I won’t lie, the Airborne Delta CX was the most exciting part of becoming a member of the Airborne Flight Crew this past spring. I was going to have the inside scoop, test ride and ride for a season a wonderful cyclocross bike that hopefully would crack open a huge “hidden nut” in the bicycle industry. A budget priced, disc brake, cyclocross bike. As a lover of cyclocross bikes for the utility and functionality, this bike fit right into my arsenal to refer friends and followers to.
Why a Cyclocross Bike?
Cyclocross bicycles to me don’t require you to race cyclocross, or even to know what cyclocross racing is. Instead, I’ve always looked at them as utility road bikes. You are able to run skinny tires (most cross rims can go down to 700×23) with more clearance for fenders, racks and all in a more upright position for commuting or those starting to ride on the road. These bikes are often equipped with more durable wheels, easier gearing and sometimes more durable frame/forks. The person buying one won’t have to worry about staying only on the pavement as ‘cross bikes handle gravel and light off road very well. Before the “comfort” fits that companies started coming out with 6-7 years ago I would put customers on ‘cross bikes for the more upright and comfortable fit.
Initial Thoughts of the Airborne Delta CX
The first time I rode the Delta CX was commuting from Monterrey California to the 2011 Sea Otter Classic. Straight up a huge hill, with the very aggressive tread cyclocross tires that come stock on the bike. I knew the bike wasn’t really setup for me, and all I had was 9 miles of trying it out but I really enjoyed the bike, especially the mountain bike cassette on the rear!
Fast forward a couple months, my second ride on the Delta CX was again a commute, 27 miles from my work in Charlotte North Carolina home to Mooresville North Carolina. Unfortunately it was a commute from hell. A flat in the middle of the worse part of town, a slipping seat post, and a creaking bottom bracket. All of these things are my own fault, a demo bike that was used in Sea Otter deserved a complete overhaul before a serious first ride. I didn’t give my little bike that luxury.
On my commute I did realize a few things on the bike quickly:
- I love disc brakes on cyclocross bikes
- The handlebars were super narrow
- Installing a standard rear rack on this bike would be difficult, time to look at disc brake specific rear racks.
Initial weight of my 55cm without pedals or bottle cages was 23.5 lbs
Critical Highlights Important to Me
In no specific order there is several things I feel folks should know about the bike when they are looking at it.
Obviously is the SRAM Apex drive train (minus cranks) which gives you 2×10 technology with gearing of 46/36 cranks and 11-32t cassette. Perfect for someone looking for a do all bike, and someone getting into cyclocross.
Next up is the disc brakes. This is something that is becoming a trend now that the UCI (main rule makers for pro cyclocross racers) have approved disc brakes starting this coming season. We will see in the next couple seasons a ton of manufactures expanding or switching their current cyclocross line up to disc brake equipped or at least disc brake ready frames and fork. You should know that the front disc is 160mm, standard disc brake sizing. The rear is a 140mm, which is perfectly fine for this usage but you normally only see this size on XC weight weenies.
Ability for fenders and a rear rack. The main guy behind product development, Jeremy Mudd, wanted this bike to be able to a little bit of everything. With rear rack mounts on the top of the seat stays and mounts for fenders at the bottom bracket chain stay bridge, and fork drop outs. You will need a disc brake rear rack, the guys at Airborne recommend the Blackburn EX-1 Disc that comes with a skewer to mount the bottom of the rack to.
Well equipped and well priced. Airborne Bicycles takes out the bicycle shop from the equation, saving the end user the extra margin that the bike shop would need. At an MSRP of $1,199 I can guarantee you won’t find a well equipped bike like this, with proper research and development behind it.
A warranty. Do I need to say more? How many “mail order” companies deliver a warranty with their bike, and a customer service line to call with any questions.
Swapping Parts on my Delta CX
Quickly I needed to change a few things out, saddle (immediately), handlebar, handlebar tape, tires, and seatpost.
Tires were swapped to my normal Kenda Small Block 8 that I live on other than muddy races. I’m able to pump up the tires to 80lbs and ride the bike on the road while still having the ability to hop off road when I need.
Handlebar was swapped mainly due to size. The 42cm FSA handlebar that comes stock on the bike measures 38cm center to center, causing shoulder pain and making the bike feel very twitchy.
When I swapped handlebars I installed Lizard Skin DSP 2.5 in Pink, but kept the stock stem.
Seat was immediate to a WTB Diva demo saddle, and the seatpost is a Ritchey WCS aluminum.
After swapping out these parts and installing Crank Brothers Candy SL (in pink) the bike currently sits at 22.1 lbs
Long Term Feelings of the Delta CX
Overall I am really enjoying the Delta. The disc brakes are encouraging when I hit some single track on the bike, and the mountain bike sized rear cassette has bailed me out on some steep mountain bike climbs. Now that I’ve swapped out all of the “touch points” I can say that the bike is handling and riding as I want. The last large upgrade will be the wheels, in hopes to bring the bike under the 20 lb mark for hauling over barriers this fall and winter during cyclocross races!
The Avid BB5 disc brakes do take some time to setup and be proper. Part of that is the long throw road calipers and disc brakes, part of that is the close tolerances I like to run on my disc brakes.
If you are in the market take the time and go check out the Airborne Delta CX before they sell out for cyclocross season. The bike might not fit your needs, but it will crack open that nut of the cyclocross market like no other mass producer will have the ability to do so.
Visit Airborne Bicycles, tell them I sent you.
FTC Disclaimer : I was not paid or bribed for this review. The Airborne Delta CX was loaned to me, Arleigh Jenkins, for free for the 2011 entire season. I was flown to Sea Otter for an all expense paid trip with Airborne Bicycles but hopefully you know from reading my reviews that the trip, nor the bike would change how I feel about the bike.