Cyclocross has been around since the turn of the last century, and is a now a very well-established sport.
But in bike terms, it has never stopped evolving, particularly over the last few years with the explosion of ever more advanced carbon fibre construction, the growth in popularity of disc brakes and a shift towards tubeless tyres.
For some time, lower-priced cyclocross bikes have been looked upon as not only racing machines, but also as general workhorses, with rack and mudguard mounts common, often more road-oriented gearing, and occasionally compromised design.
They’ve got to be light enough to carry, stable enough to ride and sturdy enough to take plenty of abuse Russell Burton / Immediate Media
The advent of specific adventure and gravel bikes has not only created more niches for manufacturers to fill, but the specialisation it has brought has given cyclocross bikes their purity of purpose back.
Of course, you could easily convert them for training, commuting or gravel use with suitable tyres.
For consistency, our testing was carried out with the same tyre pressures and over
the same routes, allowing differences in tyre volume, grip, comfort and general performance to show up.
The best cyclocross bikes in 2019
Cannondale SuperX Apex
The Super X Apex costs £2,500 Cycling Plus
Even though this model was released around two years ago, it’s still one of the most successful CX bikes available, thanks to its choice specification that’s perfectly equipped to handle modern cyclocross racing.
The bike retains all of the functionality of the more expensive options but uses less expensive and heavier materials, such as SRAM’s slightly cheaper Apex 1 and Cannondale’s proprietary Si aluminium crankset, which is mated to a 40t X-Sync-toothed chainring.
Top kit and a high-performing frame make for an excellent bike Russell Burton / Immediate Media
The relaxed geometry (71-degree head angle) inspires confidence on rough terrain or long, fast descents. Overall, the bike’s fantastic frameset and fairly reasonable price open the door to top-level performance and the bike is a great starting point for upgrades.
Giant TCX Advanced Pro2
Giant’s TCX is another awesome performer Cycling Plus
- £2,299 / $2,995 / AU$3,499
Having been around for quite a few years, the TCX offers race-level technology at more affordable prices due to the trickle down effect.
The TCX has a purposeful looking fork and frame and is equipped with go-to CX kit, such as SRAM’s Rival 1 gears, Apex 1 brakes and a mix of Giant’s own-brand components.
The TCX is ready to hit sand pits Russell Burton / Immediate Media
The frame’s profile gives the bike flexy and stiff characteristics where they’re needed most. The top tube’s thin profile and triangular seatstays help with comfort, flexing on rough terrain.
Overall, the bike’s got great poise and it’s easy to attune yourself to how it performs. It’s a bike you’ll just want to ride further — a true top performer.
Specialized CruX Expert
The CruX is a good looker! Robert Smith Photography / Immediate Media
Using the same FACT 11r carbon frame and FACT 11r carbon fork as the other carbon models in the range, Specialized are claiming that their 56cm CX frame weighs only 900g. This is an impressive figure and is 400g lighter than the outgoing model.
It’s fitted with a SRAM Force 1 drivetrain that is mated to carbon Praxis Zayante cranks. The wheels are also carbon; Roval’s C 38 rims are laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs and with this level of component specification, the full weight of the bike is 7.72kg.
The bike’s geometry treads the fine line between stability and agility and small changes in riding position don’t cause massive, pivoting alterations in trajectory. Tyre clearance is spot on, and you can even fit a 40mm tyre in there, should you wish.
Boardman CXR 9.2
Stealthy in grey, the Boardman scored well Cycling Plus
The redesigned CXR frameset gives the bike more tyre clearance and improved handling. The CXR range of bikes all share the same C10 carbon frame and construction.
The bike comes with a 1x SRAM Force 1 drivetrain and 160mm disc brakes, but the frame is compatible with 2x systems if you’re that way inclined.
The Boardman’s a solid bet whether you’re jumping barriers or running up steps Russell Burton / Immediate Media
The 11-36t cassette is paired with a 40-tooth chain ring, and we reckon this setup is perfectly adequate to conquer anything a CX course can throw at you.
Weighing a total of 8.23kg, the CXR 9.2 is as fast and as willing as any competent CX rider. It’s a well-equipped, light and manoeuvrable race bike that won’t break the bank.
Trek Crockett 7
The Crockett is an almost all-aluminium build Cycling Plus
The all-aluminium Crockett frame is mated to an IsoSpeed carbon fork, which is one of Trek’s more proven designs and adds just enough flex and stability to the bike’s ride.
The bike is equipped with SRAM’s Force 1 groupset — although Trek has replaced the cranks with a set of Praxis Albas and a narrow wide direct-mount 40-tooth chainring — while the rest of the bike’s kit is taken care of by Trek’s in-house component brand, Bontrager.
Trek’s Crockett will make you re-think whether carbon bikes are necessary Russell Burton / Immediate Media
The Crockett feels like a taut race bike, but the 72-degree head angle and 73.6-degree seat angles help it feel comfortable almost anywhere.
The low 8.6kg weight is impressive for an almost all-alloy bike and the Crockett will make you think about the relative benefits of more exotic frame materials.