Fyxation Crusher Prototype Adventure BikeWe are happy to have contributors bringing good content to Riding Gravel and this one from Dave Schlabowske, the Deputy Director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed, is much appreciated. Read on to get his thoughts on the prototype Fyxation Crusher Adventure Bike.
By: Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director, Wisconsin Bike FedI have not bought a road bike since 2000, when I purchased a used red, white and blue 1998 Trek US Postal bike on eBay. I still have it, and it is still faster than me, but the components are wearing out, and I don’t road race anymore. Every time I rode it early this spring, I was reminded that I should invest in a new road bike, but I really didn’t want a new crit machine.
BACKGROUNDI stopped in at Fyxation’s bike shop in Milwaukee early in March and Nick Ginster, the engineer owner (with his brother Ben, the chancellor of the exchequer) shows me a bare prototype of a carbon gravel bike they are thinking of doing. I immediately offered to buy the prototype and serve as test pilot to figure out the build and give advance rider feedback before he placed an order for the frames. I served in this same role when he entered the fat bike market with their Blackhawk. Not only did I get to test pilot the prototype, I got to name the new bike after the wrestler who made Milwaukee famous! Quite an honor for an old Milwaukee southsider, let me tell you. I could not believe that there wasn’t already a gravel bike out there called the Crusher, but we’ll take it since the Crusher remains a hero in the 414. I work for the Wisconsin Bike Fed, our state bicycle advocacy organization, and it is part of our job to promote our state cycling industry here in Wisconsin. Afterall, they support us between manufacturing and tourism, bicycling provides about a $2 billion dollar boost to our state economy every year, not to mention 14,000 jobs! Besides, as a bike geek, it is really a labor of love for me to work with our industry anyway. If you don’t know Fyxation, Nick has been in the bike industry for a long time. He worked for Hayes, lived in Taiwan, speaks a bit of the language, and he rides A LOT. The company started with a tire for couriers, the “Session”, but has outgrown the fixie niche with well-thought-out bikes like their Quiver (an affordable all-rounder), Blackhawk fat bike, locally made and tanned leather goods like their six-pack caddy, and their cool brick and mortar shop in Milwaukee. With that background forefront, on to the bike review.
BIKE REVIEWI have had the Crusher for three weeks now and probably have 350 miles on it, including a number of our Spring Classic Rides to iconic Wisco towns like Belgium, Paris, Denmark, and Holland and, importantly, Wisconsin’s awesome Dairy Roubaix gravel ride in the southwestern driftless (the unglaciated area of the state) region. Remember, this bike replaced my Trek US Postal road bike, so I was looking for a bike that was still light and fast, but had a more upright fit and could do a bit more. Since I no longer race on the road, I didn’t need a superfast 23C road machine, but I wanted a rig I could ride and hang on fast group rides. I also don’t plan to Ride the Divide, so I didn’t need a drop bar mountain bike like the Salsa Fargo or the Cutthroat. The Fyxation Crusher has managed to hit the sweet spot for me, with few compromises on either end. The bike weighs in at 19 lbs 3 ozs with three cages and Time pedals. My Trek weighs 18 lbs with Speedplays and a lighter saddle. Part of the weight savings on the Crusher comes from the Industry Nine Torch Road UL CX Disc wheelset, a definite upgrade over whatever the production bike will come with, but so worth it. Not only did those wheels come tubeless ready and set up in all of three minutes with the Clement X’plor MSO 36 tires, they have held air pressure perfectly since the day they touched ground. I run 40 psi for road rides and down two 22 psi for soft loose stuff. If you want to pick a pressure, 35 psi will work for almost anything. The rims have a 21 mm inside diameter, which I find hits the sweet spot for my needs: not too wide for pavement riding and not too narrow for off-road use. The Crusher carbon frameset comes with three water bottle mounts, fender mounts front and rear, and clearance for 40mm tires (the front fork probably fits 45s), flat mount brakes, and 12mm through axles front and rear (the new road standard). The chainstays are 440 mm, longer than a cross bike, and the bottom bracket is low, between 80mm and 75mm, for added stability. The rest of the build is a mix of price-conscious quality components. A Salsa Woodchipper handlebar, FSA SLK stem, seatpost and Gossamer road-compact crankset with Shimano 105 2×11 drivetrain. As a guy who has ridden a custom lugged-steel Waterford version of a Bridgestone XO-1 for the last 20 years or so, the first difference I noted was the fork is stiffer than the steel fork on my Waterford. Like most modern carbon forks, I take this to be a combination of comparing my 1 inch steerer tube, curved rake Waterford fork with a Rivendell crown, to a 1.5 inch tapered steerer straight carbon fork. Other than the noticeably stiffer fork, the ride on the Fyxation was everything I wanted. It is definitely faster than my 26 inch wheel Waterford, and almost as fast as my 23c Trek US Postal bike. With the handlebar height level to the saddle, the Crusher is much more upright position than the Trek, about the same as the Waterford. How does the Crusher handle in the real world? So far, the Crusher rides like a dream. Fast, responsive, the carbon soaks up the high frequency vibrations, and the fat-ish tires are forgiving enough to ride soft stuff and even those ball-bearing-like gravel roads with hard pack below and loose stuff on the top. I couldn’t notice any flex when climbing out of the saddle, even with full camping gear in my Carridice saddle bag. As the bike is a prototype, my wish list to Fyxation is pretty much only about the fork. I want either water bottle mounts on the fork, or at least mid-leg pannier mounts. I would also like to see a front light mount at the crown. There is a fender mount behind the crown, so why not add a light mount on the front side? Nick told me he has taken my suggestions to heart and is designing an aluminum fork with everything I asked for, and taking a stab at a carbon version too. The manufacturers overseas are hesitant to add those water bottle mounts on the fork legs, but Fyxation is trying. As for the stiffness of the carbon fork compared to traditional steel forks, I’m not sure we can do much about that given the added stiffness associated with the tapered steerer, but Nick is trying. Fyxation hopes to have the initial production runs of the Crusher in the US by June, and they are hoping to hit a $2,500 msrp. Stay tuned for a second Checkpoint review after I give the Crusher a run at the Strada Fango Spring Classic on the fire roads and soft, sandy ATV trails in Northern Wisconsin.
A special thanks to David Schlabowske and Fyxation for sharing this write-up. If you have any questions or comments, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: RidingGravel.com is not being paid, nor bribed for posting this review.