It's muddy out, folks. Time to drag yourself down to the local park and whip yourself for an hour on your 'cross bike. CX racing is on the rise in the UK at the moment, and on top of that the crosser-as-utility-bike trend doesn't show any signs of abating. So bikes that are proper race bikes but also hackable for winter mounts should be popular. and the Ion CX Pro is one such bike.
Make no mistake: this is a real CX bike. It's got 72°/73° angles, it's packing a SRAM Rival groupset with a SRAM S300 46/38 chainset and it weighs in at 9kg on the nose, or 19.8lb in old money. It even comes with knobbly tyres. Well, knobbly tyres for dry hardpack, which you won't see much of on any UK cyclocross course we've ever seen. But you can soon swap 'em out for something a bit more aggressive.
The bike's built around a 200 series Alpha Aluminium frameset with Trek's E2 tapered head tube, and that's mated with a full Carbon fork. We were pleased to see proper cantis (Avid Shorty 6) for good mud clearance and also a fork-mounted hanger, which tends to cut down on judder under braking. The wide fork has masses of clearance and it's the same story at the back; the frame is built without a chainstay bridge to give you masses of room for muck.
But what about utility? The frame and fork don't appear to have mudguard or rack eyelets. But they do have rear-facing threaded holes, each filled with a grub screw; pull that out and you can fit one of Trek's vanishing mudguard mounts into the hole. The seat tube has a mount for the bottom of your rear guard and there's on on the seatstay bridge too, and the fork crown. So full mudguards are a possibility, and a rack too; there's standard rack mounts on the stays although we're guessing the load rating for the dropout eyelets isn't huge.
Finishing kit is all good stuff: Bontrager's Race Anatomic-C bars are slightly splayed at the drops for easier transitions one to the other and better leverage, and the Race wheelset is well built and tubeless-ready if you fancy having a go with the sealant; we can't help thinking that it would make a lot of sense for 'cross and manufacturers such as Schwalbe are starting to get on board with tyre options. The Ion CX Pro retails for £1,500; there's a little brother with a mostly Shimano 105 drivetrain and cheaper wheels and finishing kit for £1,250, but this bike looks the better deal if you're actually heading to the races.
The Ion CX Pro is booked in to get a proper thrashing; tester Liam will be racing the National Trophy Series on it, so we should know soon enough if it's up to the job...
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.