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 CGR AL Shimano 105 review

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

Boardman CXR 8.9

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 — £1,954.99

2020 Vitus Energie CRX Force

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

2020 Genesis Vapour 30

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

2020 Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Team

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

Boardman Elite CXR 9.4 Ultegra Di2 2019 — £1,999 (limited sizes)

2019 Boardman Elite CXR 9.4 Ultegra Di2

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 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.

This latest version has Shimano's Di2 electronic shifting for effortless gear changes and a single chainring to keep things as mechanically simple as possible.

Read our review of the Boardman CXR 9.4

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

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 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

2020 Giant TCX SLR 2

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 — £900

2019 Merida Cyclo Cross 100

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

Canyon Inflite AL SLX 5.0 Race copy

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

2019 Specialized Crux Expert

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)

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 £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 £1,499.99

On One Pickenflick

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

Storck TIX

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 Tiagra — £879.99 (limited sizes)

Ridley X-Bow Tiagra Disc

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 Donnelly 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 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.


Bob Wheeler CX [104 posts] 3 years ago

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

Dicklexic [116 posts] 3 years 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!


Jimthebikeguy.com [273 posts] 3 years ago

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.

ClubSmed [789 posts] 3 years ago
LarryDavidJr wrote:

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

Are BB5s really that bad?

LarryDavidJr [397 posts] 3 years ago

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.

Jack Osbourne snr [780 posts] 3 years ago

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.


bob_c [67 posts] 3 years ago

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!

ianguignet [37 posts] 2 years ago

cinelli zydeco.

LarryDavidJr [397 posts] 2 years ago


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.



Canyon48 [1147 posts] 2 years ago

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.

Bike7707 [2 posts] 2 years ago

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.

Dicklexic [116 posts] 2 years ago

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!

LarryDavidJr [397 posts] 2 years ago
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)


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.

A440 [65 posts] 1 year ago

Good thing a website called road.cc is covering cyclocross bikes.

This site gets more mercenary every day.

mike the bike [1277 posts] 1 year ago
A440 wrote:

Good thing a website called road.cc is covering cyclocross bikes.

This site gets more mercenary every day.


It's called modern life, get used to it.  

Carpetright sells vinyl flooring, British Gas sells electricity, United Biscuits sells cake.  I could go on, and on, and on ......

ConcordeCX [1222 posts] 1 year ago
mike the bike wrote:
A440 wrote:

Good thing a website called road.cc is covering cyclocross bikes.

This site gets more mercenary every day.


It's called modern life, get used to it.  

Carpetright sells vinyl flooring, British Gas sells electricity, United Biscuits sells cake.  I could go on, and on, and on ......

my dope dealer sells crack

don simon fbpe [2997 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
A440 wrote:

Good thing a website called road.cc is covering cyclocross bikes.

This site gets more mercenary every day.

Didn't someone set up a cyclocross specific web page that went tits up? So it kind of has to sit somewhere. If you pigeonhole yourself just as a road cyclist, that's fine, but I also thought it was a FACT that road cyclists took to the mud in order to maintain fitness over winter.

Might I suggest you go out for a bike ride to help destress? Or search the web for a bike that you can use in the winter that has been designed to work well in mud, not sure what they're called or where you'd find such a thing.

Jimthebikeguy.com [273 posts] 1 year ago
A440 wrote:

Good thing a website called road.cc is covering cyclocross bikes.

This site gets more mercenary every day.

Stop reading it then, you chopper. Or does someone have a gun to your head?

glenn@procycle [1 post] 11 months ago

Some nice bikes included here but as always many cool CX missing. I ride a Focus Mares for instance which I can highly recommend. Great CX bikes and you get a lot bang for your buck too