Alpha 100 Aluminium is Trek's base material for making bikes but the Crossrip is nicely built and finished, with neat welds and an understated grey finish. We had the big 61cm bike which felt pretty rangy with a 60.8cm effective top tube. I could have happily ridden the 58cm (59.3cm ETT) too. The head angle is 72.5° on both those bikes, slackening to 71° in the smallest size, 50cm. The 20cm head tube doesn't sound that huge for what's a big bike but the carbon-bladed, alloy steerer fork is cyclocross length so that lifts the front of the bike too over what you'd expect from a road fit. The resulting position is comfort-oriented; the stem points down so you can flip that for an even higher front if you want but I already found myself as upright as I'd want to be. Cruising in the (fairly shallow) drops was comfortable for fairly long stints, and although the bike's more upright position isn't as aerodynamic, that's not really much of an issue.
It's a chugger rather than a tight and twitchy ride, the Crossrip; think big diesel. That's not a criticism, it's simply the nature of the bike, happy to cruise along and take everything in its stride. It's not unresponsive when you stamp on the pedals or wrench the bars round, but it's happier when you take things at a steadier pace. The position and the feel of the bike is very reassuring and I'd be plenty happy doing long rides on the Crossrip, but I wouldn't be expecting to break any PBs.
Is it a cyclocross bike? Well, not really. You can generally tell whether a company thinks a CX bike will actually be used for CX by checking the gearing and tyres; here we have a road compact chainset (an FSA Vero) and wide cassette, and Bontrager 32mm hardcase touring tyres. It's a bike for tarmac and hardpack, rather than lugging round a muddy field for an hour. You could; the geometry and build don't preclude it. But if you want to race, this isn't the best bike for your grand. Other touches mark this out as more of a town bike, for example the security-conscious skewers that open with an Allen key rather than a quick release, and the urban camouflage paint job.
So it's a disc-equipped commu-tourer then. And if you want a bike for a bit of everything but mostly commuting or all-weather miles, it's a good bet. The Crossrip is a very capable bike on the tarmac and it's perfectly happy heading onto unsurfaced paths too, with the unflappable Bontrager tyres shrugging off flints and thorns. We've checked them over and they've barely registered a scratch. The payoff for that is that they're a bit heavy and, sluggish on the blacktop, but if you're sticking to better surfaces you could swap them out for a lightweight set of 28s.
Shifting-wise, new Sora is pretty good; certainly it's masses better than old Sora. There's one more ratio (nine instead of eight) which might please you but the real change is from thumbshift to proper Dual Control with the downshift behind the brake lever. It's much easier to use from multiple positions and it's a lighter action too. the engineering isn't quite up to the standard of the dearer groupsets (natch) so it's a bit clunky compared to 105 or Ultegra, but it's a big step forward.
At the back you get an 11-32 cassette; coupled with a 50/34 compact up front that's all the gears you're likely to need, unloaded at least. The Crossrip has rack mounts and, unusually for a carbon fork, low rider mounts too, so in theory you could fully load it up, but you'd want much lower gears than those specced for any heavy touring. It's a pity Trek don't offer a triple version for that extra versatility.
Then there's the brakes. The brakes are really, really good. It's the first time I've tried a bike fitted with the Hayes CX-5 callipers and I think I might even prefer them to Avid BB7s. Heresy, I know. But these are great mechanical discs. They're a bit of a faff to get set up just so, but once they're up they're super: lots of power and great modulation. They squawked and squeaked a bit when they were brand new and after every hose down but once they're bedded in you just get the nice buzz of the rotor pattern on the pads, and masses of stopping power.
In the interests of science – and since it's a big debate we all seem to be having – I tried to cook them, dragging them down the longest of Bath's descents (a mile and a half) and hauling them on at the bottom. There was a bit of fade, especially when just using the back brake with its smaller 140mm rotor, but they never felt like you'd run out of anchors. The back one could do with a better quality cable outer that doesn't compress, but that's my only gripe really.
The excellent brakes mean going downhill on the Crossrip is a lot of fun, with the confidence that you'll be able to scrub off speed daring you to push a bit quicker. The bike's good at speed, stable and reassuring with the steering direct. Once you get to the bottom of the valley and have to hoik yourself up the other side it's a bike that favours a seated approach. Getting out of the saddle and stomping up climbs feels like hard work, and it's not too hard to eke some flex out of the FSA chainset. Spinning feels more efficient.
Bontrager kit rarely warrants much of a mention at this level; suffice to say it does the job extremely well without showing off. The Race Lite Isozone handlebar is comfy in all positions and the SSR stem nice and stiff. The saddle was okay if a bit bulky, but it's easily swapped if it doesn't sit well with you.
The £950 RRP feels like a fair deal, rather than a bargain. You're getting new Sora and good discs on a nice frame and the bike as an overall package is well thought out and a nice ride. There's plenty of competition at this kind of money and the Crossrip Elite holds its own well.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Trek Crossrip Elite
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: 100 Series Alpha Aluminium
Fork: Bontrager Satellite Plus, carbon disc w/lowrider mounts
Sizes: 50, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
Wheels: Formula aluminium disc hubs w/Bontrager Nebula Disc 32-hole rims
Tyres: Bontrager H5 Hard-Case Ultimate, 700x32c
Shifters: Shimano Sora STI, 9 speed
Front derailleur: Shimano Sora
Rear derailleur: Shimano Sora
Crank: FSA Vero, 50/34 (compact)
Cassette: SRAM PG-950 11-32, 9 speed
Pedals: Wellgo track-style aluminium
Saddle: Bontrager Evoke 1
Seatpost: Bontrager SSR
Handlebar: Bontrager Race Lite IsoZone, aluminium, VR-CF, 31.8mm
Stem: Bontrager SSR, 10 degree
Headset: Cartridge bearings, sealed
Brakeset: Tektro aluminium levers w/ Hayes CX5 mechanical disc brakes, 160mm front, 140mm rear
Grips: Bontrager cork tape, IsoZone inserts
Extras: Mudguard & rack mounts
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
"The new drop-bar CrossRip is quick in traffic, sure-footed when the weather or pavement gets rough, comfortable over the long haul. Road bike? Cross bike? Commuter? Yes."
Well, at least two of the three
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Urban stealth finish is fairly hardy, welds are tidy, graphics minimal
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Frame: 100 Series Alpha Aluminium
Fork: Bontrager Satellite Plus, carbon disc w/lowrider mounts
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
dual 72.5° angles, 60.8cm ETT, 20cm HT
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It was fine, I could probably have ridden the 58cm fine too
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfy, rangy and reasonably upright
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The platform is stiff enough, the crankset isn't the stiffest
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, most of the time
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Stable and predictable, sometimes a touch on the slow side
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Rate the controls for performance:
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Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? For a commuter, yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
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Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
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