Within moments of lining up for a local 'cross race, a voice in the bunch called over; “New bike?" Looking at Trek’s latest XO 2 with its deep Chi Red paintwork and complimentary white, there's an almost retro feel to the colour scheme reminiscent of a classic American red mustang with white wall tyres. [It needs a white seat post - ed.]
Retro looking or not, as soon as the flag dropped and the scramble for the first corner was over it was going to be my performance not the bike’s that would be an issue. At approximately 18lbs including pedals the Trek is light. A mixture of carbon forks and components married to an Alpha Black Aluminum [sic frame make this bike ride and react like it was made for criteriums.
The geometry is definitely designed for 'cross racing but it feels uncompromising and very rigid. This characteristic is best highlighted when charging across rippled or rutted ground. Coupled with those striking looking wheels there’s no middle ground, if you can push hard the bike really does carve through bends like it's on rails. You can aim it straight through the muck without upset or deflection. The bike rewards the brave.
The only downside is that the ground shock is transferred through the bike to you. If you’re fit and strong the Trek will take whatever you’ve got, otherwise the lack of absorption can leave its mark, as I found out. This is a serious bike for the committed rider.
The XO 2 retails for around £1,600, certainly not cheap but unlike many 'cross bikes it really is ready to race. The gearing is perfect with 46/38 rings on the Bontrager Race Lite cranks, there are workmanlike Avid Shorty 4 cantilever brakes, you get a Bontrager Race X Lite wheelset combined with 34mm Bontager Jones CXR tyres and of course there's the waif-like all-up weight.
The one major change from last year’s bike is the switch to SRAM Rival gears. Personally I love the concealed cable ‘Campag’ look and the fact that both up and down changes are facilitated by a single lever. But do you want another gear system if you are already committed to Shimano or Campag? [SRAM and Shimano's 10 speed cassette spacing is the same - ed.]
Because the bike uses SRAM the cable to the downtube looked a bit awkward but could easily be sorted by re-routing around the head tube. White may not be the best choice of colour for long term use in areas like the bars or saddle but it’s details like these that get you noticed.