Cyclocross is a hobby that demands a lot from rider’s and their equipment. Cyclocross bikes can also be used as gravel bikes, which have been in short-supply recently. Cyclocross has been around for decades and it’s now a very well-known and respected sport. In bike terms, it has never and probably will never stop evolving. More advanced constructions, components, and materials are being discovered, and there is a growing popularity for the newer designs.
Cyclocross is an intense, short form of bike racing. The competitive sport was created to allow riders to continue their racing season through the winters in Europe. The sport grew in popularity throughout the Continent and has become an interest in parts of the United States, as well. Cyclocross is typically referred to as ‘CX’, and these races are held in all weather conditions, which means they take on a lot when it comes to terrain. It’s common for cyclocross races to involve dirt, sand, snow, as well as obstacles including rocks, hills, and jumps. Cyclocross races usually aren’t any longer than 4km (2.5-miles) in length and the races are held in laps, lasting up to an hour.
These courses require a unique set of skills for the technical layout and obstacles throughout the race. This type of riding also requires a unique and durable bike. A cyclocross looks similar to a road bike, but it has many different features.
CX Geometry and Frame Materials
The headtube angle and bottom bracket height are typically different on cyclocross bikes. The headtube angle is slacked, which gives riders more control while descending. The angle also allows riders to take steep angles at lower speeds, which is important for maintaining control.
The raised bottom bracket helps riders take-on obstacles throughout the riding courses. The higher bottom bracket on cyclocross bikes also helps riders pedal through corners. The downside of this difference is that the bike can be slightly harder to handle at times due to a raised center of gravity, but adjusting your seat height can help to fix this issue.
The cyclocross frame materials are typically the same as road or mountain bikes, including aluminum, carbon fiber, steel, titanium, or a combination of materials. Each of these materials is different, which impacts the weight, comfort, durability, and cost of the bike.
Every rider aims to keep their bike weight down and cyclocross is no different. When cyclocross riders have lighter bikes, it’s easier to get through obstacles throughout the course and picking up the bike is also an option if needed. Frame material plays a large role in the weight of your bike, as well as the price at times.
Flat Tube Shapes
Standard tube shapes can make it difficult and uncomfortable to dismount and carry your bike when needed. Cyclocross bikes are usually made with flatter tube shapes, which sit better on your shoulder while carrying your bike through obstacles. Having a flatter underside than standard bikes provides more control and comfort, which makes it a good adjustment for these bikes.
Tires and Increased Tire Clearance
Cyclocross bikes typically use larger tires than seen on standard road bikes. The usual size for these tires range from 32mm to 40mm, these sizes provide stability and traction. Extra clearance is required to prevent mud build-up, but it’s still important to hose down and remove mud frequently, as build-up can prevent smooth riding. Having an increased clearance also increases the fork height and the front end of the bike. This can help to provide more control and sometimes better grip while riding.
Cyclocross tires are more graded and texture than road tires, they often have knobby treads which add grip and traction. Cyclocross tires come in different designs, including clincher, tubeless, and tubular.
CX Lower Geared Drivetrain
Cyclocross bikes typically don’t hit the higher speeds that road bikes do, so smaller gear ratios are utilized. One of the designs growing in popularity is the use of a 1X drivetrain that removes the front derailleur, which ultimately leaves less chance for mechanical issues. This design is also slightly lighter in weight which can be helpful.
The larger CX tires require a different braking system. Cyclocross bikes are typically equipped with either disc or cantilever brakes to accommodate the larger tires on the bike. Disc brakes may either be cable or hydraulic, which puts it at a slight advantage compared to the cantilever system, which is cable operated. Cantilever brakes are commonly equipped on entry level cyclocross bikes, but they’re occasionally used on higher quality models as well.
Other CX Features
Fenders and Racks: Cyclocross racing bikes don’t have mounts for racks or fenders, but a lot of general use cyclocross bikes will feature them as an add-on. Although originally meant for racing, cyclocross bikes are also great for commuting and off-road/adventure riding.
Cyclocross Vs. Gravel Bikes
Cyclocross bikes have created new sub-types of bikes, including ‘all-road’ and ‘gravel’ bikes. These bikes all share similar characteristics and components with cyclocross bikes, including durability and adaptability, but gravel bikes provide more comfort for adventures. Gravel bikes have longer wheelbases, lower bottom bracket heights, larger gear ratios, and relaxed geometries. The tires between the cyclocross and gravel bikes are similar, but gravel bikes occasionally offer more clearance.
Prices for cyclocross bikes range widely from as little as $300 to $2,000, or more. Spending more money on a bike usually means you’re paying for higher quality components, comfort, and durability. The frame’s materials and fork also change as the prices increase, with aluminum being on the lower budget end and carbon fiber often costing much more.
Diamondback Bicycles Steilacoom RCX Cyclocross Bike:
The Diamondback RCX Cyclocross bike has 700c wheels with mechanical rim brakes. The aluminum rims have stainless steel rims and the bike also has a Gossamer Pro Cross crankset. This cyclocross bike uses a 6061-T6 alloy cyclocross frame and a carbon cross fork with a carbon steerer. The Diamondback RCX is equipped with Shimano derailleurs and 10-speed dual control shifters for optimal control and stability.
Follure Mountain Cyclocross Bike
The Follure Cyclocross bike is one of the “best value” options. It has 26-inch wheels with a Shimano 21-speed gear, which works well for both city commuting and off-road adventures. The bikes frame is high-quality ultralight aluminum material, and the powerful disc brakes provide powerful stopping control in all weather and riding conditions.
Follure Folding Mountain Cyclocross Bike
The Follure Folding Cyclocross bike is a top pick on this list due to the convenient folding feature. This bike has 26-inch wheels and Shimano 21-speed shift gears. The Follure Cyclocross bike is also one of the best options for a lightweight bike, weighing only 44lbs. The bike is able to be folded conveniently in about fifteen seconds, making it the perfect option when it comes to portability. The high carbon steel frame and front fork suspension provide extra durability and control on any terrain!