German performance specialists Trickstuff sent us this fully loaded cyclo-cross bike to showcase their latest products. Starting with a superb Moots Psychlo X titanium frame with disc brake mount, they added a carbon fibre Wound Up Team X Disc fork and then got to work.
Crying out for attention are the 58mm-deep Schwarzbrenner carbon rims, which spin on 24-hole Tune King and Kong hubs. Fitted with bulging Tufo Flexus Primus tubular tyres, they're impressively light, and accelerate superbly, their short spokes keeping them taut, even under extreme loads on tight uphill corners.
The Tufos offered excellent grip and stability throughout the dry conditions of our test period, their small block tread working well on mixed terrain, and there was little noticeable wear. Having disc brakes means that the carbon rims can be built lighter because they don't require a braking track, although the load on the wheels is arguably greater. The setup proved faultless.
Up top are a titanium Moots 27.2mm seatpost and stem, the former giving a fine pedalling platform while still offering shock reducing flex, and the latter manfully resisting twisting forces while complementing the Syntace Racelite 2 carbon bars in smoothing out the ride. But neatly tucked under the stem is the undoubted star of this show – the Doppelmoppel mechanical-hydraulic convertor.
The what? Trickstuff were one of the first companies (along with TRP and Hope) to develop an effective way to run hydraulic disc brakes from cable operated road levers. First seen in prototype form at Eurobike 2010, the Doppelmoppel mounts neatly under the stem (minimum length 90mm) via a steerer tube bracket, and is adjustable for best fit. Trickstuff recommend using it with Bowden cables (made by Nokon) to give the straightest possible run to the side-entry cable clamps.
A pull on the lever actuates a right-angled cam that in turn operates a hydraulic piston that activates the calliper. The idea is simple, but the operation is refined, with the system’s low friction giving wonderful feel and modulation. There is no sponginess or lag between lever and calliper, just infinitely controllable power.
Providing that braking power are Cleg callipers and Quad Pulse XC six-bolt rotors. With a 160mm rear disc and a whopping 180mm front disc that would be more at home on a mountain bike, the Clegs have power to burn. Brake fade is rarely an issue for a cyclo-cross bike, and even less so here. Trickstuff offer a wide range of discs, so more suitable diameters can be specced depending on the application.
Trickstuff specced their own Tricksatz headset on our test bike. With watertight bearings and clever integrated alloy stops on each side of the steerer that prevent the handlebars from hitting the top tube in the event of a crash, for around a 100g weight penalty this could be a very valuable investment.
The drivetrain is SRAM Force, which offers reliable off-road performance, but up front is a road compact chainset sporting 50/34-tooth chainrings. As a bike built to demonstrate the Doppelmoppel and not specifically for cyclo-cross racing this is fine, but conventional 46/36t ratios would be better suited to most off-road use.
With those rapid wheels and big volume tyres, it’s easy to gain speed quickly and maintain it, and with the stopping power on tap, braking can be left far later, grip levels permitting. There’s so much power that front wheel stoppies are all too easy, but the feedback is sufficient that they aren’t accidental. We did find the front end to be a little steep for our liking, though, and combined with a fairly long stem, this meant handling was less precise than on our favourite cyclo-cross machines.
Disc brakes require a different riding style, and with improved braking, higher speeds can be maintained for more of the course, although riding faster for longer may test your fitness. Compared to top-end cantilever brakes, the Cleg discs approximately halve braking distances, and have the added bonus of minimising the potential for grass and mud fouling the wheels and drivetrain.
Of course, there's a small weight penalty to pay for the extra hardware required, but comparing the weight of a Doppelmoppel convertor, two callipers and discs, Kevlar hoses and all bolts to a pair of Shimano Dura-Ace callipers and Bowden cables results in only a 284g increase. Our complete bike weighed in at just shy of 8kg (17.5lb), which for a machine with such a bombproof frame, top-flight wheels and astonishing ability to start and stop, is impressive.
So, what's the price?
The Moots Psychlo X frameset costs £3,265/$3,095 on its own, with the Trickstuff Doppelmoppel and brakes adding a further €690 (approx £550/$885). Add in the cost of the wheels, Wound Up fork and other high-end finishing kit and you're unlikely to get much change from £8,000/$12,000.