As one of U.S. cyclocross' brightest young stars, Oregon's Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX)—or Lil' Clara, as her team calls her—certainly knows her way around a cyclocross course. Honsinger's latest accomplishment was an impressive win in the U23 Women's race at Louisville Nationals last month.
Honsinger also knows her way around a cyclocross bike.
"I won’t lie, I love bike profiles," Honsinger wrote in a profile she prepared of her 2018/19 cyclocross bike. "There is so much about a rider reflected in their bicycle. First, there are the standard measurements ... Then, there are the smaller nuances that give away philosophy and psychology of a rider. These are the factors that determine the “feel” of a bike ... Finally, there are the special features of a bike: the personal components, the hidden decals and images and the chips and scratches. These sentimental additions tell where the bike has been and what it strives to do."
Honsinger's current path as a professional cyclocross racer has taken her on a path less traveled for U.S. cyclocrossers. After winning Collegiate Nationals for the University of Portland in 2016, Honsinger decided to put her college education on hold to work at the Sellwood Cycles bike shop that sponsors her team and focus on her burgeoning cyclocross career.
The move has paid off, with Honsinger continuing to improve with every race she enters. Working in the shop has also helped her hone her appreciation for the finer points of bikes and their builds.
We took a closer look at Honsinger's Kona Major Jake after her win in Louisville, and in a bit of a twist, Honsinger helped chip in her knowledge for this bike profile. Also read on for a helpful pro trick from team director Erik Tonkin's time racing in Europe.
Clara Honsinger's Louisville Nationals Kona Major Jake
Team S&M CX is a professional women's cyclocross team sponsored by Portland's Sellwood Cycles. Honsinger's teammates include Sophie Russenberger—who finished third at U23 Nationals—and Beth Ann Orton. Brenna Wrye-Simpson is the team manager and mechanic on race day, and Erik Tonkin owns and directs the team.
This season, the team's riders raced on the carbon Kona Major Jake frame from the 2018 model year. How can you tell it's from last year? Simply put, turquoise.
Team S&M CX has chosen the Major Jake versus the Super Jake Kerry Werner and Rebecca Fahringer of the Kona Maxxis Shimano team rode this season.
The front end of the Major Jake has a slack geometry, with a 70-degree head tube angle on Honsinger's 50cm frame that is not that dissimilar from the Cannondale SuperX ridden to an Elite win by Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld). As we noted in our review of the Major Jake, if Honsinger wants to add gravel to her offseason training, her cyclocross bike may be a good option thanks to its tire clearance, long wheelbase and slack front.
The bike Honsinger finished on was her B bike, similar to Katie Compton and Katie Clouse. Similar to some other programs, Team S&M CX tries to get multiple years our of components, especially with riders' second bikes.
Honsinger's drivetrain includes a mix of series and a little old, a little new. Most athletes who ride Shimano components run Di2 mechanical shifting, but Honsinger and her teammates run mechanical components.
Honsinger's crankset was an older-generation Shimano Ultegra R6700 five-arm model with 42/34t WickWerks Cyclocross chain rings. Her front derailleur is a 105 FD-R7000. "With this smaller gear ratio, I am able to stay in my big ring longer and can utilize the compact small ring to spin up the steeper pitches," Honsinger wrote about the choice.
Honsinger said that she is a proponent of using a power meter and rides with one for all races and training rides. She has a Stages non-drive-side power meter on both of her cyclocross bikes. She typically uses a Stages Dash bike computer, and in Louisville she had it on one of her two bikes.
New for this year was a Shimano Ultegra RX800 clutch-based mechanical derailleur paired with an 11-32t Ultegra cassette. "Even with the clutch, the front shifting feels as effortless as with a regular derailleur and the chain stays tight through all the bumps and bobbles of ’cross," Honsinger wrote. The team also switched to new derailleur hangers from Wheels Manufacturing this season, according to Honsinger.
More on Honsinger's shifting in a bit.
For shift/brake control, Honsinger used Ultegra R8020 dual control levers paired with Ultegra BR-R8070 hydraulic disc calipers that grip on 140mm SM RT-99 IceTech Freeza Centerlock rotors.
Honsinger runs a 42cm alloy Kona Race Light handlebar. The size choice is one of those nuances that Honsinger loves so much about bike profiles. "I find that they are wide enough to allow me to handle the bike over drops and through turns, but not so wide that I feel like I’m riding a mountain bike on the straights."
Her stem is a 90mm Kona Major Jake model provided by Team S&M CX Team Director Erik Tonkin from his racing days.
Honsinger's saddle is another personal choice. She runs a 143mm Pro Turnix model held by a Thomson Elite alloy seatpost. "I like to run a longer saddle so that I can shift my weight forward or back when handling ’cross terrain."
Team S&M CX kept it local with its wheelsets, running EP 38mm carbon tubulars from Portland-based HiFi. The team runs non-team-edition Challenge tubulars, and Honsinger had Limus mud treads mounted front and rear to tackle the Joe Creason mud. She ran them both at 14psi.
A Neat Trick to Keep Things (Relatively) Clean
Team Director Erik Tonkin was a longtime cyclocross pro—he still jumps in several local Oregon races every year—who made it over to race in Europe several times. During his racing days, the future shop owner learned a trick or two about taking care of his bikes in the tough European conditions.
At Louisville Nationals, Tonkin had his team make a change to Honsinger's drivetrain on the fly.
"After Lap 1, I phoned the pit and just instructed [team mechanic] Brenna to lock out the 32 cog," Tonkin said after the race. "We limited it out. She’s got a 34 [chain ring] on the inside. Just to keep the derailleur safely away from the spokes."
He continued, "If you had a slight bend in the hanger, I heard when they re-routed the course they were picking up some of the dry stuff, I didn’t like that, so we just took the 32 off the table. And we didn’t even tell the riders."
The trick was one he learned in Europe. "Oh yeah, for sure," Tonkin said when asked if he learned it in Belgium. "I’d limit out the big cog. Just trying to keep the derailleur away from the spokes.” It’s a trick he came up with himself to limit the risk of damaging the hanger, derailleur or wheel while racing in Europe without a lot of spare parts or support.
With the thick, peanut butter mud at Joe Creason Park, the savvy trick helped both Honsinger and Russenberger finish their races with no major issues and grab two of the three podium spots for the team. Next up for Honsinger is the World Championships in Bogense, where she will be representing Team USA in the U23 Women's race.
For more on Honsinger's Kona Major Jake, see the photo gallery and specs below.
For more bike profiles, see our growing archive of Nationals bike profiles.