Gunnar Crosshairs

According to Richard Schwinn (top dog at Gunnar), the Crosshairs is a general purpose road bike disguised as a cyclocross bike. Gasp, did he say ROAD bike? In Dirt Rag? Yew becha.

By Karl Rosengarth

According to Richard Schwinn (top dog at Gunnar), the Crosshairs is a general purpose road bike disguised as a cyclocross bike. Gasp, did he say ROAD bike? In Dirt Rag? Yew becha.

My generation (ancient) of mountain bikers had nothing but road bikes to choose from, before the age of enlightenment. We understand the idea behind the Crosshairs: fast on the roads, but rugged enough for occasional trails and cyclocross riding. The Crosshairs is also aimed at the younger generation of mountain bikers who started on dirt, but now hear their friends saying: "Doooode, like you really need to start cross training on the road, and like, race cyclocross in the winter."

A TIG welded Reynolds 853 frameset and a 531 threadless fork make up the heart and soul of the Crosshairs. When I arranged the test bike with Richard, I indicated that my bent was off- more than on-road. We deviated slightly from the standard Ultegra STI/XT component mix by specing an XT 12-32 rear cassette and XT rear derailleur instead of the road-oriented Ultegra stuff. A WTB saddle was more my style than the Flite Ti. The nice thing is that when you order a Gunnar bike through your dealer, you can make substitutes. If you’re making reasonably even substitutes like I did, there would be no additional charge. If you want custom upgrades, the Gunnar folks will let you spend like a drunken sailor on shore leave. The Crosshairs’ remaining standard equipment fit my bill: XT V-brakes (with a V-Dapter to make them work with road levers), Ultegra triple crank (52/42/30) and front derailleur, Ritchey Speedmax Kevlar cyclocross tires (30c) and Mavic Open Pro 700c rims laced to Ultegra hubs with 15/14 guage Wheelsmith spokes.

The tale of the tape for the 54cm frame: 17" chainstays, 10.75" high bb, 40.5" wheelbase, 22.25" effective top tube, 73° head and seat angles. My Crosshairs weighed either 21 lbs. 12 oz. with my SPD road pedals and my 28c road/tour tires (road setup) or 23 lbs. 6 oz. with an optional Blackburn rear rack, my Time aluminum alloy mountain pedals and the standard Ritchey ‘cross tires (ready for anything setup). Budget $1775 for the Ultegra/XT package (tested) or $1540 for the 105/LX package (also available). If you want custom frame sizing, cough up an additional $500 and you got it. Colors: black or red-unless you got a spare $250 burning a hole in your pocket there mister "I gotta have a green bike." I tested the Crosshairs off-road, on-road and loaded for light touring. My biggest mistake was taking the Crosshairs off-road the very first ride. This was a mistake because I had so much fun, it was difficult to force myself to ride roads after my initial session. I could barely believe how well the bike behaved on technical trails. Balanced, nimble handling made it a breeze to swoop through tight, twisty singletrack.

And this rig was FAST! On buffed singletrack, the Crosshairs blazed like it was shot from a cannon. I attributed the speed to a solid chromoly frameset and those skinny, high pressure, minimal knobby tires. I was having way too much fun bunny hopping logs and catching air, causing Brad (observing from my dust wake) to repeatedly remind me: "You’re not supposed to do that on a ‘cross bike." Technically, Brad was correct; this bike is not designed for hard core off-road thrashing. But I suspect that rough trails, when ridden with reasonable grace, are within the frame and fork’s capabilities. Warning: If you are a beginner off-road rider, don’t do what I did. I’m no bike god, but I know what I can do, and what I can’t. And, I’ll admit that I did have a few sketchy moments on wet, off-camber logs-but that is to be expected on such skinny tires.

On the road, the Crosshairs was a dream come true. I bought my $3000 road bike with good intentions, but it spends a lot of time on a hook in my basement because its double-chainring road gearing is a real pain on the hilly terrain that makes my homeland so much fun for mountain biking. Conversely, the Crosshairs’ triple crank was just the ticket. I climbed every hill on my "standard road loop" seated-something I never quite managed with two chainrings. And the Crosshairs’ smooth ride was perfect for the rough rural roads in my neck of the woods. I could see the fork flexing-that flex obviously helped smooth out the ride. And, over the years, I’ve found that a good chromoly road frame, like the Crosshairs’, is the epitome of supple liveliness. I’m sure that hard core roadies with Nelson Vail thighs would scoff at a triple crank on a road bike, but skinny, chicken-legged mountain bikers think differently.

My loaded touring test consisted of one ride where I packed my panniers with 15 pounds of gear and rode a familiar loop from the Dirt Rag HQ. But, I’ll have you know that I wailed down steep hills and pulled off some high speed evasive maneuvers, just to test the Crosshairs’ stability. I’m happy to report that the Gunnar and I both remain scar-free. This bike is versatile, and in my opinion, suitable for that occasional light tour. (If you want a serious loaded touring rig, see Bruce Gordon.) On the even-lighter touring side, I commuted to work on the Crosshairs with a pannier of essentials-it sure beat driving my gas guzzler and it was faster than my mountain bike.

So, what’s the bottom line? Well, the Crosshairs is a great road/cyclocross bike for the mountain biker ready to take the plunge. It’ll introduce you to (or reintroduce you to) the beauty of road riding, allow you an occasional indulgence in dirt and this bad dog will be ready get off the porch and hunt when the calendar says "cyclocross season." Hard core roadies need not apply (as if they’re reading Dirt Rag in the first place). By the way, the "Gunnar" name comes from Richard Schwinn’s dog (sorry, Shogren fans). Contact: Gunnar Bicycles, 816 West Bakke Avenue, Waterford, WI, 53185. 414.534.4190.