This article originally published on BikeRadar
Last year, veteran Belgian cyclo-cross racer Ben Berden crossed the pond for his first full season of racing in the United States. He's returned for the 2012/2013 season with the support of Raleigh Bicycles and Clement tires.
BikeRadar caught up with him in Fort Collins, Colorado, at the second stop on this year's US Gran Prix of Cyclocross. He finished third and fifth, respectively, in Saturday and Sunday's elite men's races, aboard his Raleigh RXC Pro Disc.
New brakes, old numbers
As a Raleigh-sponsored rider, Berden can opt to race the disc or cantilever version bike. He counts himself among the growing number of elite racers who are fully embracing disc brakes for cyclo-cross.
At a time when many North American cyclo-cross rigs are trending lower and, sometimes, slacker, Raleigh's cyclo-cross line bucks the trend, sticking to more traditional, old world geometry: a 72-degree head tube and high bottom bracket with a scant 55mm of drop.
This stock geometry appears to suit the Belgian, who rides a stock 55cm RXC Pro Disc frame.
Berden's setup is a mix of the Ultegra Di2 kit that comes standard on the RXC Pro Disc, along with some special finishing touches. Like the man himself, the bike has a lot of personality.
The most notable addition is the TRP Parabox hybrid hydraulic brake system. The version Berden runs is a blend of the production line and prototype pieces of a lighter, more refined model that, according to TRP, should be available to the public by January 2013. Dubbed Parabox R, the new system shaves grams by using titanium hardware and composite pistons. It also takes advantage of a shorter mounting collar to decrease its stack height.
Berden's RXC Pro Disc spins on custom-drilled, 24-hole White Industries hubs laced to pair of 50mm-deep FSA SL-K carbon tubular rims. He alternates between Clement's PDX and LAS tires, depending on course conditions.
"Ben really likes to run the PDX in the front and the LAS in the rear – he finds this to be a great combo," noted Jordan Schware, head mechanic for the Raleigh-Clement cyclo-cross team.
As for tire pressure, Berden keeps that to himself. "He's an old-school Belgian – he does it by feel. We start his bikes and his spare wheels at 30psi and he drops it from there," said Schware.
Berden is a fan of the simplicity, reliability and the mud-worthiness of a 1x10 drivetrain. His single-ring setup consists of a Dura-Ace crankset mated to a 42-tooth FSA chainring.
K-Edge handles chain retention, with an outer Cross Ring Guard and inner chain catcher in place of the front derailleur. An 11-28t Dura-Ace cassette gives the Belgian all the range he needs to keep up with his American competitors.
Note the lower stack height of this pre-production Parabox; it appears to be half as tall as the current version