The first question to ask yourself when buying a cyclo-cross bike is: what will you be using it for?
Cyclo-cross isn’t all about racing. The versatility of a ‘cross bike – the extra tyre clearance, relaxed geometry, more powerful brakes and, increasingly, rack and mudguard mounts, all of which we’ll cover below – make it an ideal do-it-all machine for commuting, winter training and off-road riding.
Racing remains at the heart of the sport, however, so while many bikes are geared up for versatility, others remain focused on performance. Consider what’s right for you.
To give you an idea of the versatility offered by some cyclo-cross bikes, Canyon launched their first CX machine, the Inflite, at Eurobike in three build options based around the same frame. Two are specced with ‘cross in mind, and come with knobbly tyres as a result, while the third is built up as a winter training bike, with slick but wide 28mm Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tyres, mechanical disc brakes and full mudguards.
The Cannondale CAADX also has rack and mudguard mounts, and a relaxed geometry. “Race on Sunday, commute on Monday,” say Cannondale. A Shimano Ultegra-equipped model has arrived at RoadCyclingUK for review so we’ll put that claim to the test.
Trek, meanwhile, have two cyclo-cross frames: the Crockett is another machine on our test schedule and has been developed in conjunction with three-time World Championship silver medallist Katie Compton. It’s built to race as a result, while the CrossRip has a more relaxed geometry and rack/mudguard mounts (a recurring theme).
Generally speaking, more affordable machines are likely to be setup for versatility, and more expensive models for racing, though that’s not a hard and fast rule. The Specialized Crux E5 is based around a same aluminium, race-specific frame that impressed us when reviewed last year, but with Shimano Sora and Tektro cantilever brakes for £1,200.