Whether you're new to the sport or have already taken a few laps in the mud, choosing the best cyclocross bike can be a dauting task. 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.
A long-standing favourite of amateur cross racers, the latest Jake the Snake boasts modern features like disc brakes and a single chainring, all hung on a tidy 6061 aluminium frame.
Cannondale was one of the first companies to put discs on their cyclocross bikes and teh CAADX 1 is bang up to date with Shimano GRX hydraulic discs and versatile with a 46/30 chainset and 11-36 cassette. If you want more racing-friendly gears it'd be straightforward to swap out the inner ring for a 36, or keep it for general playing-in-the-trails antics.
Cube's Cross Race Pro gives you Shimano hydraulic brakes, a proper cyclocross-friendly 46/36 chainset and UCI-legal 33mm-wide Schwalbe X-One Allround tyres. This is a a fast and nimble cyclocross bike ideally suited to beginner racers, and has had a few crucial upgrades since we tested the 2020 version: it now seems to come with tubeless-ready wheels and tyres.
Merida's Mission CX Force Edition is a top-quality cyclo-cross bike that's ready to race straight out of the box. It'll turn its hand to fast gravel riding and winter riding too, if you're looking for something more than just a dedicated race bike.
The Mission CX is designed as a cyclo-cross race bike and as such it's not going to mollycoddle you over rough ground: this is a bike for attacking stuff on. It's at its best when you're sprinting up a steep, loose gravel climb or you're finding a fast line through a swoopy bit of singletrack. It's a direct, responsive bike that goes where you point it.
Steering response is very good: the bike isn't twitchy, but neither does it have the relaxed feel of more gravel/distance-orientated bikes. With a head tube angle of 72 degrees and a seat tube angle of 74 degrees, that's not really surprising.
Ribble's CGR AL Shimano 105 is a hugely versatile and superb value bike for everything from gravel bashing to cyclocross and road commuting. The aluminium frame isn't overly compliant and the kit needs a few tweaks if you intend to mostly stick to dirt, but that's easy enough to custom spec it to your heart's content when you order.
The CGR bit of the name stands for Cyclocross, gravel and road, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about where this bike is pitched, namely as a do-it-all drop bar bike. The impressive thing is that it actually delivers on this promise, having taken in everything from gravel rides, road Audaxes and tow-path bashing commutes.
With race-orientated handling, a single chainring for simplicity and hydraulic brakes for control, the Boardman CXR 8.9 is a bargain entry to the world of drop-bar dirt bikes.
Chain Reaction house brand Vitus has a track record of making excellent cross bikes, so we're excited about their latest Energie models, which boast a revised geometry with longer top tube and shorter stem for better handling and, Vitus says, a new carebon layup that's lighter and stiffer than before.
It comes configured for racing with tubeless-ready 33mm tyres, but it's versatile: there's a seatstay bridge for mudguards in the package so you can configure it for winter road riding, and mud clearance you could fly a light aircraft through.
Canyon's DNA is pure racing, and the Inflite CF SLX frame is a clear statement of intent: a frame that builds into bikes fit for the toughest and most demanding cyclocross racers and budding amateurs alike. It's light – 940g for a frame – disc brake-only and 1x and 2x compatible, and features the most distinctive top tube we've ever seen.
The Inflite CF SLX might not be the prettiest cyclocross bike ever produced, but there's nowt ugly about its performance, which is nothing short of stellar. Over a couple of months, tester David Arthur rode it in loads of local races to really get its measure. The Canyon immediately impressed. It brings sheer speed and easy handling to the Sunday morning mud party, with a delightful nimbleness that makes it easy to steer the bike around often awkward and fiddly cyclocross courses.
The latest version of the Merida Cyclo Cross 100 has a lot in common with 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 platform serves up good off-road handling. 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 thru-axle stiffens up the front end noticeably, and tracking over rough ground is really good, with very little noticeable dive under heavy braking.
Specialized's Crux is a popular choice among amateur cyclocross racers. All the bikes in the current UK range have 1X transmissions, and the £4,000 Crux Comp above has SRAM's hydraulics and 1 x 11 transmission.
The spec includes DT Swiss R470 rims on Specialized's own hubs with 33mm Tracer Pro tyres. The 2021 range starts at £2,750 for the cheapest Crux. Specialized no longer lists an aluminium-framed Crux, perhaps reasoning that riders who want a cheaper cyclocross bike will go for the versatility of the Diverge E5 family instead.
The Kinesis CX Race frame builds up into your typical racing cyclocross bike. For many a Kinesis was probably their first cyclocross bike, bought as a frame and cobbled together from spare parts. The CX Race is the successor to Kinesis' perennially popular Crosslight Pro6 and now gets a Columbus Futura Cross fork to lead out its Super Plastic Formed Scandium alloy frame.
This is the bike of three-time cyclocross world champion Wout Van Aert, and takes its name from the Belgian province where he triumphed in 2016. The full carbon frame is disc brake-only, and can be set up for 1x or 2x drivetrains. It can take up to 40mm tyres if you want thicker rubber for when you're not racing, and the geometry is classic CX with a raised bottom bracket and plenty of reach. A neat addition requested by Van Aert himself is the positioning of the seat tube bottle cage bolts lower down, for greater comfort when shouldering the bike.
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David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.