The Trek X02 drew some admiring glances with its fashionably colour-matched pearl white with red detailing. A bit conservative in the past, Trek seems to have noted the successes of its sharper-dressed competitors and given the presentation of its 2008 bikes some serious attention.
Recently there has been a tendency for the ‘big’ (non-specialist) manufacturers to present their Cyclo-cross bikes as part crosser, part utility bike - as typified by the Specialized Tricross. For most users this is a great compromise as these bikes often make great road bikes for mountain bikers, ideal commuter bikes, have rack mounts for a spot of touring and hell, some crazies even race Cyclo-cross on them!
So, is the X02, Trek’s £1400 Cyclo-cross bike big on function as well as form?
Frame: Clearance for mud and guards
Trek has updated the aluminium Alpha Black (Trek’s own brand) X02 frame with aims to ‘save weight, provide better lateral stiffness for improved efficiency and offer updated styling’. This is a tall order but at 8.3kg for the 56cm bike, it’s pretty light and it does look nice. The chainstays are asymmetrical and the brace-less seat stay design and neat wishbone rear-end, leave roomy mud clearance space. Whilst it’s certainly not carbon road bike stiff, it’s not an overly noodly or a teeth rattlingly un-compliant frame either so the marketing spiel seems reasonably accurate! A plain black, Satellite Plus carbon fork with integrated Aheadset finishes off the front end while the 47, 60, and 62cm frame sizes that are now also available in an expanded range will plug some missing sizing gaps.
Trek has catered more for the mass-market, rather than the ’cross purist, with this bike, as it does feature water bottle mounts and dropout mudguard eyelets. It is even possible to fit a light duty rack using the brake mounts (there are no seatstay rack mounts) for light touring action. It’s all finished off in a pearl white colour with red finishing detail that, when combined with the white and red Race X Lite wheels, certainly looks striking.
Wheels: High end wheelset completes the package
The Bontrager Race X Lite 700C clinchers are a good looking set of wheels, weighing in at an impressive 1530g for the pair. There are also some nice design touches that show Keith Bontrager is still sweating the details, including like dual drive pulling spokes for stiffness (and better load distribution) using a Bonty-designed hub shell. DT Swiss provide their excellent Star Ratchet freehub internals and, as usual, pick up was near instantaneous.
Paired, white DT aerolite spokes (16f/20r) and red alloy nipples contrast nicely with the anodised pewter coloured rims giving a classy look. The white triple-butted spokes that look like they might be a fancy composite, are, in fact, just plain painted. These did begin to look a little bit tatty after some off road action, although my initial fears about picking up sticks proved to be largely unfounded. Out on the road the wheels accelerated crisply and have remained true and trouble free during the first few hundred kilometers.
I never had any wheel flex problems (I’m 72kg) although a bottle of Tippex might come in handy for spoke scuff repair! Unsurprisingly Bontrager also provides the tyres and the folding Jones CXR (700x34c) were great for a bit of leafy road winter commuting, urban use and light off-road action. For full on muddy Cycle-cross I felt I’d want something a little more uncompromising with a bit more bite for traction.
Equipment: Good mix of weight conscious and practicality
As you’d expect Bontrager finishing kit is all over the bike, in both Race and Race X lite form. I have no problem with that as it’s well made and usually strikes a pretty good weight/price balance. The seat post (carbon) and 31.8mm stem are of the X-lite variety, whilst the saddle and bars are Race Lite. I know it’s a personal thing, but I found the saddle really comfortable. The bars although a decent enough shape, were surprisingly flexible. This movement may have contributed towards a bit of comfort but was alarming to watch when muscling the bike out of the saddle. Sram’s slightly clunky but positive Rival 10 speed shifters/mech are ideally suited to this bike’s off road aspirations and are mated to a shiny, and slightly high-geared, Bontrager Race Lite CX 46/38 crank (sized to frame). The Avid Shorty four brakes mated to the Sram Rival shifters proved to be a bit lacking in power, but modulation was excellent.
Ride: Ideal mix between the road and dirt track
The 56cm frame, listed as ‘medium’ comes in with a shortish 55.8cm top tube and a proportionally compact stem as befits a ‘cross bike’. This will also make it feel right at home for a mountain biker looking for a tough road bike and it left just enough cockpit room to throw the bike around off road (for my 5’ 11” build). The geometry (72.3-degree head angle 73.6 degree seat angle) made the bike feel stable and confidence-inspiring in the rough and the bike was well up for taking on a bit of fast-paced road action. Although intervals are never fun it did encourage me to try to chase down any ‘proper’ road bikes I encountered on my commute to work, and it was no slouch on the hills – if only I could say the same for myself!
Summary: Race or commute the XO2 is an ideal all-rounder
Interestingly, for the UK market there is a definite sense that the bike is being aimed firmly at core Cyclo-cross users whilst in America Trek suggests much more that the bike is a ‘Cyclo-cross bike designed for urban landscapes’ and is ‘tough, lightning-fast and street savvy’. I think that they’re both right, as it’s a really pleasing and unashamedly dual use bike that can be raced in ‘cross in standard form’ but still be your winter training/urban commuter/light touring partner all in one. Well worth a look.