Well this weekend I was able to go on a couple of rides. The photo above shows my friend Ted with his cross bike next to the 2008 Herse I rode. This is a great area in the foothills outside Boulder. The stone edifice is part of a gold processing facility that was used I believe briefly in the late 1800's. One can actually find old portions of the gold rail cars that used to run from the mine to the nearby train (I think I have this right). The town's name is Wall Street, and there is even a restored Assay office museum nearby as well.
This is the kind of ride with extensive dirt sections begs for a wide 700c or a 650b tire. My friend Ted used his cross bike, which performed very well. But with the knobby tires stiff Carbon fork and aluminum frame, it was not nearly as comfortable as the 700c Herse with the Challenge tires at low pressure. And on pavement with steep downhill turns, the cross bike was quickly dropped.
Compliance in a bike very important. Discussing this with another friend, a key point we came up with is that Carbon forks are great at dampining vibration, but they don't have much ability to flex over bigger hits. The reason is that the forks must be very stoutly built to avoid failure, while a steel fork can be built that will flex quite a bit without worry of failure. And of course, a resiliant steel frame really "moves with the bumps" instead of getting thrown by them.
I'm kinda surprised cross bikes evolved quite the way they did. Many folks in Boulder, who have not discovered the joy of 650b or wide 700c, are trying to use a stiff cross bike as an all purpose machine. In reality, a new or old steel machine with appropriate tires will give a much more comfortable ride.