Monday, September 24, 2012

Gunnar Bikes: the Accessible Waterford

Waterford Head Tubes
Given the references to Waterford in a recent post, as well as the company's presence at Interbike (that's a briefcase full of head tube samples in the picture above), I wanted to bring readers' attention to a line of bicycles that I think is mighty nice: Gunnar Bikes. Made in Wisconsin, USA in the factory of Waterford Precision Cycles, Gunnar is the simpler, budget-conscious offspring of the famous custom manufacturer - named after a beloved pet dog.

Gunnar CrossHairs
Advances in steel tubing design led to the TIG-welded Gunnar line's 1998 launch, and Waterford has been producing them ever since. There are now 10 stock models available, including road, cyclocross, touring, and mountain bikes. The local-to-me Harris Cyclery is a Gunnar dealer, and recently I finally got around to test riding one of the bikes. 

Gunnar CrossHairs
The Gunnar I rode is the CrossHairs model: a cyclocross bike with cantilever brakes, clearances for 38mm tires and provisions for fenders and racks. The colour is described as "burnt orange." The 54cm floor model was slightly too big for me, but doable as far as getting a sense of the bike over the course of the test ride. My interest was mainly in the CrossHairs' potential as a road-to-trail bike - for which its aggressive geometry, fairly light weight, and wide tire clearances made it look like a good candidate. Others might also be interested in it as a randonneuring bike or even a commuter, given the rack and fender possibilities. 

Gunnar CrossHairs
The cleanly welded frame is fitted with a curved, steel fork with a brazed fork crown.

Gunnar CrossHairs
Eyelets for fenders.

Gunnar CrossHairs
Cantilever bosses and rack mounts.

Gunnar CrossHairs
This is the third SRAM-equipped bike I have test ridden this year (see the others here and here), and I am becoming pleasantly familiar with SRAM components.

Gunnar CrossHairs
The canti brakes are Avid Shorty, and they worked fairly well for me.

Gunnar CrossHairs
Alexrims B450 wheelset and 700C x 32mm Panaracer Pasela tires with black sidewalls.

Gunnar CrossHairs
On the 54cm bike there was no toe overlap for me (size 38 shoes, clipless pedals), with plenty of toe room for 35mm tires (but not if I were to add fenders). In conversation with Waterford, I learned that the toe clearance on the 52cm frame is nearly identical, so the same would hold true for one size down. For sizes smaller than 52cm, the clearance decreases.

Gunnar CrossHairs
Riding the Gunnar CrossHairs I found the handling familiar and intuitive from the get-go: Fast to accelerate, responsive to pedaling efforts, stable. No twitchiness and nothing weird about the handling, just an easy, fast, fun ride. The finish on the Gunnar looks excellent: extremely smooth joints, precise braze-ons, nice paint (some attractive stock colour options, as well as custom choices). Geometry can be slightly tweaked from the stock options as well, particularly top tube length. If ordering a Gunnar bike from scratch, lead time is about 4 weeks. 

Gunnar CrossHairs
The complete bicycle pictured here is currently for sale at Harris Cyclery (in West Newton, MA), retailing at under $2,500. Prices will vary depending on the components used. For a US-made, handbuilt bicycle with lightweight tubing, responsive but easy handling, clearance for wide tires and provisions for fenders and racks, the Gunnar CrossHairs is worth considering for road-to-trail riding. It's a handmade-on-demand, yet available and accessible bike - from the legendary builder Waterford.

74 comments:

  1. I have one. They corner like a dream. Intuitive is exactly the right word.

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    1. By the way, I bought mine several years ago and paid about $1500.

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  2. You are now my favorite cycling blogger.

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  3. Rode a friend's cxhairs...kind of a pig but so was the build as he is rather porcine.

    Last thing you want on loose stuff is "aggressive" geo.

    Did you ride it on a trail?

    SRAM - yep I knew you'd come around after protesting about it so much. Familiar pattern?

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    1. Trail - yes, but short and tame. Also grass. The test ride was so short it was not worth going into "and this is how it felt on a trail," this was not a demo bike unfortunately. First impressions only.

      FWIW I've never said anything negative about SRAM. It's Shimano levers that I can't use (the shape of their hoods makes it hard to brake). Until recently you would not see many floor models built up with SRAM around these parts; it would be mostly Shimano. Now suddenly it seems like SRAM is everywhere. Glad to see it, as it enables me to try more bikes. Hopefully I'll get the hang of Shimano eventually also.

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    2. No SCRAM negatives but when I suggested it you went all "Campy Only!", which I can certainly get behind because I personally hate SCRAM.

      Since we're fwiw-ing Shimano does a great job getting a very fine product to market after extensive testing; SCRAM let's the user do it, backing it up with a "great" warranty program. Rather stay with my Sun Race thumbies, thank you very much.

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    3. I think the SRAM brifters are pretty cool, as brifters go. But, more importantly, I want to give a "big up" to Sun Race thumbies. My favorite upright-bars shifter on the current market, without a doubt.

      12buck$ a pair, work great, and no one gets jealous!

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    4. A "big thumbs up".

      Damn. Just paid 15 for a set because my 20+ year old xts blew up.

      Well at least we get two of them. And housing. And cables. And I can dump a whole cluster with a slam.



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  4. Oh yeah I'm also curious why there are a plethora of off-the-shelf steel bikes running $2-3k with no outstanding ride or performance characteristics are saturating the market in this wonderful econ.

    This hand made stuff is of particular importance if one requires a geo tweak, but the rider must be willing to fork out a $2k premium for it. There are so many better choices for that kind of $.

    Big meh.

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    1. Looking at prices of complete bikes, it's largely about component choices. The premium for the frameset is more like $500 (compared to say, Surly or Soma).

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    2. Let's see 900-360= a lot of nice food and liquid refreshments.

      All-Citys are picking up steam here, but I doubt the owners either know or care they're in the QBP fam.

      Irregardless (sic) Waterford/Gunnar are kind of passe in these here parts.

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    3. Oh my $2k comment is you go in wanting x then "need" custom geo then "need" better components then "need" frame xtras and suddenly you've turned a Pontiac into...a fancy Pontiac.

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  5. You can tweak anything you want on a Gunnar, not just the toptube. Made to measure adds $350 on most models. There's not a lot they can't do custom. If you want a Gunnar with lugs they will tell you that's a Waterford, otherwise not many limits.

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    1. That is good to know. But I think the affordability of these lines (Gunnar, Honey, Sweetpea LBD, etc) really depends on sticking to the stock configurations. Adding $350 to change the geo and then another $75+ for the paint, and the price will quickly grow to that of full custom, defeating the purpose. I understood from the dealer that some small tweaks are easy to make and don't increase the price, at least not by much, though I guess it really depends.

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  6. The Gunnar bikes are a fantastic line of bicycle. I have a Rockhound 29er and would be very happy to also have a Sport model. The Sports look like a great do it all bike. The Crosshairs is definitely on my short list as well.

    Real nice people to deal up there in Wisconsin. And very reasonably priced IMHO.

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  7. I have a 60 cm Crosshairs in silver, also with the Reynolds (531?) steel fork. Currently built up as a road bike (with Grand Bois Cypres tires), but eager to try on some knobby tires too.

    The tubing, as I have come to understand it, is a mix of Reynolds 853 and TT OX Platinum, but I don't know which tube is what. Would be interesting to know.

    My CH is a few years old, and the down tube on mine is slightly skinnier than on the one Velouria tested (or maybe it just looks skinner because of the size difference).

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  8. it's just beautiful, in all sorts of tacit ways, what does it weigh (at 2.5k it both too much for me and getting into titanium territory)?

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    1. You realise the 2.5K figure is for a complete bike, not the frame? A lot of the cost depends on components. It's pretty easy to achieve a Soma or Surly build in the same price range.

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    2. Surly Cross Check (complete bike build) is about half the price of this admittedly nice looking bike. W/O some actual comparison testing, there's no reason to think the Surly wouldn't perform equally well.

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    3. Well, the Surly X-Check with the *same* build would be about $500-600 less than the Gunnar (depending on the dealer and how much they mark up the frames & components, etc.). I have seen plenty of $2K complete Surly builds in local bike shops!

      The Surly Cross Check is a nice bike; I've ridden them a few times now and my husband owns one. The Gunnar CrossHairs, however, feels to me like a lighter and more responsive bike - more like a Soma Smoothie, but with magically widened tires.

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    4. The Soma Double Cross is also lighter than the Cross Check, but in the same price range (cheaper than Gunnar). Would love to see someone compare them.

      Great Blog btw!

      -D

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  9. A "compare and contrast" with the previous cross bike you tried would be revealing.

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    1. I did not include this in the post, because my test ride of the Gunnar was short and I will not be able to ride it in the same way as the Honey (it's not a demo bike; the shop wants to keep it reasonably new).

      But bearing that in mind: The main thing about the Honey, is that on first try it felt hyper-responsive to small movements. It was pretty fun once I got the hang of it. I also eventually learned how to hold my body so as to keep the bike stable, so the sense of over-responsiveness diminished the longer I rode it. But after the first test ride it was like Whoa Nelly!

      In comparison, on first try the Gunnar felt a lot more "normal" and even-tempered - without being slow or sluggish in any way, I should add; just the predictability of the handling was more intuitive for me. Acceleration and starting from a stop were great; it's a fast bike - but without that over-responsive feel.

      Aside from this, the Gunnar is a more versatile machine with its provisions for racks and fenders. The Honey is unappologetically designed for pure cross racing. The weight felt similar, with the small difference explained by the Honey's carbon fork and smaller size.

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  10. I have an orange 2002 Roadie which I lovelovelove. The only downside is that it doesn't have enough clearance for fenders. Picture

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  11. I really respect Waterford's willingness to make quality bikes for Gunnar, Milwaukee, and, of course, Rivendell. Many companies would decide they don't want to share their expertise with what is in the end their competition.

    Waterford's bucking convention wisdom means a lot of quality U.S. built steel at all but the lowest rungs of the market.

    Thanks for shining light on them.

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    1. Waterford doesn't make frames for Gunnar, they are Gunnar.

      They have always had a long list of industry customers. Some that are well known and some that are not talked about. Basically they have no competition, there is no other source for quick delivery of correctly built custom steel frames in job lots. An order is an order, money is money. For that matter they do welded fabrication of thinwall steel tubing for projects outside the bike industry.

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    2. Butbutbut jobbers are not a BRAND...I don't understand.

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    3. @Anon 12:32: Co-Motion in Eugene OR can and does do all of the above. Just a bit more below the radar at the retail level.

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    4. Anon 12:32 - I don't follow. Waterford is a company. It owns a bike manufacturing facility. It makes bikes under its name. Gunnar, Ben's Cycles (Milwaukee brand), Rivendell, and Boulder all contract with Waterford to build their bikes.

      AFAIK, Waterford employees, and not employees of the contracting companies do the work.

      Waterford could opt to make bikes only under its own name in all the categories for which it builds under contract. In many industries the fact is competitors do not build product for each other. I think it is commendable that Wateford helps other designers build their ideas.

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    5. Matt

      It's one company, two brands. Like Ford Motor Company will sell you a car that says Lincoln or they will sell you a car that says Ford. Gunnar and Waterford are both Richard Schwinn and Mark Muller. No contracts involved

      It is not at all uncommon for competitors to build product for each other. Ford is happy to sell you a car built by Mazda. Mazda is happy to sell them to Ford.

      When Waterford builds customs sold by Georgena Terry it does not cost them even one sale for a bike that might have worn Waterford decals. When they sell Mike Kone his Boulder bikes very few of Mike's customers would have purchased a Waterford instead. Not many of Grant's Rivendell customers would have bought a Waterford decal bike instead of a Riv. Any of the buyers of these bikes might just think of Waterford for the next bike they buy.

      Had not known that Co-Motion did private label. Thanks for the info.

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    6. And the key info in the differentiation is the "designer". A Boulder bike built by Waterford (I have one) is in the same $$ range as the Gunnar (I HAD one), yet feels far different. They won't build a Gunnar to Boulder specs, which is as it should be. Worth putting the Boulder into the mix if you're thinking of that level frame (and who isn't?)

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  12. Looks like a nice all-purpose bike. A good commuter for most of the year but designed to hit the trails and mud for a bit more fun on the weekends! Seems very much like the Honey in concept. The price is up there, though, which puts this in the category of high-end and brings into play other options like Co-Motion or even custom. As a former owner of two Paramounts I've always been fond of Schwiin and then Waterford, so it's nice to see this line of bikes getting out there.

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  13. Did you get a weight? I'm curious what the steel cross bikes typically weigh.

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    1. I do not have a weight for the complete bike and can't stress enough how much this depends on components. The one I tried felt to be around 20lb as shown.

      There is no typical cross bike weight. Some are made of carbon fiber, others titanium, others aluminum, others steel. Some are fitted with super lightweight top of the line racing groups; others are fitted with heavier, lower-end component groups. It really depends on the bike.

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  14. It is high end, with respect to the tubing and the build. When I got my second Crosshairs (after the first one broke-another story) a couple of years ago I think the frames plus fork were around $1000. Around $1200 now, which still puts them significantly below most custom builds. The only thing you're not getting is the custom geometry and perhaps nicer, more durable paint.
    Note also that Boulder Bicycles' rando machines are made by Waterford, for around the same price for their stock geometries, maybe a little more.

    This bike does many things, that;s for sure. Loading it down does dampen its spirits a bit though.

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    1. The Boulder Rando frameset and the Box Dog Pelican frameset are each around $1400 with stock specs and sizing. But those are a completely different style of bikes.

      The Gunnar is more comparable to the Seven Honey and the Seetpea stock-geo bikes. Each of these can be had in the mid-$2k range for complete bike. From what I've seen, I think it's a better deal to buy a complete bike than the frame and components separately.

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    2. When Boulder orders from Waterford they design the frame from scratch. And commit to minimum order quantities. If a retail customer approached Waterford and tried to recreate a Boulder Rando with step by step options from a stock design Waterford the cost would be extraordinarily high.

      When I got my Gunnar in 2005 it was
      $1000 and custom geo was n/c. Not surprised that offer is gone. There were a couple small things I would've liked and they said you can have it at the good price or you can buy a Waterford. With custom geo they are currently $1250. Base price is $900. That is a lot less than most of the comparisons being made here.

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    3. I believe the Sweetpea LBD is in the $3-4K range and the Boom Boom might be a little higher. Certainly sexy bikes made for serious action.

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    4. Ok just looked it up: $2975 with Shimano 105. But yes, realistically it's more like $3-4K with a higher-end build.

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    5. That $1000 sounds about right - it was 900 or 950 3 years ago. I looked at Gunnar when I bought my Surly and the difference in cost was just too much for me at the time.

      The issue with building bikes up from a frame is that you either have very low cost components available to you or you are paying a high cost for having your LBS buy them. They can't get the same rate that Specialized and Trek get. But you do get the build that you want and it was worth it to me.

      When I go on my next grand tour I will get a Gunnar Grand Tour. It looks like a great touring bicycle. I've liked the Gunnars I have seen in person.

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  15. You realise the 2.5K figure is for a complete bike, not the frame? A lot of the cost depends on components. It's pretty easy to achieve a Soma or Surly build in the same price range.

    Looks like a neat bike. I'd have to sit down with a pencil and green eyeshade on the pricing. Naturally I respect V's perspective on this.

    My Soma Smoothie ES complete was around $1350. Granted, maybe three years ago. That's with Shimano 105s. Great Mavic wheels that were on sale. Other components mid-range to budget, I guess.

    As those of you who recall my occasional posts know, I love my Soma, but hanging something like Dura-Ace or on a bike like this didn't make much sense to me so...

    (I just completed my first half-century, Backroads up around Berryville, Va., and it did great.)

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    1. Right. So if you hang the same components on the Gunnar it would be around $1,850 for the bike. Made in the US, and with wider tire clearances and no TCO. Is it worth it? To each their own. Frankly, if Soma made a bike with the same clearances and the only difference was made in USA vs not, I'm not sure which I'd choose.

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    2. Velouria, I'm glad you got around to testing a Gunnar. I feel the Gunnar brand flies a little under the radar. I have a Crosshairs as well (same orange color) and in a 52cm frame. This is a wonderful bike. Versatile and very smooth riding (Synergy rims and Jack Brown 33.33 tires). You might think of it as a highly refined Surly CrossCheck (which I also own set up as a SS). Before I committed to this bike I had several e-mail discussions with Richard Schwinn. He's a quick responder and highly informative. The bike is beautifully crafted and finished by the same hands that create Waterford frames.

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    3. Aside from being made in USA, you also have superior tubing on the Gunnar and the fact that they are hand made. Am at present deliberating this very issue regarding Soma/Surly vs Gunnar, or even custom, for sig. other.

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    4. Michael, in my experience with the Gunnar CH and the Surly CC, the Gunnar offers a smoother and more comfortable ride. Not that the Surly is uncomfortable (feels a bit stiffer) but it took me several months, three stems, two handlebars and considerable fine tuning to get it where it felt "right". The Gunnar required much less fiddling to set up. Both are 52 cm but the Surly has a longer TT. The TT on the CH slopes 4 degrees whereas the CC is level. Hope that helps

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  16. Addition to the above regarding weight. My CH weighed 23 lbs. when completed at the shop. The rear rack and large saddlebag obviously added a bit more to that. Velouria's observation about the CH's handling / responsiveness is spot on.

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  17. Ok looking at the geo chart on this thing it is a dead-standard road geo which, of course, has been well-established for quite some time.

    The Honey's chart reveals no hta, curiously.

    Way different bikes that can be ridden at the same event.

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    1. Oh btw since this is bog-standard geo-wise and your 7 is bog-standard geo-wise for a road bike do you remember when I said that building in clearance for wider tires before you purchased a road bike is a good idea for when you eventually hit the dirt you don't have to buy yet another bike for special occasions? No?

      Anyway c'est normal.

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    2. I'm glad you're always here to point out the obvious. The frequently overlooked obvious. If you didn't get there first I'd feel obliged to.

      Waterford does extremely conventional bikes. They do it well. If you want anything else you either know precisely and completely how you want your custom spec'd or you go elsewhere.

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    3. I do wait sometimes and no one is forthcoming so I have to say it. Then months/years go by I can say I said it. Whoopee.

      Really someone else should say what I was going to say before I say it so that I don't always have to say I said it.

      Anyway no one listens to us because.

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  18. Well....How does it rate on your list of potential new bikes? That's the only thing worth talking about :)

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    1. I would need to ride it longer to determine that for sure, but it seems to fit my requirements for a "dirt roadbike" and my first impression was "I like it!". However, I also like the Honey and the Rawland. Mind you, they are totally different, but I like all three. Getting back to the Gunnar, before I'd buy it I would like to know things like: How does it climb on a sustained hill? How does it handle with a foolishly overloaded saddlebag? How does it corner at speed when I am tired? Etc, etc. Not possible to really answer these questions during a standard bike shop test ride around a residential neighbourhood. I can guess, but that's not the same as a 100K demo ride on some dirt roads.

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    2. Umm, those are stringent tests!

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    3. Granted! But given that I had the opportunity to test ride bikes X and Y is that manner, it would not make sense to choose to buy bike Z after test riding it only briefly.

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    4. Indeed. You were fortunate with X and Y. Most of us have to rely on research combined with individual experience plus a bit of trust in the manufacturer and ability to adapt. You don't think you've ridden enough bikes to get a reliable and educated guess w/o doing a 100K dirt ride?

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    5. This is a topic that really deserves a post of its own. It's a matter of opinion how much of a test ride is "enough," and I daresay this opinion seems independent of how experienced or knowledgeable a rider is. But basically, opinion A is: A good rider should be able to tell within minutes everything they need to know about how a bike handles. Opinion B is: The true characteristics of a bike are only made known over the course of many (hundreds of) miles, varied terrain, altered components and different circumstances - factoring in also the rider's adjustment to the handling. In other words, according to Opinion B, you cannot possibly know how a bike will handle on a paceline ride, or on a century ride, or on a steep dirt descent after test riding it for <5 miles next to the bike shop. But according to Opinion A, yes you can. I fall somewhere in between these camps, but lean more toward B.

      Solutions for those in the Opinion B camp?

      1. Find a bike shop that carries demo models. These bike shops do exist. I am lucky enough to live near one (Ride Studio Cafe). Harris also has a few demo bikes, just not the Gunnar.

      2. Buy with the understanding that you might resell the bike after riding it for a while and figuring out what it's really like. Determine how much of a loss you are willing to take for this experience. (Think of it as having rented a bike for that amount of $$ over that period of time - is it worth it?)

      3. Buy used to make #2 easier on the wallet (in some cases you might even break even). Of course with used bikes there is far less choice. But it's an option.

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    6. Corollary to Opinion A: replace "good" with "experienced". Big dif, in my case.

      Opinion C: man- or woman-up and ride.
      Pretty much every single bike is this blog is better than what we rode as kids.

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    7. Okay, I've done pace rides, races, touring, trail rides, commuting, all on different bikes which were basically hand-me-downs and, truthfully, remember very little about the bikes other than I enjoyed riding them. They really only mattered in a marginal sense. As long as they fit, were mechanically sound, and reasonably suited for the task at hand, whole new experiences were opened up and memories made and that, to me, is what is ultimately important. I don't think the bike dominates the experience -- within reason -- and one can never know with certainty in situation B that one particular bike is better than another of similar design. Climbing? Okay, some may have been more suited to climb but it was ME who pedaled them up the hill and decentst sometimes worked better on bikes which weren't the best for ascents. There are always so many variables. Of course it's lovely to have top of the line equipment and prolonged access to lots of bikes but over thinking does little to the bottom line.

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    8. Sure. But it's good to see everything in context. You are visiting a blog about bicycles, and mostly niche bicycles at that. Of course I overthink things. Of course I test ride bikes and try to notice things about them - that's the point. There are similar blogs out there focusing on writing instruments, chairs, clothing, wallpaper, cat litter, you name it. Aspects of using these objects that you or I might never notice or care about are poignant to those authors. The web is full of weird/interesting stuff reflecting a variety of interests and obsessions.

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    9. Thank you for your openness and honesty. Though my experience and thinking is different than yours, I enjoy your oddity and visit this site often. While I stare endlessly and lovingly at my bike I think it's less about the bike and more about the experience. Yes, I'm odd, too.

      Was it Stephen Stills who said, 'if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with'?

      keep up the good work!

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  19. "How does it climb on a sustained hill?"

    If geared for your particular level of fitness and/or technique, I would venture to guess that it would climb like a bicycle.

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  20. I was wondering if you were going to test this one -- I guess Harris sold the 52cm CrossHairs I test-rode earlier this summer. It was this gorgeous pale blue, not orange, and I don't remember what components it had, since I was planning to put barends on whatever I bought.

    It was a really lovely bike riding it around for a fairly long test ride -- very nice handling, very comfortable, but the thing it didn't do well for me was climb. (I'm a lot heavier than you are, though.) I felt like I was losing power to drivetrain flex that I didn't want to, and being able to handle dirt wasn't a requirement for me. Fenders, yes, which was why I was test-riding 'cross bikes, but not dirt.

    Comparing it to the Surly CrossCheck, which I rode in the same trip -- the Surly was awful for me -- it didn't seem to fit length-wise despite being the right ETT size, and it was just sluggish all around -- handling, climbing, flats.

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    1. Thanks for that feedback, how interesting. I missed the 52cm CrossHairs unfortunately!

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  21. Question....If a sponsor gave you a serious discount on a bike for the dirt would you take it over a bike you may actually prefer but would have to pay full price for? Or, are you in the category of 'professional' now to the point where you get serious discounts, or other advantages, on any bike you desire?

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    1. I would not buy a bike which I considered inferior for my needs because of a discount. But if I were indifferent between bikes and one of them cost less (either by virtue of an industry insider discount of some sort, or it being a demo bike, or just a lower retail price), I'd buy the one that would save me money.

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  22. Like so many bike reviews, the "handling" is described in terms like "stable", "responsive", "easy handling"...not only are these terms quite vague, but even if they were precisely defined they are largely affected by things like the rider's size, weight, power, position of handlebars in relation to saddle, length of stem that was used, type of handlebars etc. And these factors that affect handling are independent of the model of bike being tested.

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    1. An experienced rider knows to what extent the handling quality of a bike is due to the frame and to what extent it is due to other components. As for your criticism that the terms are vague, so what? More precise terms are not needed, especially since handling perception is somewhat subjective anyway. And no, the factors you mention do not affect the handling of the bike independent of the frame; each component works in relation to the frame to produce riding characteristics that are particular to that combination.

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    2. The degree of specificity/preciseness I go into depends on the bike and on the extensiveness of the test ride(s). I am pretty comfortable with the terms I used to describe the Gunnar.

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  23. I recently upgraded to a Gunnar Sport, after having my bike stolen. I absolutely love how it rides and looks. I used my wheels and 105 components off another bike and came in around $1800. It rides smooth, with sure handling - and it is gorgeous.

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  24. There are some interesting critical comments about this blog's author's verbiage/perceptual abilities which are valid but ultimately many of this class of steel bikes that fit properly will be very, very close in geo spec and ride similarly.

    It's only when a rider completely transforms his or herself do quantum leaps happen, upright bikes to road bikes for example.

    I suppose it's best to view this blog as an open diary versus the definitive word on bikedom as we are mostly allowed free reign to post what we want.

    The author knows more about human nature than bikes, believe it or not. It's the riding part that's being informed.

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  25. This past winter/spring, I built up a Gunnar Crosshairs as a bike for Century rides and 200K rando rides. I used to ride a Surly Cross-Check for the same type of urban/suburban riding but when my son grew out of his old bike and could ride the Surly, that gave me the excuse to create the Gunnar.

    For what it's worth (and I know that this is subjective and heavily dependent on components), the ride on the Crosshairs is worth the extra money compared to the Cross-Check. The geometry lets me ride upright or in the drops comfortably, I feel like I can "fly" on downhills and turns, and it makes me want to ride a lot.

    My LBS posted pictures of the build --

    http://www.718c.com/collaborative-build-gallery/718-265-gunnar-crosshairs/

    Eventually, my son will outgrow the Cross-Check and I'll reclaim it in order to convert it into a single speed for errands/short rides because I'll be willing to lock it on the street (but only after I strip the decals.) But the Gunnar is going to be my long-distance bike for as long as I'm riding long distances. It's simply a great bike/frame.

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  26. You know what should be passe? Tig-welded steel bikes, from any country. They are just not very inspiring. I liked the ride of my rSogn well enough, but aside from being overbuilt, I did not get much aesthetic pleasure from looking at that bike. I don't care if sloping top tubes are more practical, or if 1 &1/8th steerers are a "better" design. They don't look as good as straight top tubes and quill stems to my eye. Functionally, it's not too difficult to find used bicycles that do all the stuff these bikes do.

    Here's my old Nishiki Olympic 12 with 35s.

    For more mannered road riding, I'm right now enjoying a 1985ish Cilo/Vitus. Every time I look down at the anodized rose top tube and the bare aluminum lugs and the silver rims and beautiful Shimano 600 brakes, I have to smile! ($300 complete on ebay. A total creampuff!)

    I know, I know, to each his or her own, YMMV, etc. etc. My inner Andy Rooney got the best of me today. Enjoy Lovely Bicycles!

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  27. As a service manager at a shop in Los Angeles (and a mechanic at several over the years), I've assembled a lot of custom Cross Checks, with some pretty high dollar price tags. And a lot of stock ones too. A fair number of Soma DCs too.

    I wanted a new, lighter on/off-road frame for shop rides and some cross racing I want to do this coming winter. I could have easily built up a Soma or Surly and had an excellent bike. And don't get me wrong, they are excellent bikes. However, I never felt that any of the frame offerings in the

    The real difference here is the frame people. I have a Crosshairs as one of my personal bikes, and it is miles above any of the "cross/commuter" options from Surly, Soma, Handsome, etc...

    The Gunnar uses much thinner tubing, which allows for a tuning of the rear end geometry (nice, stiff chainstays, with thinner, round seat stays that give you some comfort) and a very solid front triangle. If you add their excellent Crosshairs fork, you get an extremely comfortable ride and a fantastic response from the bike when you decide to put in some effort. It's not just that the bike is LIGHTER. The frame is designed to maximize comfort without sacrificing weight, stability, or power transfer.

    I was slightly leery of purchasing the frame and fork unridden (no nearby dealers with my size in stock to try), but I liked the tubeset, and everyone I talked to on the phone was helpful and un-pushy, and completely honest about their product. I must have had a dozen phone conversations with Waterford employees before pulling the trigger on the bike. Bike shop employees don't make a lot of money, and I wasn't about to part ways with my cash for something that I thought wouldn't be worth it. But I wanted American-made, couldn't afford a full custom frame, and found this excellent option. Even with shop employee pricing, this bike was more than worth what I paid for it, and I do feel like it was a steal for the enhancement in my rides, and for the satisfaction I got from supporting an American framebuilder.

    Sure, TIG-welded frames are "uninspiring", and we'd all love a custom Waterford, or to have any number of things that will get us to that perfect bike. But don't forget that riding the bike is the experience, and a "better" bike will only enhance the experience, not be it.

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  28. Jonathon is dead on...a well-written response. I own a crosshairs stock frame and it is one of the nicest riding bikes I've ever owned. For context, I also own a custom Rivendell Allrounder and Della Santa. The last couple of years I've really come to appreciate the straightforward practicality of Gunnar. The fact that they are U.S. made means a lot to me and I purposely saved a little longer this past summer so that I could get the Gunnar Sport (due to arrive shortly). And they are certainly tubing wise way better than a Surly or Soma quality frame. Does that mean Surly/Soma, etc. are bad? Not by any means. Great deals on quality steel. But Gunnar's are the best value in steel right now and hit that sweet spot between the full custom lugged, boutique, frames and the practical bargain bikes that Surly/Soma build. Good original post as well...

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