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How to pick the right cyclocross bike

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

Vitus Energie Cyclo X — £1,000

Vitus Energie Apex - full bike.jpg

Vitus Energie Apex - full bike.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 — £1,500

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 — £1,249

2017_GIANT_TCX_SLR_2.jpg

2017_GIANT_TCX_SLR_2.jpg

We liked last year's Giant TCX SLR 1, and this is the 2017 equivalent. It gets a brake upgrade to Shimano 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

Norco Threshold C Rival 1 — £1,699

norco-threshold-c-rival-1-2017-cyclocross-bike-black-red-EV277844-8530-1.jpg

norco-threshold-c-rival-1-2017-cyclocross-bike-black-red-EV277844-8530-1.jpg

Norco's Threshold C is a strong offering if you're looking for a ready-to-race cyclo-cross bike with a bit of versatility. It's a capable off-roader and you can pretty much roll it out of the box and onto the start line. It doesn't quite have the poise of a fully-focused race bike but it's a good all-rounder, with the tyres and gearing range being the only provisos.

A 2018 model is almost certainly on its way, but if you're average-sized then the  2017 model here is a good deal in the available 50.5cm and 55.5cm sizes.

Read our review of the Norco Threshold C Rival 1
Find a Norco dealer

Pinnacle Arkose 2 — £1,000

pinnacle arkose 2 2017.jpg

pinnacle arkose 2 2017.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 500 — £1,100

Merida Cyclo Cross 500 2017.jpg

Merida Cyclo Cross 500 2017.jpg

Aside from a few small details, the 2017 version of this bike is the same as the 2015 version 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 500'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 £1,299

Canyon inflite Al.jpg

Canyon inflite Al.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 £1,250

specialized-crux-elite-x1-2017-cyclocross-bike-red-EV279841-3000-1.jpg

specialized-crux-elite-x1-2017-cyclocross-bike-red-EV279841-3000-1.jpg

Specialized's Crux is a popular choice among amateur cyclo-cross racers. The four bikes in the 2017 UK range all have disc brakes, and the £2,300 Elite X1 above has SRAM's hydraulics and 1 x 11 transmission.

The impressive spec includes DT R460 Disc SCS wheels with 33mm Terra Pro tyres. The range starts at £1,250, and you can buy the 2016 aluminium Crux E5 frame for £675, making it a fine option if you want to build one up yourself.

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

Raleigh RX Pro 1X — £1,350

RX1P52OR.jpg

RX1P52OR.jpg

Raleigh has an eight-bike cyclocross range, of which this is the cheapest with hydraulic brakes and SRAM's 1 x 11 transmission. It's an aluminium frame with butted tubing and a tapered head tube with a carbon fibre fork. They've gone with a 15mm bolt-thru front axle and a regular quick release rear axle.

As well as ideal for racing, this bike is versatile enough for the daily commute with rack and mudguard eyelets.

Find a Raleigh 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

Felt F4X — £2,199

2016_F4X_Gloss_Pistachio.jpg

2016_F4X_Gloss_Pistachio.jpg

The Felt F4X is the cheaper of Felt's two carbon fibre cross bikes with a high-modulus frame that helps keep the weight low, so it's a good choice for racing, with plenty of upgrade potential. It has internal cable routing and a tapered head tube.

Like many manufacturers here, Felt has gone for SRAM's 1 x 11 transmission, giving a decent range of gears without the complication of a front derailleur.

Niner RLT 9 — from £2,099

Niner RLT 9.jpg

Niner RLT 9.jpg

Niner call the RLT 9 (RLT stands for Road Less Traveled) a 29er, a monster cross machine, an all-road mountain bike, and a gravel grinder. It is built around an alloy frame with Niner's own carbon fork plugged in up front, and is, of course, built solely with disc brakes in mind.

The RLT 9 strays a bit from the conventional cyclocross mould and taps into the rising popularity of the gravel racing and adventure scene, so it's a good choice if you want a cyclocross bike not for racing as such, but you want the bigger tyres, disc brakes and geometry for long rides taking in both road and off road surfaces.

Read our review of the Niner RLT 9

Storck T.I.X. — from £2,999

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 — from £750

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 archive of cyclo-cross bike reviews here.

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.

7 comments

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Bob Wheeler CX [100 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

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

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Dicklexic [66 posts] 7 months 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

Avatar
jterrier [98 posts] 7 months 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 [310 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes
LarryDavidJr wrote:

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

Are BB5s really that bad?

Avatar
LarryDavidJr [347 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

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 [596 posts] 7 months 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.

 

Avatar
bob_c [23 posts] 6 months 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!