This showed up at my doorstep last Monday. The Salsa La Cruz, disc brake equipped 'cross bike, to review for CxM. I didn't have time to put any miles on it until the weekend. Even without riding it, I liked what I saw. It has three things I look for in a bike: a ferrous frame, disc brakes and a well-appointed component spec.
I had a choice: spend Sunday logging in gravel miles, or race mountain bikes on what I knew would be a very muddy course. I choose the latter. The Midwest Fat Tire Series promoters decided not to cancel the race. Instead they made an alternate course, which included XC ski trails, gravel roads and some paved sections. It was less a mountain bike race than it was a really long 'cross race. I figured this was the perfect trial-by-fire for the La Cruz.
I pulled the stock Panaracer Crossblasters off and replaced them with a pair of Ritchey Zeds - 700x42. These were my Dirty Kanza tires two years ago. I figured the nature of the race course – relatively flat, smooth, nothing technical – would favor 'cross bikes over mountain bikes.
For the most part I was right. What I didn't count on was the thick mud that made even gentle inclines a slog. The combination of gumbo mud and longstem grass quickly made every rider's drivetrain, seatstays and chainstays a sodden mess. As a result, I quickly found myself over geared – 48/38 in the front combined with a 12-27 cassette in the rear – and spent the modicum of fitness I had in my legs.
My first impressions of the La Cruz are favorable, it's not quick, but predictable. It handled everything I threw at it, and even if it was not the perfect bike for the course, it was good enough for a 4th place expert finish.
...I like to think of it as 'the first place cross bike.'