Counterbalance Bikes, at the old Ti Cycles location on the Burke Gilman, [Yelp] where I rode two bikes and had a wonderful conversations with Glenn, someone who actually races cyclocross. They carry the Salsa La Cruz and we spent some time talking about that bike as well. He would not race the La Cruz but thinks they are a nice bike (heavy, big, etc..) but nice for dinking around. I did also ask the "sand question" and it seems that cross bikes can handle them with larger tires. It is a technique issue, keep traction on the rear and let the front float. He seemed surprised that I would consider a 58 cm frame but I like an open cockpit and he could see that. He also suggested that I look more closely at Kona bikes, the Jake the Snake (now there is a name, but it is aluminum and carbon).
So what did I try?
This is a sweet bike. Snappy, stiff, light and responsive. Accelerates quickly. I was able to climb a hill and discovered that the low gears did take some work (I am too used to MTB gearing) but it still climbed well and felt quite stable on the descent (rainy of course). There is a very nice flat spot on the top tube that fits well on the shoulder, a nice touch. Components were mid-to upper Shimano, not too shabby (although the website lists Tiagra, did they change the specs?). Plus, GVB, it has yellow on it (or is that orange).
It is an aluminum and carbon frame which, frankly scares me off. I am not a small rider (190-195 lbs) and I would be the guy to break it. There is something reassuringly durable about a steel frame even though there is a weight penalty. Putting a rack on this one is doable I guess but this one would be for racing.
The Masi seemed a little less inspiring to me than the Jamis. Don't get me wrong, it was a nice ride but it didn't accelerate or climb as easily and I found the gear hard on the ascent. The bike is cheaper, primarily because of the component set that they chose (Tiagra) and I am going to stay away from that. The shifters felt a bit cheesy and, frankly, I don't need little windows with red indicators telling me where my gear is.
Of the two, what would I buy? The Jamis.
Between the Jamis and the Salsa? This is difficult.
What would you do?