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Primarily designed for the competitive world of cyclocross racing, the Handsling CEXevo is actually a very versatile machine that also works well as a lightweight gravel bike and as an endurance road machine for those of us who want a bike capable of running large volume tyres. Hampshire-based Handsling has created a bike that feels light and responsive, which makes the CEXevo bags of fun to ride whatever type of cycling you use it for. Its overall quality makes it a serious challenger for our best gravel bikes buyer's guide.
First and foremost, the CEXevo is an absolute blast to ride.
The compact frame feels nimble, and when you take into account the 8.15kg weight in this build, you'll get some idea of just how eager this bike feels. And this is especially true off road.
Our bike came with 40mm-wide tyres that are perfect for some gravel action – and this is where I spent most of my time on the Handsling.
Putting it through its paces on all kinds of tracks and trails I didn't find a single area where I found it out of place.
Riding through technical sections in the woods, the bike's cyclocross race geometry means that it has a very direct feel at the front. This results in quick, positive direction changes, while its comparatively low weight means the rear end follows suit.
I have a lovely section of singletrack on my main test route that takes about 15 minutes to ride. It wouldn't be anything technical on a mountain bike, but on a drop-bar bike without suspension you have to keep your wits about you, as the numerous tree roots, peaks and troughs can easily catch you out.
During the drier spells of the review period the trail was running hard and fast too, which really exploited the CEXevo's nimbleness. The handling was absolutely spot on, and the weight meant it was extremely easy to bunny-hop or flick the bike about.
In other areas, such as the long, relentless gravel military roads that I ride regularly, I found the Handsling easy to live with. When the bike's being used in anger the front end is stable, and even on looser gravel it never feels twitchy. In fact, for a bike of its type the CEXevo is very easy to ride. It's quick, and it feels almost as if it wants you to ride it flat out all the time, but when you do take things back a notch or two it's comfortable at steady pace.
And this is comfortable not just in a confidence-inspiring way, but also in quite-a-plush-ride kind of a way.
The slender seatstays promote flex for rear-end comfort. Rather than part-way up the seat tube, these meet the seat tube at the same level as the top tube, which means there's plenty of length for those slim tubes to flex.
Where it needs to be though, the frame is very stiff, with little if any flex noticeable at the bottom bracket area, nor at the front with its tapered head tube.
The fork doesn't let the side down either. The blades are sufficiently stiff for hard cornering efforts or when resisting heavy braking loads.
While I was out riding, I actually passed another rider on a CEXevo coming in the opposite direction. His bike had a more road-focused build, which got me thinking about what other builds I could try.
I was reviewing a set of 36mm WTB Exposure TCS Fast slick tyres at the same time, so I paired those with some deep-section carbon wheels and turned the CEXevo into a large-tyred road bike.
The geometry, while making the steering feel quick off road, feels a little more subdued on tarmac, but in practice this worked well, coping with the greasy, salt-layered surfaces that winter threw at us.
If you are willing to go sans mudguards, then the Handsling would make a very competent commuter or winter trainer. That relaxed, easy-handling front end also makes the CEXevo a pretty handy bikepacking machine.
I loaded up the Handsling with a bar bag, frame bag, and saddlebag found it comfortable and confident when it was carrying some weight. It behaved very well during a day-long ride, and when I was feeling shattered towards the end the Handsling was still very easy to live with.
The reality is that the CEXevo is very good at the sort of riding it's designed for – while being just as capable and proving great fun for other applications too.
The CEXevo's frame and fork is manufactured from Toray T800-grade carbon fibre in Shenzhen, China, with the frame coming from a mould owned by Handsling.
Rather than being designed from scratch - like their A1R0evo road bike - the CEXevo has been created from an existing mould that has then been adapted to suit Handsling's own design features. Plus they design, and have full control over the specific carbon fibre lay up.
The CEXevo has been designed with an emphasis on resilience rather than just a low weight, but a 52cm frame weighs just 870g, with the full-carbon fork coming in at 370g.
Both the frame and fork appear to be high-quality items and Handsling also offers 15 limited-edition colours or even a custom paintjob.
The CEXevo has full internal routing for hoses, cables and wires, with blanking plates included where entry ports aren't required. The result is not only a clean-looking bike, but the cables and hoses are kept out of the mud.
Handsling has gone for a threaded BSA bottom bracket shell, while both the frame and fork have 12mm thru-axles.
Tyre clearances aren't as large as you'll find on some adventure-style gravel bikes, with Handsling recommending a 43mm maximum.
But if you're running 33-35mm cyclocross tyres you'll find that the clearance is impressive.
When it comes to sizing and geometry the CEXevo comes in five sizes from 50cm to 58cm with top tube lengths ranging from 51.5cm to 59.5cm.
Our 54cm model has 55.5cm top tube of 55.5cm, a 14.5cm head tube and a 54cm seat tube. The stack and reach are 570mm and 380mm respectively.
The other measurements are a 65mm bottom bracket drop, 600mm from the bottom bracket to the fork dropout (front centre), 425mm chainstays and a 1026mm wheelbase.
As for the angles, it's 73° for the seat tube, and 71.5° for the head tube.
In addition to offering full customisation when it comes to building up your CEXevo, Handsling also lists a range of complete builds on its website.
Our model is based around a 1x SRAM Force eTap AXS XPLR groupset with a 40T chainring and 12-speed 10-44T cassette.
This provides a wide gear range well suited to the type of riding the bike's designed for.
You might find it a little on the low side if you're doing a lot of road work, but if that's the case you could go for a twin-chainring option, and in addition to this Handsling also offers chainsets with power meters.
The groupset worked faultlessly throughout testing, even when covered in mud and grit during foul weather at the beginning of the year.
Braking proved equally impressive, with the 160mm rotors offering not only plenty of power, but also the modulation required for off-road riding.
The bike is also well specced for the money. There are branded items throughout the kit line-up, including the Deda Zero 100 handlebar and Zero 2 stem.
The Prologo One Touch 2 handlebar tape is also a great choice, offering decent padding and grip on rough terrain, and I found the Prologo saddle extremely comfortable, helped by a carbon fibre seatpost.
As Aaron said, the Altas are an affordable gravel wheelset designed for training, long miles and racing. Aaron's wheels weighed in at 1,490g including rim tape and valves, which is impressive considering their price.
Our test bike's wheels proved tough and reliable companions during a very wide range of weather – and riding – conditions, taking in both wet and muddy spells and some dryer, dustier conditions.
The tracks and trails I tested the bike on aren't exactly renowned for being kind to components, but the Altas wheels took everything in their stride, remaining true and staying free of creaks during testing.
Their 33mm external/24mm internal rim width has been optimised to work with 38mm to 50mm tyres, so the 40mm Pirelli Cinturato tyres fitted a treat.
George tested the RC option that is designed for gravel racing and I tried out I tried out the S option, which has the deepest tread for muddy conditions, while our CEXevo came with the M version for mixed terrain.
The tread pattern worked well on the dry trails and offered decent levels of grip on soft mud – as long as it wasn't too wet and sticky. And if you want a single set of tyres for year-round riding, then they are a good option.
They aren't the lightest tyres, but I found them dependable and durable, so punctures weren't an issue whatever the conditions. And for many of us, that trumps a low weight.
Our test build comes in at £4,699.99. This isn't what you'd call cheap, but when you compare it with some of the other cyclocross bikes around today it actually looks like good value for money, especially when you take the finishing kit into consideration.
Canyon's Inflite impressed us when we reviewed the CF SL 8 back in 2020, thanks to it being fast and fun with brilliant handling, according to Liam.
For 2023 the closest build is the CF SLX 9 Team that costs £4,499, which comes with a GRX Di2 groupset, DT Swiss CRC1400 Spline wheels and a claimed weight of 7.76kg.
However, the Crux Comp has a heavier frame and lower-end components, so the weight is going to be similar to the CEXevo. The Comp is £4,600 but – and this is quite a big but – it only comes with SRAM's Rival groupset. Not only that, but it's also the 11-speed mechanical version and the wheels are alloy DT Swiss G540 Disc models.
If you want electronic shifting, you are looking at the Crux Expert at £6,300 for Rival eTap – so, a much higher price for a groupset lower down the SRAM hierarchy.
Whether you are a cyclocross racer, or just want a lightweight gravel bike then you won't be disappointed with the CEXevo. It's fast and fun to ride, a proper grin inducing machine with the added bonus that it works on the road as well with as little as change of tyres.
Fast, fun and nimble – the CEXevo is an excellent cyclocross racer and high-speed gravel racer
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Handsling CEXevo SRAM Force AXS
Size tested: 54cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Groupset: SRAM Force AXS XPLR 1x 40t chainring, 10-44t 12-speed cassette
Brakes: SRAM Force, 160mm front, 160mm rear
Wheelset: Parcours Alta (36mm deep, hookless tubeless)
Tyres: Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M 40mm (tubeless)
Thru axles: Handsling 12mm Superlight Thru Axles
Saddle: Prologo Scratch M5 Tirox
Handlebar: Deda Zero 100 (42cm centre to centre)
Stem: Deda Zero 2 (10cm)
Headset: Handsling headset 1 1/8th to 1.5in
Bar tape: Prologo One Touch 2
Bottom bracket: BSA DUB
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?
Handsling says: "The UCI-approved CEXevo is Handsling's ultimate do-it-all frame, with the versatility to race cyclocross at elite level, hit the gravel trails, or act as a tough-as-nails all-terrain tourer."
It is definitely a fast, and highly controllable bike, yet thanks to the comfort and the geometry it's capable of all kinds of riding.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
Handsling offers the CEXevo in a range of builds, although they are all customisable. Builds range from £3,599, and a frame and fork is available for £1,699.99.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
A high-quality frame and fork and you also have the option of a custom paintjob.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame and fork are constructed from Toray T800 carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry figures are mentioned in the review and it's designed to give a quick handling machine off-road, and one that feels stable at speed too.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The height and reach measurements are fairly typical for this style of bike.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfort was very good, with noticeable benefits from the slender chainstays.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Due to the large bottom bracket shell area, and chunky lower half of the frame stiffness isn't an issue at all.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Power transfer is very good thanks to the stiffness mentioned above.
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? Responsive
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Quick and direct off-road, while slightly more sedate if you are using it as a road bike.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I got on well with the shape of the saddle, and the Prologo tape is comfortable even on rough gravel tracks.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Force chainset is stiff enough for hard out-of-the-saddle efforts.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The range of gears offers a good spread for climbing and descending from a racing and fast riding point of view.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
SRAM's Force eTap is an impressive groupset with quick, precise shifting and powerful braking. Both 1x and 2x chainring options are available.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
A lightweight set of wheels for gravel and cyclo-cross riding, which should prove durable too.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
They're not the lightest gravel tyres around, but they offer good grip and they are durable too.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
A good selection of kit for the money, and ideal for off-road and road use.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It is well priced when compared to something like Specialized's Crux, and comparable to Canyon's offerings.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The CEXevo is a great bike to ride, and a lot of that is down to the fact that it is very well made. The ride quality is high end, and the geometry works exceptionally well to create a CX/gravel racer that can also turn its hand to more endurance-based riding. Overall, the price also is competitive when you consider the finishing kit on offer.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!