Friday, June 6, 2014

2014 Foundry Harrow Cross Race


You never know what you might be riding at the end of the day. I had taken a short break from the trails (About a month) in order to hit the weights, strengthen my core and save money. My goal for next season is to try the sport of Cyclocross but first I have to purchase a bike. One morning I got a Facebook message from a SCORR friend named Steve who was going on a two week trip and he was willing to let me borrow his CX steed so I could see what it was like.

The bike was a Foundry Harrow. Foundry is an American cycle producer based in Bloomington, Minnesota but with dealers in 30 states. They seem to pride themselves on sturdy, no nonsense designs meant for continuous use and high performance. Which is appropriate because Steve knows how to take a bike to its limits. He is a local legend in our MTB community having completed numerous distance races including the Leadville Trail 100 (As seen in the movie Race Across the Sky). In fact, this recent two week trip was going to include the Dirty Kanza, a 200 mile gravel grinder race in Kansas.


CX bikes are often used for gravel grinder races so I asked him why he wasn't bringing the Harrow? "It's good for a 100 mile race (Like the Big Cypress Fakahatchee Grind 100 that he had just completed) but with no shocks it would be brutal for 200 miles." So there it was, I had a CX bike to test ride for the next two weeks. I loaded the Harrow in my car and drove directly to the first challenge.

I have raced the Tempo & Timmy's Time Trial a handful of times on my mountain bike but never on anything resembling a road bike. I was so out of sorts that I had to learn how to shift on the ride to the race start. Even on the street, the Harrow is fast. I was riding a 57cm frame which was too tall and it needed adjustments but  it was too late, I was already at the starting line. Once on course my hips rocked side to side, the awkwardness was throwing off my timing but still I pushed on, hard! I came close to the red line several times and crossed the finish shouting out my number - lucky 13. Even on an unfamiliar bike I easily matched my fastest time.


The Harrow is stunningly stable, normally with Clement PDX 700 by 33 tires but this one had a pair of Bontrager CXO 38's which I understand are wide even for a CX build. I was riding a Harrow Gen 2, B2 which uses the Shimano Ultegra drive train so the shifting is effective if not subtle. It's the middle of three set-up options. The first thing that I enjoyed was the weight or lack thereof. The Carbon Fiber frame took the pressure off the rest of my body allowing the power transfer from my legs to go directly into acceleration with little wasted effort.

My second ride was on mixed terrain. It was time to shake and rumble in the dirt. One early morning I hit the Ann Dever trails which is made up of hard pack crushed shells. While whipping around the circle I added in 10 dismount/remounts to simulate race movements. These hop-ons were made easier by a well placed internal cable routing. I never had to worry about scraping the inside of my leg on a brake brake wire. On the Foundry Harrow these easy trails felt no different than riding my mountain bike.


A couple days later I decided to work on mapping out my own local cross course. This involved a circular ride mostly though grass, sand and I toyed with a spot where I would heft the bike on my shoulder. The laps were fun to pedal despite the tough conditions and hot sun. Shifting gears while in shifting sands was pretty easy going. Only once did I slide sideways and still somehow I managed to stay on two wheels.

When it came to shouldering the Harrow, it is light as a road bike. When I threw it on my shoulder and scrambled up a dirt pile, I forgot the bike was with me. It was also effortless to ride down the the other side with perfect stopping power from the 160mm disc brakes. It's probably not too far fetched to say that in the Harrow, Foundry has built a dream bike for cross riders. All the benefits of an MTB with all the speed of a road bike.


I had planned on doing a group ride but once on the street that morning found that the front tire had gone flat. There was still a little air pressure so I assumed it to be a slow leak. Since I didn't know what kind of set up he had (Many people go tubeless) I instead brought the whole wheel in to my friends at Real Bikes Englewood. The owner swapped the tube out for a new one and I was back in progress.

The reason I mention the flat tire was that I had to take off the front wheel. This was my first experience with a 15mm thru axle. It was surprisingly easy to use. More importantly, when putting the tire back on there was no question that it slotted into perfect alignment. This system keeps the tire straight, stable and avoids any rubbing issues with the disc brakes. I agree with the experts who say the thru axle deserves to be the industry standard.


Riding the Harrow got me into the spirit of Cyclocross, as evidenced in this picture by my dazzling tutu. Before I had even finished my time with it, I had been inspired to order a CX bike of my own. The only downside of testing such a great ride is that whatever I throw a leg over next will be a big step down from what I had gotten used to.

I only got in 68 miles on the Harrow but enough is never enough. The more you churn, the more you learn. If you want to enjoy the endless fun of one of these Carbon creations, check out their website.




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