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How to pick the right cyclocross bike

[This article was last updated on December 1, 2017]

What cyclocross bike should I buy? That's a very good question - one I hear a lot - and there's plenty of choice, from race-ready options to bikes that come with rack and mudguard mounts for a bit more versatility.

The cyclocross bikes on this page offer just a selection of the available choice. We've tried to pick bikes that will cater for all tastes, from those specifically looking to buy a bike with a view to getting into racing, to those that are interested in the versatility and ruggedness for a winter training and commuting bike. And, no, we didn't mean to pick all disc-equipped bikes, that's just the way cyclocross bikes have developed.

There are now very few cyclocross bikes with rim brakes. With a handful of exceptions, discs have taken over, a development many die-hard cross enthusiasts said would never happen when the UCI changed its rules to allow them in elite races in 2010. Only a tiny number of top racers are still using cantilevers, and the vast majority of off-the-peg cyclocross bikes have discs.

>>Read more: Beginner's Guide to cyclocross essentials

Boardman CXR 9.4 — £2,300

Boardman CXR 9.4.jpg

Boardman CXR 9.4.jpg

The whole gravel/adventure thing may have softened some bikes a touch to make them more versatile but Boardman's CXR 9.4 is having none of it.

'Ready to race straight out of the box,' it says on Boardman's website and while I'd say it could do with a couple of minor tweaks the CXR 9.4 is one flickable, lightweight off-road rocket which is an absolute blast on the technical stuff.

Read our review of the Boardman CXR 9.4

Vitus Energie Cyclo X — £950

2018 Vitus Energie X.jpg

2018 Vitus Energie X.jpg

Vitus has nailed this one. The Energie VR is an excellent tool for thrashing round in the mud for an hour on a Sunday, and it's versatile enough for more general riding. The drivetrain is excellent, it's tubeless-ready out of the box and it looks great. For the money, it's hard to fault.

Read our review of the Vitus Energie 

The Light Blue Robinson Rival 1x — £1,700

The Light Blue Robinson 1x - riding 1.jpg

The Light Blue Robinson 1x - riding 1.jpg

The Robinson, from British company The Light Blue, offers a really smooth ride, with steady handling and tyres that provide a good balance of fast road riding pace and off-road grip. In this SRAM Rival 1x build with cyclo-cross tyres it's an ideal all-terrain bike, at home on the road or tackling more challenging countryside terrain, or for just tackling rough roads in comfort. 

Read our review of the Light Blue Robinson
Find a Light Blue dealer

Giant TCX SLR 2 — £1,399

2018 Giant TCX SLR 2.jpg

2018 Giant TCX SLR 2.jpg

We liked 2016s Giant TCX SLR 1, and this is the 2018 equivalent. It gets a brake upgrade to Giant's hydraulics, but retains the fast and nimble aluminium frame as the 2016 bike. 

Read our review of the 2016  Giant TCX SLR 1
Find a Giant dealer

Pinnacle Arkose 2 — £1,025

2018 pinnacle arkose 2.jpg

2018 pinnacle arkose 2.jpg

The Pinnacle range of cyclocross-inspired bikes offers some great choices. Evans Cycles presents them as 'Adventure bikes' now but in truth they're a good choice for those wanting a cyclocross bike for hacking around the woods having a bit of fun on, taking part in any number of the new cyclocross sportives, riding to work and, of course, there's no reason why you couldn't race one.

Read our review of the Pinnacle Arkose 2
Find a Pinnacle dealer

Merida Cyclo Cross 400 — £1,150

2018 Merida Cyclocross 400.jpg

2018 Merida Cyclocross 400.jpg

Aside from a few small details, the 2018 version of the Merida Cyclo Cross 400 is the same as the 2015 Merida Cyclo Cross 500, which we really liked when we reviewed it. It's a very good all-rounder. It's light and responsive enough to chuck round a race, and versatile enough for more general purpose riding. It's fun to ride and easy to recommend

The Merida Cyclo Cross 400's off-road handling is good. The bike has a generous wheelbase and the steering is predictable, if a bit slower than a fully-fledged race bike. The fork is excellent: the 15mm thru-axle stiffens up the front end noticeably, and tracking over rough ground is really good, with very little noticeable dive under heavy braking.

Read our review of the Merida Cyclo Cross 500

Canyon Inflite AL — from £1,349

2018 Canyon Inflite AL 9.0.jpg

2018 Canyon Inflite AL 9.0.jpg

The first cyclo-cross bike from German company Canyon impressed hugely when we reviewed it, with great handling and a very good parts package for the money. It boasts the sort of versatility that will ensure it appeals to those wanting a bike for more than just racing, but has all the credentials for taking to the start line.

Read our review of the Canyon Inflite AL 8.0

Specialized Crux — from £1,300

2018 Specialized Crux Expert X1.jpeg

2018 Specialized Crux Expert X1.jpeg

Specialized's Crux is a popular choice among amateur cyclo-cross racers. The four bikes in the 2018 UK range all have disc brakes, and the £3,900 Expert X1 above has SRAM's hydraulics and 1 x 11 transmission.

The impressive spec includes Roval SLX 24 wheels with 33mm Terra Pro tyres. The range starts at £1,300 for the Crux E5, though there are still 2017 models around for £1,062.50.

Read our review of the Specialized Crux Elite X1
Find a Specialized dealer

Kinesis Crosslight Pro6 V2 — £622 (frame)

Kinesis Racelight Pro6.jpg

Kinesis Racelight Pro6.jpg

This is your typical racing cyclocross bike. The Pro 6 is a perennial favourite with cyclocross racers and for many a Kinesis was probably their first cyclocross bike, bought as a frame and cobbled together from spare parts. You can buy the frame or this complete bike with a Shimano 105 groupset and TRP Spyre disc brakes, a combination that will usually run about £1400.

Read our first ride impressions on the Pro Crosslight Pro6
Read our review of the Kinesis Crosslight Pro6
Find a Kinesis dealer

On-One Pickenflick — £1,699.99

On One Pickenflick

On One Pickenflick

The On-One Pickenflick is a complete cyclo-cross bike with a titanium frame for a price only  bit more than you'd usually pay for a titanium frame. Its handling and adaptability makes it at home on road, cyclo-cross circuit or trail.

Read our review of the On-One Pickenflick

Storck T.I.X. — from £2,559

Storck TIX

Storck TIX

One of the newest carbon fibre cyclo-cross bikes on the market, this is actually the first 'cross bike from German company Storck. The company are advocates of disc brakes and the T.I.X. has been designed around disc brakes. The model we tested came with Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes providing excellent stopping power.

Read our first ride of the Storck T.I.X.

Ridley X-Bow — from £699

Ridley X-Bow Disc Tiagra 2017

Ridley X-Bow Disc Tiagra 2017

Hailing from Belgium, Ridley has one of the biggest ranges of cyclocross bikes,which is hardly surprising given that it's Belgian cycling's winter religion. The X-Bow Disc Tiagra's aluminium frame is hung with Shimano Tiagra components with a proper cyclocross-style 46/36 double chainset. The rubber that hits the (dirt) road is from Challenge and it sits on Ridley's own 4ZA wheels with Shimano hubs.

Find a Ridley dealer

Want more cyclocross bike options? See the full road.cc archive of cyclo-cross bike reviews. 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

13 comments

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Bob Wheeler CX [104 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

ie, like most bikes nowadays, can you afford to spend over or under a grand sterling?

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Dicklexic [73 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Anyone reading this article with a view to buying a CX bike should really also consider the Boardman CX Team. Currently available for £900 (£1000 rrp) from Halfords, and if you're a BC member you get a further 10% off. I was fortunate to get mine a couple of months ago when they were on sale at £800. With discount it was the bargain of the century at £720.

Even at full price it is very well spec'd for the money. A decent alloy frame, full carbon fork, SRAM Rival 1x with hydraulic brakes, plus the versatility of mudguard/rack mounts. Arguably better value than any of the bikes above.

I have used some better wheels for races this season, with an 11-32 cassette instead of the standard fit 10-42, and swapped the front ring to a 40t, but for general use on/off road and commuting, the standard wheels/cassette are perfectly adequate, and I'm rather enjoying the simplicity of 1x transmission, whilst the range offered by the 10-42 is more than enough for most conditions I'm likely to encounter.

The only negatives really are the rather heavy wheels, and the frame top tube is not the best shape for shouldering the bike during races. You could also list the fact that you have to buy it from Halfords as a negative. Personally I had mine delivered in the box so that I could be certain it was assembled properly!

http://www.halfords.com/cycling/bikes/road-bikes/boardman-cx-team-bike

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jterrier [141 posts] 1 year ago
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I bought a cx team and am just about to do exactly that -lighter wheels without the xd driver and a narrower cassette plus smaller chainring. Would love to hear exactly what bits you bought and how it has improved.

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ClubSmed [493 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
LarryDavidJr wrote:

I've got the previous CX team model (cable Avid BB 5's (crap)

Are BB5s really that bad?

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LarryDavidJr [378 posts] 1 year ago
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I've got the previous CX team model (cable Avid BB 5's (crap), compact double, nowhere near as good as the current version ) but only paid £400 for a month old one.  A set of much lighter 29'er wheels from ebay for a tenner (!) and a pair of tubeless hutchinsons and it's massively improved.

Just this week binned the double chainrings and all the accroutrements off (net saving 265g and nowhere for all the mud to accumulate) and replaced it with a raceface narrowwide 40T.  Only used it for the commute so far (which involves some short trails and a fairly hard hill) but it seems to offer plenty of range with the bundled 11-32.

EDIT: However I should probably note that the build quality of some parts of the bike generally is pretty poor.  I had to buy a tool to re-tap to the guard mount points at the rear.  The fit between head tube and fork is poor (having the headset tight enough to have no play makes the turning of the handlebars stiff).  And though I haven't measured it yet, I'm pretty sure the PF30 bottom bracket is out of tolerance on at least one side.  Regular liberal dousings with GT85 around the BB are needed to flush crap out of one side to stop it creaking.  The other side goes the other way as once the bearings are in they are "squashed" too much and don't move as freely as they should.

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Jack Osbourne snr [680 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

BB5's are crap.

To be absolutely fair, they will stop you and will do so well. That however, is it.

They will rub and squeak no matter how much time you spend pissing about with pad clearances or truing rotors. The hand screw covers on the adjusters will snap meaning you are forced to carry a long allen key to adjust on the road.

I lobbed mine in the bin after 6 months of torture. Been running TRP Spyres for the last two years and I have had zero issues.

 

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bob_c [41 posts] 1 year ago
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I persisted with BB5s for a long time on my Whyte Charing Cross. Used for commuting, the brakes would be fine if the pads were new and you had just set them up. After a few days they would get loud, then need weekly adjustment to stop them becoming dangerously bad. The single sided design means that the stationary pad adjuster seizes easily and gets very difficult to adjust.

I have swapped them for Acor hydro-mechanicals at £110 per pair. They are identical to Juintech r1 and a similar idea to TRP Hy/Rd (but lighter and cheaper). They were incredibly easy to set up due to the dual caliper design and are powerful, reliable, quiet and have good modulation.

I'd recommend them to anyone looking to upgrade from stock cable disc brakes, especially since they are cheaper than Spyres!

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ianguignet [29 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

cinelli zydeco.

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LarryDavidJr [378 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

<cool-story-bro-alert>

Not to necro-post too much but as the article has been 'refreshed' ....

The p.o.s. Boardman frame bit the dust last week, splitting at the top/seat tube junction (my seat is wobbly, loose seat? no.  Loose post? No.  what is it then? oh.) and I have since moved everything over to a new Planet-X XLA frameset.  Rides much, much nicer, and now doesn't seem like 'putting lipstick and a wig on a pig' if I spend on upgrading the brakes....

Lot's of people I know love their Boardmans but ..... I'm afraid they are tarnished for me now.  A year and a half out of a frame is piss poor.

 

</cool-story-bro-alert>

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wellsprop [513 posts] 3 months ago
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The Boardman CX Team does seem like a really good call for some muddy winter fun. So many really reduced on ebay!

I had BB5's on my road bike, good power and decent modulation. Very squealy and rubbed a lot no matter what.

Switched to TRP Spyres, just about the same power, better modulation, very easy setup and no rub at all.

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Bike7707 [2 posts] 3 months ago
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Not on this list, but just picked up a Whyte Gisburn 2017 for £1500 (RRP £2k) I guess is not a typical Cross or Gravel bike and somehwere inbetween, kind of why i chose it. Looking forward to the simplicity of Sram Force 1x11 and a dropper post on occasion!

Not enjoyed BB5 myself in the past which pushed be toward hydrolic this time.

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Dicklexic [73 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

So this article has apparently been recycled in time for the impending CX season. A year on from purchase and I'm still pretty happy with my Boardman. It finished off the winter as my commute bike and was used for a few gravelly rides, but has not seen much use for the past 4 months or so, save a couple of rides towing the youngest in a trailer. The CX season starts for me this Sunday so tonight I plan to strip off the mudguards and swap the wheels ready for racing again.

jterrier wrote:

I bought a cx team and am just about to do exactly that -lighter wheels without the xd driver and a narrower cassette plus smaller chainring. Would love to hear exactly what bits you bought and how it has improved.

Apologies jterrier, I didn't notice your reply until today. The wheels were swapped for some Hunt 4 Season Disc wheels which have been doing double duty on my road bike for the last two and a half years as well, and were fitted with WTB Cross Boss TCS tyres, set up tubeless. Tyres were great and coped pretty well with all the conditions they faced, although they may struggle with really muddy conditions. Chose these over the Schwalbe equivalent as they are 35mm not 33mm (more comfort), were actually available and were quite a bit cheaper. They'll be going back on tonight ready for this Sunday. The tyres combined with the wheels have a huge impact upon ride quality and saved a good chunk of weight too. Where there was a dull and heavy feel before, the bike feels much more responsive and racy. The only other change was to swap the chainring for a smaller SuperStar Components I/O chainring to shorten the gearing slightly.

I'd like to add a carbon seatpost to improve comfort a little bit more at some point. 

I've got just the one issue at the moment, and that is the shoddy bottom bracket. Creaked a LOT almost from new, and has been on my list of 'things to do' for ages. I think the bearings themselves are okay but like many pressfit BBs it's the bearing race moving very slightly in the shell causing the noise. Very annoying. I really must sort it soon.

LarryDavidJr, I'm glad to report I've not had any serious issues like you (yet) but can't help thinking that the frame is definitely built down to a price. I'm no brand snob but would love to at some point in the future rebuild the parts onto a more premium frame. This one certainly couldn't be described as being well refined!

Avatar
LarryDavidJr [378 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
Dicklexic wrote:

LarryDavidJr, I'm glad to report I've not had any serious issues like you (yet) but can't help thinking that the frame is definitely built down to a price. I'm no brand snob but would love to at some point in the future rebuild the parts onto a more premium frame. This one certainly couldn't be described as being well refined!

Well mine was the older 2014/15 model don't forget.  The newer ones look like much better value for money generally.

If bottom bracket creak is getting you (it did on mine) just give up on the pressfit and get an SRAM threaded conversion adapter.  I did this and it was the end of creaky problems. (you will need another crankset for that though obviously, I got a used one on ebay for about a tenner)

http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/sram-pressfit-30-to-bsa-adaptor-kit/r...

There are better bottom brackets to convert to threaded from the likes of Praxis etc. but on the old evrsion (the one I had) the bottom braket shell was narrower in the middle and so the adapters that 'screw together' in the frame could not be used.