LeMond's Poprad Disc cyclo-cross bike is a marriage of tried and true technologies, with svelte steel tubing, mud-and-rain friendly disc brakes, and aggressive geometry to make any road/trail ride or race a memorable expedition.
The True Temper OX Platinum tubing has been used for years, and with the exception of reinforced dropouts for the demands of disc brakes, the Poprad frame looks like it came out of the Trek factory 10 years ago.
But that's not a bad thing.
The US$1,649 Poprad Disc has been specced smartly; Shimano 105 shifters and drivetrain are always light and reliable, and fit a favourable pricepoint as well. The Bontrager Switchblade Elite carbon fork provides stable tracking, a strong, mud-clearing crown, and a modern touch to an overall old-school aesthetic. Our testers felt comfortable in the saddle, and the added bonus of the Poprad's tarmac-or-dirt versatility made it a favourite.
The TIG welded True Temper OX Platinum frame looks like something from 10 years ago, and for good reason. Other than the reinforced rear dropouts to handle the forces applied by the disc brake, a horizontal top tube and standard size tubing offers all the amenities most 'cross riders look for: room for reaching through the front triangle before shouldering the bike; ample mud clearance at the brake and chainstay bridges; heel clearance on the chainstays; and extra durability from heat-treated steel tubing for a long life. Ovalized, oversized tubing would detract and impede the rider, not aid.
The challenge for some riders not familiar with the ride characteristics of steel usually boils down to looks: will it be as stiff as my aluminum or carbon mountain bike? Fear not. One of testers has no experience on a steel bike, and was very impressed with the ride. Of course, frame geometry plays a huge role in how any bike rides, and the parallel 72.5-degree seat and head angles, coupled with a 45mm fork rake, is mighty smooth for most. The relatively low 74mm bottom bracket drop contributes to its stability, as does the longish-but-still-sporty 1025cm wheelbase.
My riding experience in Wisconsin, Ohio, California and a few semi-exotic places worldwide have prepared me for the rough-stuff riding the LeMond was designed for. Our other testers come from a pure dirt background, so their comfort level with the drop bars was a little skewed at first. The disc brakes were an instant hit, and after a short tutorial on making the most out of the available handlebar real estate, it was Katie bar the door.
The 9-speed 12-27 cassette worked well; adding another gear would've compromised the gear choices, especially on the trail. The higher handlebar position and slightly short (57.8cm) top tube made sliding around the saddle a bit easier, even for the road novices among our group.
A smart 'cross component mix typically includes a heavy dose of Shimano, and the Poprad Disc features the midrange 105 integrated shift/brake levers, derailleurs, chain and 12-27 tooth 9-speed cassette. Bontrager fills the gaps with its Race Cross 48/36 tooth crankset, carbon seatpost, Race CX handlebars and Select stem, Race Lux saddle and Bzzzkill handlebar plug vibration dampeners. Stopping comes courtesy of Avid's BB7 mechanical disc brakes, which took a while to dial in: if a rotor's not flat and the pads are anything but perfect, getting the right braking modulation can be frustrating. The extra cable housing has to be perfectly cut to work properly, and our test model needed extra housing to work.
A disc brake bike can take liberties with lighter rims, and the Bontrager paired spoke Select Disc wheelset was chosen for its high-tension, lower rotational weight and durability. Weighing 1925g for the pair, the 24-spoke clincher wheelset turns on chromoly axles with polished, ground races and forged hub shells for highly durable and easily serviceable hubs.
Our wheels needed some tweaking out of the box, something typically handled by an authorized LeMond dealer. The 350g (each) Bontrager Jones CXR knobbies were ideal both on and off road. The shallow lugs and smart profile of the 700x32c tires work well in sand, mud and loose gravel. Surprisingly, our 57cm test sample weighed 22 pounds. The weight wasn't a factor with any of our testers, though, who range from 165 to 185 pounds.
With Trek's worldwide distribution and manufacturing prowess, the US$1,649 LeMond Poprad Disc is a good pure 'crosser as well as an ideal do-all, go-anywhere bike. It's not intended to be a touring or commuter bike (LeMond, Trek and Fisher offer plenty of choices), and those not accustomed to the feel of disc brakes may be a little intimidated at first. If your favourite riding locale is technical, wet and extensive, consider the LeMond Poprad Disc.
© BikeRadar 2007