Cyclocross is relatively new to Australia, however it is growing fast and is definitely here to stay.
Cyclocross takes place on a mixture of surfaces, from pavement to deep mud. These varied racing conditions mean 'cross bikes must be extremely adaptable and versatile.
Don’t be fooled by their resemblance to road bikes – 'cross machines feature knobby tyres, taller bottom brackets, easier gearing and wider frame clearance for added mud room. Utilising both on- and off-road technologies, 'cross bikes fall into a unique category, and can be used for anything from racing to commuting to even touring.
They're available at a varying range of price points, so BikeRadar has put together a list of the key things you should think about before buying your new ride. To stay in touch with all things 'cross, visit BikeRadar's cyclocross hub.
What to consider when buying a cyclocross bike
Frame material: As with any style of bike, frame material is an important decision. As the price of the bike goes up, you start to get carbon frames rather than aluminium. Although it's not always the case, carbon bikes will usually be lighter, stiffer, and dampen vibration better than their aluminium counterparts. If you’re looking for custom or something that will serve you for more than just racing, don’t discount steel or titanium.
Brakes: Since the UCI lifted the ban, many manufacturers are moving to hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes for added stopping power and all-weather performance. Disc brakes are heavier and more expensive than their cantilever counterparts, however. The advent of disc brakes also means specific frame and hub requirements, which could potentially lead to compatibility issues if you’re looking to upgrade later on.
Cages: The space in the middle of the frame is needed for shouldering your bike, so bottle mounts on a cyclocross bikes used to be a rarity – especially since races are short and don't allow competitors much time to drink anyway. These days, however, most 'cross frames come with bosses for mounting at least one bottle cage.
Rack mounts: Plenty of people think of a cross bike as the ultimate single-bike. If you’re looking to use the bike for touring, or daily commuting you need to check whether the frame has pannier mounts or not. There are rack options if it doesn't, but a frame that's ready to have stuff bolted to it will save stress and money in the long-term.
Gearing: Some cross bikes are built with commuting and road in mind, and so will have slightly higher gearing (50T big ring). Others are built for the pain of race day and so will feature a smaller max-gear (46T big ring). Either way, it’s possible to change the ring for something that suits your needs best, but the chainring sizes are a good indication of how 'race-ready' the bike is. At the higher-price points, electronic gears become an option. Electronic gears make plenty of sense for 'cross racing, offering a sealed system that isn’t affected by contamination from mud or dust.
Weight: If you’re looking to try your hand at 'cross racing, it’s important to know the effect of bicycle weight. Cyclocross is a continuous slog of stop-start riding, so having to accelerate a heavy bike is going to be hard work. In addition, the course will often include barriers that the bike needs to be carried over, so you don't want to be struggling with a hefty steed as your competitors effortlessly clear them with their 7kg bikes!
What cyclocross bikes are available?
We’ve assembled a complete list of cyclocross bikes that are currently being brought into Australia. There are plenty of small, boutique options too, but these are the readily available options for 2014. Because of the recent SRAM hydraulic brake recall, availability of some models has been effected.
Less than $2,000: This is the entry point into cyclocross. The Trek CrossRip Elite and Kona Jake are 'cross-ready but would need 'cross-specific tyres fitted and feature road-based gearing. Disc brakes are an option at this price-point, although they will be rather basic and heavy. All the frames at this price-point are aluminium, and all but the Kona Jake and Merida Cyclo Cross 4 feature a carbon fibre fork.
- Jamis Nova Sport – $1,000
- Trek CrossRip Elite – $1,349 (the tyres aren’t 'cross-ready though)
- Kona Jake – $1,549
- Giant Brava SLR – $1,699 (women’s)
- Jamis Nova Race – $1,699
- Merida Cyclo Cross 4 – $1,749
- Avanti Circa 2 – $1,749
- Apollo Xact – $1,789
- Focus Mares AX 3.0 – $1,799
- Ridley X-Fire – $1,899 (Read our review of the Ridley X-Fire here)
- Cube Cross Race – $1,999
- Trek Crockett 5 Disc – $1,999
- Trek CrossRip Limited – $1,999
$2,000 to $3,000: At this price point we start to see bike weights drop and componentry levels increase. Wheels become lighter and the bikes are generally more race-ready. Disc brakes are nearly the norm and some bikes even have hydraulic discs. At the upper-end, of the price range, you start to get carbon frames rather than metal.
- Focus Mares AX 1.0 – $2,099
- Kona Jake the Snake – $2,149
- Cube Cross Race Disc – $2,199
- Cannondale CAADX Disc 5 105 – $2,199
- Fuji Cross 1.3 – $2,199
- Jamis Nova Pro – $2,399
- Surly Straggler – $2,480
- Merida Cyclo Cross 5 – $2,499
- Specialized Crux E5 Sport Apex Disc – $2,499
- Focus Mares CX 4.0 – $2,799
- Trek Cronus CX Pro – $2,899
- BH RX Team 105 – $2,999
- Specialized Crux Elite Rival Disc – $2,999 (Read our review of the Specialized Crux Elite Rival Disc here)
$3,000 to $4,000: Just shy of the super bikes, bikes costing between $3,000 and 4,000 often offer some of the same features as the bikes the pros ride, but with cheaper drivetrains, more basic wheels and occasionally heavier frames. A change to race wheels will have these ready to race at the highest level though.
- Giant TCX SLR 1 – $3,199
- Trek Boone 5 Disc – $3,299
- BMC GF02 105 Disc – $3299
- Jamis Supernova Elite – $3,299
- Apollo Arctec CX – $3,499
- Fuji Altimira CX 1.3 – $3,499 (Read our review of the Fuji Altimira CX 1.3 here)
- Cannondale SuperX Disc Force – $3,699
- Cannondale CAADX Disc 3 Ultegra – $3,699
- Giant TCX Advanced 1 – $3,999
- Specialized Crux Expert Red Disc – $3,999
Super bikes (over $4,000): These are the bikes based on what the world’s fastest ride. Top-end carbon frames, high-performance parts and fast-rolling wheels. They're super light, unbelievably fast and ready for the top step of the podium.
- BH RX Team Force 11sp – $4,199
- BMC GF02 Ultegra Disc – $4,599
- Focus Mares CX 2.0 – $4,999
- Jamis Supernova Team – $5,500
- Focus Mares CX 1.0 – $5,999
- Specialized Crux Pro Race Red Disc – $5,999 (Read our review of the Specialized Crux Pro Race Red Disc here)
- Trek Boone 9 Disc – $6,499 (Read our review of the Trek Boone 9 Disc here)
- Giant TCX Advanced 0 – $6,499
- Cannondale SuperX Hi mod Disc Black Inc – $6,999
- Fuji Altimaria CX 1.1 – $6,999
- Specialized S-Works Crux Red Disc – $8,499
Framesets: Another option is to buy a cyclocross frame and build it up – perhaps you have a bunch of road parts you’d like to reuse or maybe you want to start from scratch? These framesets will enable you to build something unique.