I took the Cross Check out for a few miles this evening, quickly zipping through the neighborhood to my favorite look-out spot. The conditions were not unlike those of many other short jaunts, but the ride was far more fun and enjoyable. Why?
1. Responsiveness. It's easier to start and stop with the upright position, the long-pull mtb levers give more stopping power to my cantis than the Tiagra aero levers, and the down tube shifters eliminated two loops of cable housing that were keeping my front wheel virtually locked straight making the bike feel more nimble.
2. Stability. Riding with no hands is much more stable. Up hill, down hill, slow, or fast, the bike tracks much better. This may be related to the lack of derailleur cable housing in the front, or that the weight of the bars has shifted towards the rear of the stearer tube. Either way, I like it. On a few hills, I easily stood out of the saddle and rocked the bars back and forth, which took me back to my BMX days. I wrapped part of the bend of the bar so that I could lean forward on climbs and stay in the saddle, a trick that works wonders with my Albatross bar on my Xtracycle.
3. Visibility. I am now constantly looking up and rarely looking down. The grip area is slightly below level, but the bar could stand to be tilted down a bit more to increase hand comfort.
Down tube shifting isn't as awkward as I had anticipated, though I did find that I track better when I use my right hand to shift both the left and right levers. (I'm left hand dominant.) It's not built for top speed, but will be a great bike for errands and day rides where the added cargo capacity of the Xtracycle is unwarranted. I've left the clipless pedals on for now so I still look somewhat legit to The Pros. (You know who you are...)
Next test: Trailering.