BUYER'S GUIDE

14 of the best cyclocross bikes — drop-bar dirt bikes for racing and playing in the mud

How to pick the right cyclocross bike

What cyclocross bike should I buy? That's a very good question - one we 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.

For a while it looked like cyclocross bikes would be the last redoubt of cantilever brakes, with their sticky-out arms and straddle cables, but there are now almost no cyclocross bikes with rim brakes. 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.

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

Ribble CGR AL Shimano 105 — £1,399

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.

Read our review of the Ribble CGR AL Shimano 105

Boardman CXR 8.9 — £1,000

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. 

Find a Boardman dealer

Vitus Energie CRX 2020 — £2,299.99

The Vitus Energie CRX cyclocross bike is an absolute blast to ride thanks to sharp, fun handling along the trails or around tight, technical muddy circuits. It's great for a day out on the gravel, and you can chuck mudguards on it too if you fancy a high-speed, year-round commuter.

If you want to ride fast off-road without the benefits of suspension then this Vitus is one of the best bikes to have a play on. The racy geometry and low-slung position mean you can really get down and drop that centre of gravity to benefit the handling when the terrain is tough, and the way it responds to the slightest shift in body weight is very impressive.

Read our review of the Vitus Energie CRX

Genesis Vapour 30 — £2,599.99

The Genesis Vapour 30 offers a fun ride that feels at home in a race and on a trail. The build isn't that flashy, but the package works well and continues to do so in the worst conditions. You'll be wanting a wheel upgrade for more serious racing, though.

Get the Vapour 30 into technical conditions and it's a joy to ride. The planted feel of the bike combined with a front end that is direct means that muddy corners are easy to navigate. On corners where I'd usually lose the front end, I was able to get around easily on the Genesis. That means less running which is great because firstly, I hate running, and secondly, riding is nearly always faster.

The handling really helps you to keep speed through corners, and getting back up to speed again much easier. This doesn't just help in races. Take this out onto the trails or the road and the bike transfers that same cornering confidence across surfaces. Compared with my road race bike, it doesn't feel sluggish on the tarmac; it feels light underneath you but floats better over rough surfaces thanks, mostly, to the fatter tyres.

Read our review of the Genesis Vapour 30
Find a Genesis dealer

Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Team 2020 — £4,099

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.

Read our review of the Canyon Inflite CF SLX 8.0 Pro Race, which shares the same frame

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

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 cyclocross 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 2020 — £1,399

We liked 2016's Giant TCX SLR 1, and this is the 2020 equivalent. It gets a brake upgrade to Giant's hydraulics, but retains the fast and nimble aluminium frame as the 2016 bike. Wheel and tyres and both tubeless-compatible and with Giant's D-Fuse composite seatpost helps take the sting out of bumps.

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

Merida Cyclo Cross 100 — £750

The 2019 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 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 SLX 5.0 Race — £1,499

The first cyclocross 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 SLX 6.0 Race

Specialized Crux — from £1,040

Specialized's Crux is a popular choice among amateur cyclocross racers. The four bikes in the 2018 UK range all have 1X transmissions, and the £4,000 Crux Expert above has SRAM's hydraulics and 1 x 11 transmission.

The impressive spec includes Roval C38 carbon wheels with 33mm Tracer Pro tyres. The range starts at £1,800 for the Crux E5 Sport, though there are still older models around for £1,400 and you can pick up a base-model Crux E5 for £1,040.

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

Kinesis Crosslight Pro6 V2 — £399.99 (frame & fork; limited sizes)

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 £1,400.

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 — from £1,199.99

The On-One Pickenflick is a complete cyclocross 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, cyclocross circuit or trail.

Read our review of the On-One Pickenflick

Storck T.I.X. — from ~£2,100

One of the newest carbon fibre cyclocross 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 Disc — £1,049

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's aluminium frame is hung with Shimano Sora components and for 2020 Ridley have urbanised it somewhat with a 50/34 chainset and mudguards. The rubber that hits the (dirt) road is from Continental and it sits on Ridley's own 4ZA wheels.

Find a Ridley dealer

Want more cyclocross bike options? See the full road.cc archive of cyclocross bike reviews.
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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

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.

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