the brake lever. One click to shift up, two clicks to shift down. I’ve been rocking Shimano STI forever, so this is different, but it works very well. The shifts are crisp, and the rings pull the chain, and the chain pulls the cassette, and the cassette turns the rear wheel. That’s what I look for in a drivetrain.

Weight: Jason says the bike weighs 18 pounds. When you consider that a good road bike is about the same weight, and you can rip this thing on trails, that is rad!

Appearance: Swoopy. Racy. Sexy.

MSRP: $2,700

Five rides in five days

So far … A fair amount of road, both flat and steep. Some steep, rocky, loose trail. Some smooth hard-packed love trail.

Weird at first! While I started 20 years ago as a full-on shaved road/tri weenie, I’ve ridden a road bike just a handful of times in the past few years, and my last 700c ride was over a year ago. Yeah, I am a mountain biker; my road bike has been a P.3 with a long seatpost. A list of strangeness: steep seat angle, shorter cranks, longer stem, drop bars, anemic brakes (compared to hydro discs), puny high-pressure tires.

Wow, it’s fast. The Tricross is light, stiff and responsive: almost road-bike fast, even with the stock knobby tires. With road slicks it would be just as fast as my old Allez Pro. And just as light.

40psi my a–! Jason says to run 40psi in the 32c tires. Ha! I can’t run 2.25 MTB tires that low without flatting. I’m rolling 80psi — and it’s killing me in the rocks. Unless …

‘Tis better to skim. This bike is stiff! If you’re gonna ride it on the brakes, slow, tense and hitting the flat face of every rock, you are asking for a beating. When I look to victory and let go of the brakes, this thing takes off like a champ. The 700c tires roll easily over little rocks, and once the hydrofoil kicks in, I’m skim-skim-skimming like a champ. It feels awesome.

Pump Track Nation. I’ve been pumping every little berm and water bar and — wow — this bike responds. BRAAAP! Like I said, the whole package is very stiff and responsive.

Railing hard pack. Boulder has lots of smooth, flattish trails that I’ve never bothered to ride. I mean, why put the Enduro in the van or ride all the way out there for such a mellow scene? The Tricross makes the road ride pleasant and those mellow trails fun. In the drops, pulling the 48t big ring, clattering through gravel, hopping across rocks, laying into slightly cupped turns — the high-pitched groan of tiny knobs wrestling with sun-baked clay … yeah, braaap!

Basically … The Tricross is quick on the road and fun off the road. I’m really enjoying it, and it looks like I’ll have to man up and buy one.

The real question: How hard can I rip this thing on trail? I aim to find out!

So Jason, when do you want this bike back? And weren’t the tires worn out when you loaned it to me? … 🙂

16 replies
  1. Jafar says:

    Hey Lee – Cyclocross is tight like diet sprite man, especially when you learn to handle your bike ; )

    You should come out check the UCI races in town this weekend:

    Heck, you should come out and race them!!!


  2. Jafar says:

    And, sorry for the double (okay triple now) post, I got distracted while writing, hit submit, then hit one of your links then used the back button and reposted….yes I am in IT and cant work a computer!

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    Jafar — I thought about racing. They run amateurs on Saturday, but I’m hitting a jump jam that day. I love riding for an hour; not so great at racing for an hour!

    Marc – It’s an extension of my Awesome Power(tm) trademark … 🙂

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Dear Lee,

    Please, please, please convince my boyfriend that I need a cyclocross bike. I have a road bike (for tri’s) 2 Santa Cruz bikes; a Juliana for cross country and a Nomad for everything else, a bmx cruiser and a Rockhopper. Put with his Planet x, Turner, Cheetah and Bontrager he is not convinced that we need another bike.

    Granted the bike room is a little crowded at the moment, but how much space could a cyclocross bike take up anyway? He really respects your opinion and a good word from you could have me bike shopping this very weekend. 🙂


  5. leelikesbikes says:

    Elizabeth –

    You need to balance your quiver. If you look at the continuum from BMX to road, there’s a huge gap between your XC bike and your road bike.

    It’s unbalanced, and it’s un-American.

    To buy a ‘cross bike is to fight terrorism.

  6. Keith says:


    I can’t believe you had to borrow a cyclocross bike. I have two! A Tricross S-Works “A” bike and Redline “B” bike. Elizabeth tell your man to get you cyclocross bike! My wife has more bikes in the garage than I do. I count the Tandems as hers, but I enjoy riding them too.

    Cyclocross is great off season training. Drop the hammer at the start, all out sprint to the first turn, pop hard, then block and throw elbows until you recovers, then do it again. Cyclocross also works your bike handling skills. Try railing an off camber grass turn on 32c tires pumped up to 80psi. Even people who don’t have a cyclocross bike should do a least one race, most events will let you race your MTB minus bar ends. I did my first season on a hardtail MTB.

  7. Johan says:

    I am also traditionally a MTB only rider. Looking for something new I got a 2008 Tricross comp double and really enjoy the change. One thing I am not sure of is how much punishment these bikes are designed to take. In a recent review on the Specialized site they took them over small rock gardens / downhill singletrack. I posted there as well but no more details – guess I’ll just have to find out.

  8. Thomas Bailey says:

    I have been biking for nearly 19 years, and have biked to San Francisco 18 times, to Gilroy twice, to Santa Cruz, San Leandro, Half Moon Bay, and Sunol once each, and plan to bike to Los Angeles later this year for the AIDS LifeCycle. I am now on my 14th bike, 10 were stolen, two were stolen twice, the other four fell apart from heave use. Among the stolen bikes, 5 were stolen in San Francisco, 1 in Redwood City, 4 in Mountain View, 1 in Palo Alto, 1 in Los Altos, 1 in San Jose, and 1 in Sunnyvale, recovered 4 hours later.

  9. Kellan says:

    I have a Spec Tricross Triple that I use as a daily commuter. Put racks on it, fenders, the whole shebang. Love this bike! Your review is hilarious to read, from a commuter’s perspective. Thanks for posting such a fun review.

    I love this bike because it has enough clearance for fenders AND studded snow tires! Plus it’s comfy, fits perfectly for me, anyway. Carbon fork is great, dampens just fine. I hit a water-filled pothole and nearly went over the bars, but the fork didn’t even break, much to my surprise. To be honest, I come from the “Steal is Real” school of thought, so I was betraying my roots when I bought a carbon fork/aluminum frame bike, but I really love this bike. It feels quicker than the Surly Cross Check. Anyhoo, thanks for posting and have a great day.

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