One of the stars of the first month of the 2019/20 cyclocross season was Oregon's Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX).
The outgoing U23 National Champion and top-10 finisher at U23 Worlds kicked off her days as an Elite—by age, at least—with a third-place finish at the Jingle Cross World Cup and two seconds at the Rochester Cyclocross weekend.
Not a bad way to kick off the cyclocross school year in a month where she has also returned to for real school as a student at Oregon State in Corvallis.
This season marks Honsinger's fifth with Team S&M CX and third with the traveling professional team. Team S&M CX, the shop team of Portland's Sellwood Cycle Repair, has sponsored Honsinger, Beth Ann Orton and Sophie Russenberger as they race the national cyclocross calendar with the help of manager and mechanic Brenna Wrye-Simpson and owner Erik Tonkin behind the scenes.
As a small team running out of a bike shop, Team S&M CX has an ethos of getting the most out of its equipment. The Kona Major Jake frameset Honsinger is riding this season is the same one we profiled when she won U23 Nationals in Louisville, and it has proven to be a powerful workhorse for her over the past two-plus years.
Today's bike profile looks at Honsinger's 2019/20 Kona Major Jake and what's new and returning during her September to Remember at Rochester, Jingle Cross and Waterloo.
Clara Honsinger's 2019/20 Kona Major Jake
Last season when we profiled Honsinger's Kona Major Jake, she revealed herself to be a big fan of bike profiles such as the one we did of her bike.
"I won’t lie, I love bike profiles," she wrote. "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."
That attention to detail from Honsinger is not surprising after watching her race the past month. After watching a few laps of the Elite Men's Jingle Cross World Cup, Honsinger changed her line through the sand pit on the fly and picked up several key spots early in the race.
Honsinger's Kona Major Jake is from the 2018 model year, and this is her third year riding the frameset. How did we know it was from 2018? Turquoise, obviously.
While Katerina Nash won the Waterloo World Cup on an Orbea Terra that is more or less a gravel bike, the Kona Major Jake is a cyclocross bike that can also pull gravel double-duty. The slack 70-degree head tube angle, long wheelbase and wide tire clearance on Honsinger's 50cm frame make it an option for those wider-tire adventures.
"Of course! It's pretty rad," Honsinger said when asked if she uses her Major Jake for some gravel grinding. "I put 40mm tires on it during the summer and rip it around the mountain bike trails and logging roads in Oregon. It also has eyelets for full-wrap fenders, so it becomes my rain bike after ’cross is over."
Honsinger mentioned the stickers and logos that help give bikes their character, and hers features stickers for team sponsors Clif, Wolf Tooth and Stages as well as the Team's Orange and Blue logo shaped like its home state.
There is also her nickname "Lil' Clara" on the top tube, although some folks around the Team S&M CX program have reportedly now taken to calling her "Super C" as well.
The biggest change to Honsinger's bike this year is in the drivetrain.
The B bike she finished Louisville Nationals on had a mix of mechanical components and an older series crankset, but her 2018/19 A bike had an Ultegra R8000 crank with an Ultegra R8000 front derailleur and RX800 clutch rear mech.
This season, Honsinger has gone electric, with an Ultegra R8050 Di2 front derailleur and Ultegra RX805 rear derailleur. She runs an 11-32t cassette in the back.
"It's great to have the speed and precision of electronic shifting," Honsinger said about the switch. "There was a little bit of a learning period at first and I've since put grip tape on the smaller paddles for better feel with long-finger gloves. One of the greatest advantages is not having to worry about contamination and friction in the housing."
Her 170mm Ultegra crankset returns with 42/34t WickWerks Cyclocross chain rings attached. "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 her gear choice.
Honsinger said the team considered going to the new GRX family of components before opting for the Ultegra RX route. "We were looking into it, but there is not a solid cyclocross double chain ring option and we were nervous about not getting parts in time for the season," she said.
Honsinger is big on tracking her numbers, so she mounted Stages non-drive-side power meters to each of her bikes. She uses a Stages Dash bike computer during cyclocross races.
Another new touch for this year was a more subtle one. To help tell the team's riders' bikes apart, Wrye-Simpson color-coded the Wolf Tooth headsets and seat clamps. Honsinger got the team's matchy-matchy orange as her color.
"I prefer to think of it as more of 'mango' or perhaps 'persimmon' color," she said with a smile.
Honsinger again rolls on HiFi EP 38mm carbon tubulars. HiFi is a Portland-based company, so the choice reflects the team's commitment to its Pacific Northwest roots.
After choosing Challenge tires for several years, Team S&M CX picked up the company as a tire sponsor for 2019. At Rochester, Honsinger ran Team Edition Grifo tubulars at 20 psi front and 21 psi at Rochester, and then she ran Team Edition Limus tires at World Cup Waterloo at 13 psi front and 14 psi rear.
Another special touch to Honsinger's bike is the 90mm Kona stem gifted to her by Tonkin from his own UCI racing days. This is, however, probably the first time the stem has carried a Di2 junction box since electronic shifting was still a distant dream in Tonkin's cyclocross heyday.
Honsinger runs a 42cm alloy Kona Race Light handlebar wrapped in HiFi Premium Precision Bar Tape. 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 saddle is a 143mm Pro Turnix model held by a Thomson Elite seatpost, and she is running Shimano Deore XT M8000 SPD pedals this season.
During Sunday's C2 race in Rochester, Honsinger had the honor of mounting one of CXHairs' GoPros to gather footage for the next episode of Cyclocross Television. GoPro placement became a bit of a thing among riders that weekend. After all, if you get the front cam like Honsinger, it suggests you will be gathering footage while trailing as opposed to a rear cam that scopes out the riders you are dropping.
Honsinger seemed okay with the front cam placement since the only rider who passed her during her second-place finish was a streaking Rochette.
"Well, Bill put it on facing forward instead of backwards, so I suspected he thought the real action would be ahead of me," she again said with a sly smile.
After her whirlwind September, Honsinger is now back buried in her books in Corvallis before she gets set to head to Arkansas for FayetteCross next weekend.
For a closer look at her Kona Major Jake, see the photo gallery and specs below. For more bike profiles from the young cyclocross season, see our growing collection.